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Agave potatorum var. verschaffeltii

Botanical Name — Agave potatorum var. verschaffeltii

Common Name — Butterfly agave

Plant Family — Asparagaceae

This slow-growing plant is native to deserts in the southern parts of Mexico. It grows as a solitary rosette. On occasion, it will produce offsets from the base of the plant. Rosettes can reach up to 2’ tall by 2’ wide. This monocarpic agave is grown for its attractive silver-grey, armored leaves which can reach up to 16” in length. When grown in ideal conditions, it will flower once it reaches maturity, dying shortly thereafter. 
Growth Requirements
  • Agave can grow in light shade to full sun. During the hottest summer months, some light shade is ideal. Grow indoors in a south-facing window. Outdoors protect your agave from intense, peak afternoon sun. 

Temperature/ Humidity 
  • These plants prefer warm temperatures, above 70 ºF. Your agave will start to decline at temperatures below 50 ºF. 

  • To water Agave potatorum, fully saturate the soil, allowing it to dry completely between waterings. A consistent watering schedule during the spring and summer will encourage growth. 
  • In the winter, when growth has slowed, cut back on watering to once every one to two months.

  • This plant prefers a gritty, sharply draining soil mix. A cactus or succulent soil would work great. Soil mixtures can be amended with sand or fine pumice up to 50% to improve gritty texture and drainage. 

  • Agave potatorum plants will flower once they reach maturity, which can take up to 10 years. Clusters of pale green and yellow flowers will blossom from the terminal end of a flower spike, the can reach up to 20 feet in height. 
  • These plants are monocarpic. Rosettes will flower once and then die. 

  • Typically agave plants do not require fertilization. If you do decide to fertilize to give them a boost or replenish soil, use a balanced fertilizer diluted at half strength or one formulated for cacti and succulents. Apply once a month, during the growing season only.
  • Keep in mind that fertilization will encourage flowering, and because these plants are monocarpic, fertilization can ultimately shorten their lifespan. 

  • These plants rarely produce offsets, so seed is the most reliable way to propagate them. If they do produce offsets, suckers can be removed from the base of the plant and grown independently. 

  • Agaves can be susceptible to a number of pests, especially when grown outdoors. Beetles, soft scale and agave snout weevil are some common pests to look out for. Treat affected plants with a broad-spectrum insecticide. Diluted neem oil is also known to be effective. 
  • Agave can also be prone to fungal diseases, which most often occur as a consequence of overwatering. To prevent infections of this sort, avoid overwatering and excessive humidity and place your plant in an area with good air circulation.

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
  • Little maintenance is required to care for these plants. Container grown plants prefer to be root bound and only need to be repotted once every two to three years. 

  • Agave plants contain a poisonous sap that can be highly irritant to skin and toxic if ingested. Keep out of reach of pets and small children. 
  • Agave potatorum is armored with sharp marginal and terminal spines. These can cause a lot of pain if they puncture skin. Always take great care when handling this plant. 

Photo Credit

Valentino Vallicelli

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