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Sunday - September 16, 2007

From: Sherman, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: New agave plants, offshoots of parent plant, transplanting
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have different varieties of Agaves that are sending off new plants from the mother. Some have 1-2 and some have 6-7 plants. Is there a proper method for removing (cutting them a certain way) for transplanting and should they be put in a pot to establish roots first? If so is there a time frame they should be allowed to establish them? Any other helpful hints? Thanks


How do you transplant an Agave? Like kissing a porcupine-very carefully! You didn't say which of several native Agaves you have, but the information about them is pretty similar. We selected Agave parryi (Parry's agave) and Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant) to link you to for general information and some of the pictures below.

First, and no kidding this time, approach this task with care. The agaves have survived in very hostile environments by being pretty hostile themselves to grazing by livestock or digging up to clear land for farming. You can, indeed, make new plants of the "pups", but first, protect yourself with heavy leather gloves. With clippers, remove the fierce spines on the pup before you separate the plant from its parent. If there is a clump of several new plants, gently break them up by hand or with a knife. One standing alone can probably be popped out of the ground with a trowel or small shovel. Again, careful, you are close to a very forbidding parent plant that won't hesitate to get you in the eye or the arm or the back with those long, sharp-tipped leaves. Get rid of loose roots and then, as if it was an onion, peel away leaves until you get to the best-quality leaves in the center of the rosette. Carefully discard all the removed spines and leaves where someone won't come along and step on them. And the compost pile is out, you don't want to stick your hand into that! If it was necessary to cut the transplant, you need a clean cut on the base of the wound. You can dab the wound with sulphur before putting the cutting in a pot filled with propagating mix. Top off the pot with more sand or "cactus mix", pack it down and put it out of doors in full sun. Don't overwater it and in a couple of months it should be ready to be on its own.

Now you're ready to decide on the permanent location for the new plant. Since it can be anywhere from 8 to 40 years before the plant summons up the energy to bloom and then it dies, you should not worry about where it can bloom best, but where the plant can spread out and the plump, blue-green leaves be seen best. And, of course, where it's out of foot traffic or where a child or pet might blunder into it. Perhaps you may choose to simply leave it in a pot. The agaves are so slow-growing that you shouldn't have to transplant into a larger pot very often. Also, since you live in north Texas, and the agaves are not very cold-tolerant, you might want to be in a position to bring them in if a blue norther is on its way. They can do very very well indoors in a good light from a window, if you choose to go that route. Remember, they are succulents, and like most other succulents, they need less water and can tolerate quite a bit of shade. For more information on container gardening, read this article from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center "How To Articles".


From the Image Gallery

Parry's agave
Agave parryi

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

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