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Agave Desmettiana Care from A to Z

Agave Desmettiana Care from A to Z

Strolling around my local nursery (again!) recently, I came across a lovely green succulent called Agave desmettiana.

It was growing in a large decorative pot and I had to have it for my apartment. Not having a garden, I love to fill my inner-city space with as much greenery as I can. 

The Agave desmettiana is also known by the easier-to-say names Smooth Agave, Dwarf Century Plant, and Smooth Century Plant.

The botanical name Agave stems from the Greek word agavo, from ancient Greek, agauós, which means ‘noble’ or ‘illustrious’.

The ‘desmettiana’ word is in honor of the Belgian horticulturalist Louis De Smet, an Associate Professor at the University of Wageningen. 

The Smooth agave offers beautiful arching, dark green leaves that grow in a rosette pattern and form an urn shape.

The expert at the nursery tells me that when the plant is 8 to 10 years old, it will produce bright yellow blooms. I will have to wait and see.

Agave desmettiana is native to eastern Mexico and northern America where they enjoy dry, hot climates. 

They are easy to grow – let’s find out a little more! 

 


 

Agave Desmettiana Care

For ideal Agave desmettiana care, plant in a non-fertile, sandy, well draining cactus or succulent mix. Water infrequently and fertilize sparingly only during the growing season. It is hardy and not fussy and will do well in bright sunny areas both indoors and outdoors. It does prefer a larger pot when growing indoors or on a patio. Agave desmettiana thrives best in low humidity, warm conditions with temperatures between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). This plant grows slowly and is ideal for a beginner or busy people who don’t want to spend too much time looking after their plants. 

 

Soil

Agave desmettiana enjoys well-drained, non-fertile soil. This is certainly a change from many of my house plants that want fertile soil.

Non-fertile soil is essentially a very sandy or gritty soil that will drain fast and is well-aerated. It is not a clay-type soil and it is not your regular potting mix. If you are buying soil, ask for a cactus mix or a succulent mix. 

I enjoy making my own succulent mix, it is fun and rewarding. It is also a non-chemical mix as I stay away from using chemicals wherever possible. 

My first mix is 1 part washed loose sand, 1 part soil, and 1 part small gritty pebbles. I also tried out a mix that has more potting soil. It uses 5 parts potting soil, 2 parts pumice, and 1 part coconut coir. 

For best Agave desmettiana care, the soil has to drain fast. If not, the roots will rot and the plant will die. 

The soil is best for the plant when it is slightly acidic to neutral. If you have a home testing kit, you can quickly determine the PH value of your soil. Slightly acidic to neutral should range between 6 to 7. 

Tip for ideal Agave desmettiana soil care: Think hot dry desert. The soil must be sandy, dry, and loose, rather than fertile, rich, and damp. 

 

Light

The Agave desmettiana is a succulent and enjoys sun. If you are indoors try to place your plant in a position that gets at least 5 to 6 hours of full sun per day. For the rest of the day, ensure that it is in a bright spot. Your Smooth Agave does not enjoy dark areas and will soon wither and die. 

If you are planting outdoors, choose a sunny area. It can also tolerate partial sun and enjoys filtered bright light with bouts of sun.

Watch your plant for signs of sunburn.

This will indicate that it is getting too much direct sun. Sunburn appears in the form of faded, bleached, or pale areas on the leaves. These spots will eventually take on a brown color. 

Agave desmettiana light care tip: Ensure that your plant has the correct amount of light – it will then produce leaves that are always a lovely dark green color. 

 

Watering

Smooth agave is drought resistant. It needs very little water and is happiest in soil that drains quickly and remains dry for the most part. 

Water once a week or once every 2 weeks in Summer using lukewarm water. Give your plant only a little water. Check that you see only a little water running out of the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot. 

If the water floods out, you are over-watering. If you do not see any water filtering out, ensure that the drainage holes are not blocked. Water that stagnates at the bottom of the pot will cause the roots to rot. 

During the Winter months, reduce watering to once every 2 to 3 weeks. Allow the soil to dry out fully before re-watering. 

