Hobbyist propagation of Agave lechuguilla

commonly called lechuguilla or shin dagger, is a type of agave that
grows in northern Mexico and southwestern USA.  It is highly
tolerant of drought and alkaline soil; it is somewhat tolerant of
cold.  Each plant blossoms exactly once, then the entire plant
dies.  I have read that if you cut off the stalk when the plant
starts to blossom, it won't die.  Instead, it will form little
pups (offsets) from the roots.

We had a hard freeze in February that killed most of the century
plants, all of the oleander, and severely damaged many other
plants.  The temperature got a bit below zero °F at night, 19 °F
in the day, on 3 February 2011. On 31 January, it had been 35 °F at
night, 57 °F in the daytime.  On 16 February, it was 33 °F at
night, 78 °F in the daytime.  Thus, the plants were stressed, not
only by the cold, but also by the rapid, wide temperature

This photo shows a lechuguilla that survived perfectly well. 
Flanking it on either side, are two href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartium">Spartium junceum, Spanish
Note that I rarely water the lechuguilla, but I do water the Spanish
broom every couple of weeks.  (The Spanish broom was damaged a bit
by the cold, but is coming back nicely.)

title="IMG_2640.JPG by Joseph j7uy5, on Flickr"> src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5149/5649852042_42c5108dee.jpg"
alt="IMG_2640.JPG" height="375" width="500">

I have read that lechuguilla is difficult to grow from seed.  I
did collect some seeds last year, but haven't tried them yet, thinking
it will be hard to get them to germinate.  In order to get more of
these plants, I could wait until they bloom, then cut off the stalk,
but that could take many years.

What I noticed, is that the lechuguilla near the Spanish broom now has
several (five) pups.  The other lechuguilla, scattered about the
yard, have no pups.  My conclusion is that you can get the
lechuguilla to form pups by watering the ground near the plant. 
This seems to cause the roots to come up a foot or two from the main
plant.  When they get to the surface, they form new plants. 
It ought to be possible to dig into the ground between the mother plant
and the pup, cut the root, then transplant the pup.

title="IMG_2641.JPG by Joseph j7uy5, on Flickr"> src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5224/5649291307_a534993b9c.jpg"
alt="IMG_2641.JPG" height="375" width="500">

More like this

I wonder how Agave seeds would germinate if just floated (?, maybe they would sink) in water until they put out a radicil. I've done this with Amaryllis seeds and Hosta seeds with good success, but had no luck with Herbertia seeds.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 10 Nov 2011 #permalink