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Mr. Smarty Plants - Transplanting blue agave pups in Arizona

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Tuesday - February 03, 2009

From: Marana, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Transplanting blue agave pups in Arizona
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a blue Agave with lots of pups, how do I transplant a few pups into planters. What kind of soil and how much water will they need?

ANSWER:

We were searching the Internet for the answer to your question, and found one of Mr. Smarty Plants' own answers. To save ourselves time and effort (very important!) we will repeat this answer here inserting any different information we think applies.

How do you transplant an Agave? Like kissing a porcupine-very carefully! We're not sure which agave you have; there is one plant, Agave palmeri (Palmer's century plant), in our Native Plant Database, of which one of the common names is Blue Century Plant. The plant usually referred to as "blue agave" is Agavaceae tequilana and, as you might guess, is the plant from which tequila is manufactured. It is native to Mexico and, therefore, not in our Native Plant Database, but all agaves reproduce by pups in about the same way, so these instructions apply to either plant. 

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.  Since you live in Pima County, AZ, which is in USDA Hardiness Zone 9, the Blue Agave (if that's the one it is) will be fine outside, and the Agave palmeri (Palmer's century plant) is even more frost-tolerant.

If you choose to keep the new plants indoors in a pot, the agaves are so slow-growing that you shouldn't have to transplant into a larger pot very often. They can do very very well indoors in a good light from a window. 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".

Pictures of Blue Century Plant Agave palmeri (Palmer's century plant)

Pictures of Blue Agave Agavaceae tequilana

 

 

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