Agave desmettiana care tip for watering: Use lukewarm water. This is a desert plant and will very seldom be exposed to icy rain showers. 

 

Temperature

Being a succulent, Agave desmettiana likes warm temperatures. The ideal temperature range is 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C). It can even withstand higher temperatures for long periods of time. 

If you are planting outdoors, your Smooth agave will not be happy in cold winter temperatures that fall below 27°F (-3°C).

It is a good idea to plant it in a pot that can be brought indoors or placed into a warm greenhouse during the cold season.
It is not frost-tolerant and will wither and die if exposed to long periods of frost.

They do best in USA heat zones ranging from 5 to 12 and in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 10.

Agave desmettiana temperature care tip: Don’t place your indoor plant in a draft from air conditioners. The plant will stress and the leaves will lose their vibrant color. 

 

Humidity

Your Agave desmettiana loves a hot and dry climate. As such, humidity must be low. It is not a tropical plant and does not enjoy damp, wet conditions. High humidity will cause diseases. Ensure that your indoor humidity is around 30% to 50%. This is the average humidity found in a home.

At 30%, your living space is very dry and at over 50% it is too damp. 

Agave desmettiana humidity care tip: If your home is very humid, start by opening windows and allowing for better airflow. If this does not help, installing a de-humidifier will reduce humidity.

Hot, stuffy homes will breed mold and bacteria – not good for plants or people! 

 

Fertilizer 

Agave desmettiana is a hardy plant and grows with very little care. They are slow-growing and you can even neglect them for a time without feeling bad. 

If you enjoy tending to your plants daily, the Agave desmettiana may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you like a plant that doesn’t require micro-managing, it is great. 

I feed sparingly in Spring and Summer with a natural organic fertilizer. In Winter, I do not feed at all. Over-fertilizing will damage the plant and cause the roots to rot and die. 

Fertilizer tip for Agave desmettiana: If you want to forget about your plant, but keep it fertilized, choose an all-natural slow-release fertilizer from your nursery.

This will break down slowly and add nutrients to the soil. Look for slow-release fertilizers that are covered with sulfur-based coating rather than plastic. I prefer green-living! 

 

Propagation

Propagation of the Smooth agave can be done via seed, cuttings, leaf cuttings, and division of mature plantings. 

The easiest way is to propagate from offsets. Offsets are found on plants from a young age. Simply cut off, allow to dry out, and plant into a prepared soil mix. 

Propagating plants is a fun hobby. It does not take long to see your results and you will soon have friends and family asking for new plants to adorn their living space. 

 

Growth

Agave desmettiana is a slow-growing plant and if placed in a large pot, can probably remain there for years. 

It offers eye-catching dark green, sword-shaped leaves that grow in an upright manner and form a very attractive rosette or urn-pattern. 

The leaves are smooth and soft and may even feel a bit fleshy and thick when the plant matures. The leaves have tiny brown spines along the edges. There may be some coloration in the leaves with edges showing a reddish or golden-yellow tinge.

Leaves can grow as large as 2ft to 3ft (60cm to 90cm). Your plant outdoors can spread 3ft to 4ft (90cm to 120cm). Indoors they tend to grow slightly smaller and can be trimmed if the leaves get too large.

The plant does tend to grow suckers around the base. These can be trimmed off to emphasize the shape of the plant and keep it under control. 

Agave desmettiana is also known as the Century agave. This is because it flowers very rarely. A plant may take up to 10 years to produce flowers.

When it does, you will see a thick stalk growing in the middle of the plant. Panicales of yellow flowers will appear at the base of the stem, followed by ones higher up.

The flowers will last for several weeks to months, so ensure that you snap some photos after such a long wait. 

 

Potting

The Smooth agave grows slowly and can remain in the same pot for many years. It is not necessary to repot every year. This plant prefers not to be handled. So, plant, leave it alone and your succulent will be happy.

For initial potting, I used a succulent mix. This is a non-fertile, well-draining soil that is made up of sand, soil, and coir. It must be able to dry out completely. Do not pot into a rich or clay soil. 

