Agave parryi 'Truncata' bloom (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Your Agave’s Blooming–Now What?

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.

Agave vilmoriniana

The unbranched bloom spike of Agave vilmoriniana

Flowers' sweet nectar attracts hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. Blooms turn into seedpods or bulbils that are clones of the mother plant.

Agave americana seed pods (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave americana seed pods rattle when you shake them. 

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."

Agave desmetiana bulbils on flower stalk (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave desmetiana bulbils

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.

Agave vilmorinana bulbils August (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave vilmorinana (octopus agave) bulbils

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.

Agave core, pineappled (August) (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave core, pineappled 

***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

Agaves: Uses, Photos, IDs and Varieties

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.

Opuntia, cholla, agaves (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Dangerous Succulents: Grow with Caution

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.

Agave sap (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Agave Dermatitis: How harmful is agave sap? Are you susceptible?

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.”

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4 Comments

  1. Mark Evans on August 4, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    What a wonderful video. You’re always informative but I just loved the video. The plants looked so beautiful and substantial. I say this with a history of having to eventually remove them too. I will add they make great surfboards; the material is incredibly strong and light weight. Thank you Debra.
    PS I loved watching you walk off with the stalk at the end. Debra the Agave Hunter!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on August 4, 2021 at 1:47 pm

      Hey Mark! How nice to hear from you! I showed your garden in a Zoom presentation to a CSSA group earlier this week. Thank you for the lovely comment. Yes, I tried to show how lightweight they are, but it was a little heavier than I anticipated. When I lifted it, well, it didn’t lift, so I had to drag it. I do like what that clip adds to the video, though. Cool about the surfboards.

  2. Mk Williams on September 10, 2021 at 1:34 am

    Ok.

    Our 20 year old octopus agave bloomed.

    It was cool to see the process and all the changes.

    But what are we going to do with all these zillions of agave pups?

    Thank you for any help.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 10, 2021 at 10:20 am

      Hi Mk, I show how I harvest and planted mine in the video. ;+)

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