What should you do when your agaves bloom? In my new video, and in the Q&A and photo gallery here, you'll find expert advice, cautions, 20+ agaves in bloom (all ID'd), and how to start new plants from seeds or bulbils.
Agave flower stalks tend to be impressively tall relative to the plants. There are two forms: unbranched with blooms along the stalk, and branching with clusters of flowers.
Flowers' sweet nectar attracts hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. Blooms turn into seedpods or bulbils that are clones of the mother plant.
When a dying mother agave can no longer support its towering stalk, it topples over, propelling seeds or offspring to the ground.
When an agave blooms: Q&A
How do I know what kind of agave I have?
Scroll down to my gallery of agaves in bloom. I've ID'd all for you. To identify your plant before it flowers, find it on my Agave page.
How long until an agave blooms?
Flowering can take an agave years—sometimes decades, depending on the species. Succulent nurseryman and author Jeff Moore says: "Regarding how old they are before they bloom, in our book on agaves we note those that go off relatively quickly, like Agave vilmoriniana and A. desmetiana, but otherwise we just deferred to the 15-25 year average."
Can I stop an agave from dying?
There’s no stopping an agave from dying after it flowers, so you might as well enjoy the show. However, cutting off the bloom stalk often slows the process, and by doing so you won't have to deal with a tree later on.
How can you tell if an agave is about to bloom?
Leaves in the middle come together like praying hands, as shown in the photo of Agave bovicornuta in the gallery below. These upright leaves surround an emerging bud atop an ever-lengthening stalk.
How to get baby plants?
Wait for the bloom stalk to mature and the mother plant is no longer green, then harvest bulbils or seeds. Start them in nursery flats or small pots until they double in size, then transplant them into larger pots or the garden. In the video, see agave expert Jeremy Spath start seeds.
How to remove a big dying or dead agave?
Cut it apart with a saw so all you have is a core that looks like a pineapple. The core is heavy, so let it dry until you can move it. See how professionals removed mine.
***CAUTION*** AGAVE SAP CAN CAUSE CONTACT DERMATITIS.
Do a patch test to determine susceptibility. If itching or rash develops, wash the affected area immediately. If symptoms persist, get medical help. USE COMMON SENSE: The drier the agave, the less its moisture content; the fresher the agave, the greater the risk of sap exposure. PROTECT YOUR SKIN: Wear wrap-around eye protection, long sleeves, pants and gloves; cover your hair. Don't wipe your face with your sleeves or other fabric that may have bits of the plant or sap on it. Unless you routinely remove agaves for a living, USE A HAND SAW. A power saw can spray sap.
Gallery of Agaves in Bloom
These photos show 20+ kinds of agaves in various stages of bloom. For the progression, note the months in parenthesis. It's amazing how fast the flower stalks grow! Check back---I'll add more as I run across them.
RELATED INFO ON THIS SITE
With the exception of a few soft-leaved and variegated varieties, agaves want sun—the more the better in all but desert climates. Most are hardy to the mid- to high-20s F, and some go a lot lower. Sharp points at leaf tips and along leaf edges can make agaves treacherous. I snip about a quarter inch from leaves’ needlelike tips with garden shears.
Before planting spiny succulents, weigh the pros and cons. Although they have a certain beauty, they can be dangerous and devilishly difficult to remove. Know how large one gets and position it where it can’t harm you, kids, pets, or passersby.
You’re already wary of poison oak, cactus glochids and the milky sap of euphorbias. Add agave sap to the list. In susceptible individuals, it causes the skin condition “agave dermatitis.”