Botanical Name — Agave attenuata
Common Name — Foxtail Agave, Lion’s Tail/ Swan’s Neck/ Soft Leaved Agave
Plant Family — Asparagaceae
Agave attenuata or Foxtail Agave are large arid plants, native to central Mexico. Unlike many agave, they have soft-textured leaves and are “unarmed”, lacking teeth and terminal spines. Natively, they grow in clusters by producing offsets from the base of the plant. Each rosette can grow up to five feet tall and about four feet wide. As they grow in height the older leaves will die and shed from the base of the plant. When the plant matures, it sends up a curved inflorescence, unusual among agaves. The stalk is covered in many densely packed flowers, giving it a fuzzy appearance resembling a fox’s tail, hence it’s common name.
- Agave attenuata plants grow best in full sun, ideally 5-8 hours a day. They will tolerate some shade though, particularly in extremely hot, dry conditions.
- Plants going from indoors to outdoors or shade to full sun should be acclimatized. Sudden change in sun intensity can burn the foliage.
- If grown indoors, these plants will do best in southern exposure.
- This agave thrives in high temperatures. Being that it is native to high altitudes, it will tolerate some cool weather up to 28°F.
- In seasonal climates keep move container grown agave indoors during winter. If possible, a sunny window with southern exposure is ideal.
- While this agave is very drought tolerant, it is also not as susceptible to overwatering as most other succulents. Still it’s probably safer to err on the side of underwatering.
- During the warmer seasons water thoroughly when the soil is dry. This will be about once a week during the summer, when plant is grown in full sun. Ease up on watering in the cooler seasons.
- Attenuata like well drained soil. A good cacti or succulent mix is great.
- If grown in the ground add this mix to your parent soil at a rate of 70% parent soil to 30% cacti mix. Mix in sand and grit up to 50% if planting in heavy clay soil.
- Agave plants flower when the plant reaches maturity. Outdoors this can take 10 to 20 years. A rosette will send out a long flower spike that curves and drops to the ground. It is covered in clusters of small yellowish-green flowers.
- Each rosette will only bloom once but unlike many other agave species, it will not die after it blooms.
- Agaves do not require additional fertilizing. They can tolerate a dilute, balanced fertilizer once during the growing season.
- Easily propagated by separating offsets at the base of the plant. Fresh seeds also germinate readily.
- When grown outdoors agave are susceptible to plant-eating insects such as the Agave snout weevil, soft scape and the cactus longhorn beetle. Signs of infestation include withering or dry leaves and brown spots. Treat infested plants with a broad spectrum insecticide or diluted neem oil for a natural alternative.
- Agave can also fall victim to bacterial and fungal infections, including leaf spot and crown and root rot. Treat agaves with an antifungal agent occasionally to prevent infection. Destroy affected plants to prevent the spread of the disease.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Repot using a well-drained mix, in a pot that is relatively shallow. Agave have shallow root systems so a deep pot would likely be a waste of soil.
- Should be repotted once every several years in fresh soil. After several years, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients.
- Give agave a few days to settle into a new pot before watering. Keep it out of intense, full sun until then.
- Agave contains a poisonous sap that can lead to severe skin irritation and digestive problems.
- Juice of leaf and even outer layers of leaf are highly irritant to skin.
- Is not likely fatal but can burn and injure you or your pet's mouth and throat.