At the moment, I am totally into Agaves. Agaves are stunning succulents that grow into an attractive rosette shape. As usual, I was off to my local nursery to see what they have for my in-city apartment.
The expert recommended the Agave bovicornuta, which he says is easy to grow indoors and requires minimal fuss and bother. It is also evergreen, so it looks good all year round.
I am now the proud owner of one.
The Agave bovicornuta is also known by the simpler names of Cow Horn Agave or Cow’s Horn Agave. The cow horn reference comes from the border of spikes along the edge of the leaves. Each spike has the distinct shape of a cow horn.
The botanical name Agave stems from the ancient Greek, agauós, and the Greek word agavo, meaning ‘noble’. ‘Bovicornuta’ word comes from the Latin ‘bovi’, which means cow, and ‘cornu’, which means horned.
Agave bovicornuta is native to mountainous regions of Mexico where it is found growing on canyon slopes and among massive boulders.
They are easy to grow – read on for more info.
Agave Bovicornuta Care
For the best Agave bovicornuta care, plant in a non-fertile, sandy, well draining succulent or cactus mix. It is hardy and not fussy and will do well in a bright sunny position, both outdoors and indoors. Water once every 1 or 2 weeks in Summer and less in Winter. Fertilize sparingly only during the growing season. Agave bovicornuta thrives best in low humidity, warm conditions. Ideal temperatures are between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C).
Unlike the usual instructions for fertile soil, Agave bovicornuta enjoys non-fertile soil. Non-fertile soil is a very gritty or sandy soil that drains fast and is well aerated. It is not your regular potting mix and it is not a clay-type soil. If you are purchasing soil, enquire about a succulent mix or a cactus mix.
I like to mix my own soil. I have found a great non-chemical mix for my Cow horn agave. I use – 1 part potting soil, 1 part crushed granite, and 1 part washed loose sand. If you want, you can also add in some pumice, perlite, or coconut coir. This will increase the aeration and the flow of water through the mixture.
The PH balance of your soil is important to keep your plant as healthy as possible. If you are not familiar with PH, buy a cheap PH home-testing kit. Neutral PH is 7. Acidic soil has a PH of 6 or less.
For your Cow horn agave, a slightly acidic to neutral soil of between 6 to 7 is ideal.
Soil care tip for Agave bovicornuta: Create a mini desert in your pot. This plant loves dry, loose sand. Think Mexican desert sun and heat.
Being a succulent, the Agave bovicornuta enjoys sun. I have placed mine indoors in a spot that gets about 5 hours of full sun per day. For the rest of the day, it is in a bright spot. I noticed that the Cow horn agave is not happy in dark areas and the leaves start to look dull.
If you are planting outdoors, look for a sunny area. The Agave bovicornuta will also tolerate partial sun and positions of filtered bright light.
As always, too much is not good. Keep an eye out for indications of sunburn. If the leaves appear to be fading or bleaching, it may be a sign of too much direct sun. If you are handy with DIY, setting up a sunscreen can help.
Agave bovicornuta light care tip: Don’t keep your plant in the dark. It loves sun and bright light.
Like most succulents, Agave bovicornuta is hardy and drought resistant. It can even thrive if neglected for a while. This certainly takes pressure off busy on-the-go people who don’t have too much time to spend on their plants.
The Cowhorn agave requires very little water. It is happiest in soil that drains quickly and is mostly dry.
I water once a week or once every 2 weeks in Summer. I reduce watering to once every 2 to 3 weeks in Winter. I also check that the soil has dried out fully before watering.
I use tap water and ensure that is lukewarm. Being a desert plant, it won’t take well to an icy dose of water.
Tip for best Agave bovicornuta care: After watering, the water must drain out of the container fairly fast. Ensure that it does not stagnate at the base of your pot. This will cause the roots to rot, and your plant may even die. Most plant pots have drainage holes, but they do sometimes tend to get blocked.
Agave bovicornuta is a succulent and enjoys warm temperatures. The ideal temperature range is 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). It can, if necessary, survive in higher temperatures for extended periods of time.
