Agaves are monocotyledonous perennial plants that belong to the plant family Agavaceae. There are about as many as 208 distinct species of agave that exist in the geographical regions of southwestern United States, Mexico and parts of tropical South America. Agaves have succulent, edible stalks and leaves and flowers, rosette and sap are also considered as food items. All these parts of agave are available in different seasons, with stalks being a summer item and leaves being abundant during the winter and spring.
Flowers come in the final season, that too in several, voluminous pounds. The sap is known as agave syrup or agave nectar and it is considered as an excellent and healthy alternative to sugar for the purpose of cooking. This nectar is also believed to have a pretty decent nutritional value and agave nectar health benefits are highly regarded by many. Come, let's proceed to learn more about the agave plant.
Given here are six major types of agave that are grown for both, food as well as gardening purpose. Check these out.
This type of agave is a native of North America and Mexico and it usually serves the purpose of garden ornamentation. Commercial cultivation of this agave type is usually done for contributing to the production of Mexcal liquor of which the agave angustifolia is a chief ingredient. This type is also called Caribbean agave.
Abundantly found in the Southwest American desert, this agave type is an important food and water source for all desert dwelling animal and human populations residing in this particular region. It is also known as century plant.
These succulent agaves are native to central Mexico and are commonly used as ornamental garden plants. These agaves are extremely low maintenance and, as such, are ideal for footpath and sidewalk ornamentation.
This is the most common type of agave and is commercially cultivated for the sole purpose of its contribution towards the production of tequila of which it is a key ingredient. Their tendency to spread and grow very large make them unsuitable as houseplants. Agave azul is also known as blue agave and Agave tequilana.
This is a high fiber yielding variety of agaves and the fibers extracted from it are often used for making nets, ropes, baskets and sandals. Agave palmeri produces a nectar which is very nutritious due to its high protein content.
This type is primarily grown for its edible flowers and high fiber yielding leaves. This fiber is used for manufacturing nets, ropes, baskets, thatches, mats and sandals.
Agaves are originally desert dwelling tropical plants and ideally require a soil that drains well to grow best. Water accumulation at the roots may cause decay and the plant may not survive such decay if it takes place during the early stages after planting. Being desert plants, agaves crave full, bright sunlight to thrive and flourish. In the initial days after planting, agaves should not be watered more than five times and less than three times a week. After a month of planting, reduce the frequency to once a week. Do not allow any moisture accumulation at the roots under any circumstance. Also, keep your plant away from cold and freezing temperatures.
I suggest that you nourish your agaves with slow releasing, balanced fertilizers during the winters to witness a healthy sprout of growth during the spring. Prune agaves regularly, taking care to remove all dead leaves and decaying twigs to allow for better growth of leaves and roots. Be careful not to injure the fresh or live leaves, while pruning, as such a wound makes it vulnerable to diseases and decay. Keep a tab on parasitic bugs like agave weevils as they lay their eggs within agave buds and the larvae that hatch out feed upon the plant, causing it to wilt and die. Use pesticides and anti-parasite preparations to arrest such infestation as soon as you detect it.
I'm sure that reading about these agave facts, amazed as well as educated you about the various types and uses of agave plants. Also, now that you know how to care for these succulent, edible plants, you can either plant and grow your own agaves in the flower beds of your garden, or in pots to decorate your apartment. Good luck going green (pun intended)!