Sunday, 1 May 2011
HOW TO GROW AGAVE FROM SEED
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I have always loved cacti and succulents, and agaves always catch my eye. The best agaves I have seen were at Majorelle Gardens in Marakech, where the quality and range of the species was breath taking. I was given a pack of mixed agave seeds as a present so couldn’t resist growing some, hoping for a unusual variety to germinate.
Agaves originate from America. Their elongated leaves form rosettes which can have serrated edges or be tipped with spines. Reaching up to 1m tall, they come in a variety of blues an greens, and some are marinated with pale colours. They like sunny position, with rich, well drained soil. Some agaves are hardy in sheltered positions in the UK, but do not like temperatures to fall below 5 degrees in winter. For this reason, treat as a tender plant and place outside in a sunny position from May to September, moving to a south facing window in October.
You need to start off your seedlings indoors to give them a head start. Plant your seeds indoors in April. Fill a pot up with a mixture of two parts John Innes 'seed and cutting' compost and one part horticultural grit. I chose 9cm pots as they easily fitted in my progergator and could accommodate 3 seeds per pot. Place the seeds on the surface of the pot. Water well and place the pots in propagator or cover with glass/plastic to keep in the humidity. Water thoroughly to ensure the seedlings do not dry out but do not allow pot to stand in water. The seeds should germinate in 3-4 weeks. When they germinate be sure to place grit around their bases to support the seedlings. When they are bigger, you can transplant them into individual pots. Agave plants prefer terracotta pots as this allows the compost to breathe.
Place in a sunny position in garden. You may wish to sink the pot into te ground in order to remove plants back in a sunny position in a heated greenhouse/conservatory/indoors in the winter as frost will damage the plants. Alternatively, if you live in sheltered area you could leave them in the garden but treat as a tender plant and offer protection from frost and snow by insulating plant with straw and horticultural fleece. If you are planting your agaves directly into the soil improve drainage prior to planting by incorporating horticultural grit and organic matter such as farm yard manure into the planting hole.
Water sparingly in the winter - once a month is fine just to avoid the roots drying out completely. Increase watering in April until watering once a week from May onwards when the plant is fully growing. Ensure the compost is free draining and do not allow the pots to sit in water. In late September start to reduce the watering again to force dormancy until November when you water monthly again. You should incorporate a cacti/succulant feed in the water every two weeks during the growing season from May till September.