If you want to plant your Agave bovicornuta outdoors and you are in a region where Winter’s get very cold, why not consider planting it in a container?
You can then bring it indoors or move it into a warmer greenhouse during the cold months. The plant will not be happy in temperatures that drop below 27°F (-3°C).
For those who like numbers – They do best in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 10, and USA heat zones ranging from 5 to 12.
What about frost? Well, you have probably guessed – it is not frost-tolerant and will die if overly exposed to frost.
Agave bovicornuta care point: Areas indoors that are air-conditioned can be subjected to icy or hot draughts depending on the season. Most plants do not respond well to draughty spaces. Stand next to your plant and see if you feel comfortable. If you don’t, your Cow horn agave will probably not either.
Humidity is the amount of dampness or moisture in the air. Most homes have an average humidity of 30% to 50%. A stuffy or damp home with a higher humidity is not good for your succulent.
Agave bovicornuta thrives in a dry, hot climate. So, your humidity must be low. It does not enjoy a damp or wet environment. High humidity will cause diseases to infect the leaves and encourage the growth of bacteria, mold, and other nasties.
Agave bovicornuta care tip: Opening windows and allowing for fresh airflow is an easy way to reduce humidity. This is good for both plants and humans! If you live in a very cold climate, opening windows and freezing may not be a good idea. Consider installing a de-humidifier to reduce dampness in your living space.
Since I am striving for an eco-friendly living environment, my first concern with feeding my plants is that I stay away from chemical fertilizers. It is actually very easy to do. Most nurseries offer organic fertilizers and I have also learned how to make my own.
The Agave bovicornuta is a hardy plant and requires very little care. It can even be neglected for a while with no noticeable side-effects – great for busy people who don’t want to fuss too much over their plants.
In Spring and Summer, I feed sparingly using an all-natural organic fertilizer. In Winter, I don’t feed at all. Your Agave will not respond well to over feeding. In fact, you may even damage the plant and cause it to die.
Fertilizer tip for Agave bovicornuta: A slow-release fertilizer is a great idea for this plant. You can then fertilize and forget about it. Slow-release fertilizers break down slowly over time and introduce nutrients into the soil. Ask for an all-natural product.
If you have never tried propagation, now is the time! It is a fun and rewarding experience to grow your own new plants from offcuts.
Propagation of the Agave bovicornuta can be done via seeds.
Agave bovicornuta is a slow-growing succulent and will be happy to remain in the same pot for many years.
I love the pale to bright green leaves that form an eye-catching rosette shape. The leaves are sword-shaped and grow in an upright manner. Leaves will reach a length of 30 inches (76cm) and have an attractive smooth finish.
The leaves have a unique wavy edging of dark reddish-brown spikes that travel along the sides and end in one long spike at the top. As attractive as these spikes are, they may not be suitable for homes with small children.
Another fascinating feature of the Agave bovicornuta is the pattern on the surface of the leaves. You will notice a type of ghostly impression that is formed by the edges of other leaves as they emerge from the center of the plant.
This phenomenon is also known as bud imprints.
If you are into flowers, you will need to be patient. This plant only produces flowers when it is mature, and this can take up to 12 years. You will notice a new, thick stem growing up in the middle of the plant. Lovely green and yellow flowers of around 2 inches (5cm) will appear on the stem, starting at the base and growing upwards. Don’t miss out on this rare photo opportunity.
If you are lucky enough to have a large garden, the Agave bovicornuta does well outdoors. It can grow to heights of 40 inches (1m) and a width of 40 inches to 70 inches (1m to 2m), ideal to fill up a corner or create a focal point on a patio.
I use a succulent mix for potting my Agave bovicornuta. This is a non-fertile, well-draining soil that is made up of soil, gritty sand, and coir. I mix it up myself. You can also buy from your local nursery. Do not use normal potting soil, it is too rich for this desert plant.
The soil must be able to dry out completely after watering. My Agave bovicornuta grows best in soil that has a slightly acidic to neutral PH level of 6 to 7. If your PH is lower than 5, it contains too much acid.
