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Monday - January 11, 2010

From: Rio Rancho, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Transplants, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Replanting a blue agave in Rio Rancho NM
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have acquired a Blue Agave, approximately 4-5 ft high. It still appears quite healthy. It was used over the holiday season for display purposes in a liquor store. Unfortunately, the root ball has been sliced off. The bottom side looks much like a pineapple that you might see in a grocery store. Is there any chance I can transplant it into my backyard? If so, how can I do it? Or is it trash? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Okay, you have scored a first. This is the first time we have been asked to rehabilitate a Christmas agave. Although we ordinarily only deal with plants native to North America, not including Mexico, we'll make an exception here, because you can't tell, the agave you have may be one of those native to New Mexico. The Agave tequilana, Blue Agave, is the specific variety from which tequila is made, exclusively in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Which is probably why a blue agave was decorated instead of a blue spruce. 

We frankly don't know if our suggestion of treating this like a transplant will work. Without being able to see the plant, we are not clear on how much, if any, of the root is left. We do know that an agave will grow again from a small piece of root. We figure, what have you got to lose but some time if you follow the instructions and put that agave back in the ground. 

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question, this one on transplanting an agave, which is basically what you are doing:

How do you transplant an Agave? Like kissing a porcupine-very carefully! 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. Protect yourself with heavy leather gloves. With clippers, remove the fierce spines on the plant before you begin to work.  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 any detached material 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!  

We suggest that you start out putting this experiment in a pot. Make 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.  Don't overwater it and in a couple of months you should either be seeing new growth or a dead agave.

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 northern New Mexico, 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.

Again, we have no guarantees that this will work, but we hope it does.  Pictures from Google of Blue Agave.

 

 

 

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