The plant does best in soil with a slightly acidic to neutral PH level of 6 to 7.

If your PH is high, at over 8 or 9, your soil is too alkaline. You can add acid by introducing a layer of sphagnum peat into the mix. 

Agave desmettiana potting care tip: When potting, ensure that the plant is firmly anchored, but do not pot the roots too deep. They prefer to spread, so a larger wider pot will be best. 

 

Propagate from offsets 

  • This is best done in early Spring to late Summer
  • Offsets appear quite soon, even on younger plants
  • Prepare a planter filled with an all-natural cactus or succulent mix
  • Water lightly
  • Use a sterile sharp knife, scissors, or cutter
  • Select an offset and remove near to the base
  • Avoid cutting too close to the base and this may hinder its ability to grow
  • Allow the offset to dry out for a few days
  • Plant into the center of the container
  • Add a small amount of water and fertilizer
  • Leave alone and keep an eye as it starts to grow 

 

Common problems with Agave Desmettiana

 

Pest Control

Agave desmettiana is a hardy plant and is generally pest and disease-free. It may be subjected to rare attacks from the agave snout weevil, slugs, or snails. The adult female snout weevil enters the base in the Spring to lay eggs. Spraying with a natural insecticidal soap should clear the weevils and kill the eggs. 

 

Fading, brown, or dull leaves

Too much direct sun can cause sunburn which will result in fading, brown, or dull leaves. If this is happening, move your plant to a new spot if possible. Alternatively, consider using a sun filter both indoors and outdoors to limit the amount of full sun that your plant is getting. 

 

Rooting roots

Agave plants do not enjoy wet soil. The roots will rot if they sit for too long in moist soil. Ensure that your soil has a large component of loose sand, grit, and peat to allow quick drainage and good aeration. Also check that the container has drainage holes that allow the water to flow out.

 

Plant looks untidy with suckers 

You can maintain the lovely urn-shape of your plant by removing the suckers as they appear. Cut off with a sharp, sterile knife or clippers. 

 

Plant has no flowers

Keep in mind that this evergreen succulent will only flower every 8 to 10 years. Be patient …

 

Tips to grow Agave Desmettiana problem-free

  • Plant into a cactus or succulent mix
  • Do not plant into moist or fertile soil
  • Water sparingly in Summer and even less in Winter
  • Keep in a bright spot with direct sun for a few hours every day
  • Do not handle too much, it loves to be left alone
  • Fertilize only during the growing season with organic mixtures
  • Choose larger, wide planters so the roots can spread
  • Keep in a frost-free area in Winter

 

Frequently asked questions about Agave Desmettiana

 

Can Agave desmettiana grow indoors? 

Yes, it makes an eye-catching indoor plant in a large decorative container. Place it in a brightly lit spot that receives direct sun for a few hours per day. 

 

Is Agave desmettiana easy to care for?

Yes, Agave desmettiana is very easy to care for. It is hardy and does well with little to no maintenance. Do not over water or over fertilize. Ideal for people who do not have time to fuss with their plants! 

 

Is Agave desmettiana child and pet friendly?

The edges of the leaves do have tiny spines that can prick if touched. They can be removed if required. If you want to be totally safe, this may not be the best choice for homes with small children. 

 

Is Agave desmettiana frost resistant?

No, Agave desmettiana is not frost resistant. Being a succulent, it enjoys hotter, dry weather. Plant your outdoor Agave desmettiana in a container if possible, you will then be able to move it indoors during the colder seasons. 

Conclusion

Are you a beginner looking for a plant that requires little maintenance, is hardy, and looks really attractive? The Smooth agave is tolerant of poor and shallow soils and grows without too much fuss on your part. 

The plant offers a large rosette display of evergreen deep-green leaves. I always prefer an evergreen plant to one that loses its leaves in Winter. 

I have placed my Agave desmettiana next to a fabulous Agave bovicornuta.

The Agave bovicornuta has a similar shape, but the leaves are a much lighter green. The two green tones complement one another perfectly.