The Cow horn agave is a slow-grower. Once placed into a pot, it can remain there for many years. You will not have to repot often.
This plant also prefers not to be over-handled. Fuss over your other plants and ignore this one – it sounds a bit mean, but you will soon see how happy it is.
Agave bovicornuta potting care tip: Do not plant with the roots pushed down against the base of the container. Ensure that the plant is firmly anchored, but allow for space below the roots for them to spread.
Agave bovicornuta Propagation: In-depth guide
Propagate from seeds
- You can obtain seeds from a mature plant that has been pollinated and has flowered
- You can also buy from your local nursery
- Plant your seeds in early Spring
- Prepare a mix of 50% regular potting soil, 25% coarse sand, 25% crushed lava rocks, or clay granulate
- Place into a seed tray, do not pack the soil, allow it to remain loose
- Sow the seeds 1/2 inch (12mm) apart
- Apply a top layer of 1/4 inch (6mm) of coarse sand
- Keep moist but not soaking wet
- The first seeds will germinate after a week
- Add fertilizer sparingly
- Allow soil to dry out from time to time
- Allow to grow for about a month before replanting into your indoor pot or garden
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Common problems with Agave bovicornuta
Agave bovicornuta is a hardy plant and you should have very few pest issues. It is susceptible to fungal attack if it grows in conditions that are too humid or soil that is too moist.
Ensure that your containers have good drainage that allows the water to flow over the roots and out through the holes at the base.
Pest control Agave bovicornuta tip: If your plant is showing signs of pest control, place in direct sunlight for a few days, allowing it to dry out. Spray the leaves lightly with a chemical-free insecticidal soap.
Leaves turn brown or fade
This is due to overexposure to direct sun. The leaves are becoming sunburnt. Move your plant to a spot that has filtered light if possible. If it cannot easily be moved, consider using a sun filter screen to block some of the direct sun shining on your plant.
Cowhorn agave does not grow well in soil that is too moist. The wet sand will cause the roots to rot and the plant will eventually die.
Ensure that you have used a loose cactus mix or succulent mix for planting. This mix allows good aeration and fast drainage. Check that the drainage holes in your container have not become clogged.
My Cow horn agave has no flowers
This evergreen succulent will only flower once it becomes a mature plant. This can take as long as up to 12 years.
Tips to grow Agave bovicornuta problem-free
- Do not plant in moist or fertile soil
- Use a cactus mix or succulent mix
- Water very little in Spring and Summer and even less in Winter
- Place in a well lit spot with 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight every day
- Do not handle too much – this plant enjoys being left alone
- Fertilize only during the growing season
- Use all-natural organic mixtures
- Bring indoors or cover in winter to avoid frost damage
Frequently asked questions about Agave bovicornuta
Can Agave bovicornuta grow indoors?
Yes, it makes a very attractive indoor or patio plant. Choose a large decorative container to enhance the look. Place in a brightly lit spot that receives direct sun for a good part of the day.
Does Agave bovicornuta require a lot of care?
No, Agave bovicornuta does not require too much care. It is happiest when left alone. It can even take long periods of neglect. Do not over water or over fertilize. This is an ideal choice for people who want greenery in their living space, but don’t have a lot of time to care for their plants.
Is Agave bovicornuta frost resistant?
Agave bovicornuta is not frost resistant. It enjoys hot, dry weather. If you are planning on planting outdoors and your climate gets very cold, consider putting it into a pot. You can then move it indoors or into a greenhouse during the winter months.
Is Agave bovicornuta child friendly?
No, the plant has sharp spikes along the edges of the leaves. It is not ideal for little people unless you place it on a high shelf where it cannot be reached.
The Agave bovicornuta is a great plant for a beginner. It requires little maintenance and is very hardy. As long as you plant it in loose, well-draining soil, and don’t handle it too much, it will grow happily in a sunny spot.
The plant offers a lovely rosette display of green leaves all year round.
My Agave bovicornuta stands next to an Agave americana. The
Agave americana has a similar shape with blue-green leaves. The two look gorgeous together.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.