Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 03:20 am
Agave parryi, also known as the mescal agave plant or Parry’s agave, thrives in the dry and rocky desert climate of Mexico and the southwestern United States. The plant is tall and upright with spiny leaves and striking yellow flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer before dying off and being replaced by tiny gray-green seed pods in late summer.
In addition to their cultural importance, mescal agave plants grow quickly and can reach heights of up to 10 feet tall in only three years or less! They grow best in hot, dry climates with full sun exposure. Here’s everything you need to know about these unique plants!
Agave parryi succulent plants typically grow to about 3 feet in height and spread about 4 feet across. Their leaves may be straight or spiraled, with pointed tips and edges that are either toothed or smooth depending on the variety of mescal agave.
Origin and distribution
Agave parryi is endemic to Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca, where it forms extensive stands in valleys and hills at elevations of about 1,000 meters. It also grows on Isla Tiburón and San Benito islands in Bahía de La Paz and adjacent Baja California Sur. Parry’s agave grows on a wide range of well-drained soils and can withstand considerable drought.
However, it requires full sun and good drainage. It has been widely cultivated as an ornamental plant since its introduction into cultivation in 1833 by William Baldwin, who collected specimens from San Benito Island. Although most plants sold as Parry’s agave are actually Agave parryi subsp. mexicana or Agave neomexicana, some cultivated specimens may be Agave parryi subsp. parryi.
Agave parryi propagation
Agave parryi propagate easily. To multiply a plant, first break off a few side rosettes that have at least one or two leaves and transplant them in soil in large pots. Water them regularly and let them dry out between waterings.
After about 6 months, these baby plants should be ready to be potted up on their own; keep an eye on their growth so they don’t dry out or sit in water for too long.
It can take anywhere from 5-10 years for your Agave parryi to reach maturity and bloom. Once it does, you can harvest its flowers—the nectar of which is used to make tequila, and enjoy watching your plant slowly die back over time.
The dried stalks are also often used as ornamental pieces in gardens and homes. If you want to keep your plant going year after year, simply cut off a stalk before it dies and pot it up like you would with any other succulent.
You may also want to remove all but one or two stalks every couple of years, this will ensure that only strong stalks remain.
Agave parryi care information
Agave parryi is a drought-tolerant plant and is native to western Texas and northern Mexico. Grow in well-drained soil in partial shade. These plants do not tolerate freezing temperatures and are best grown indoors or in a greenhouse.
In zones where hard freezes occur, plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, in a protected area such as a cold frame.
Agave parryi requires direct sunlight is required for photosynthesis. Your agave will also need a little bit of shade during hot weather to prevent sunburns. If you want to grow agave in full shade, buy a plant that’s already grown rather than trying to start it from seed and care for it until it gets big enough to move outside.
Make sure there’s no competition because your agave won’t be able to thrive if another plant is shading it.
Mescal agaves require well-draining soil that has plenty of air. A mixture of 50 percent native soils and 50 percent commercial cactus mix is ideal. Maintain low moisture levels in summer, when no rain is expected for at least four days.
Agave parryi are desert plants, so they need water only when their soil is dry. They should be watered only enough to keep them from wilting. It’s best to allow them to go without water for at least a month in order to prepare them for growth in the spring and summer months.
In winter, water thoroughly and allow to dry completely before watering again. If you live in a particularly arid area, use a potting mix with perlite or pumice added to improve drainage. Watering once every few weeks will suffice. When watering, you can add nutrients to your mescal agave’s soil by mixing compost into it before watering. Water slowly so that it penetrates deep into the ground; don’t just wet its surface!
Being a succulent, Agave parryi will not need heavy fertilizing. However, during its growing season make sure to give it diluted liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks.
Be careful though, as too much fertilizer can kill your plant. If you’re using chemical-based fertilizer, be sure to dilute it with water before applying it to your plant, and never apply more than once per month.
You can also use organic or natural fertilizers such as compost or manure tea instead of chemical-based ones; just be aware that they may take longer to work their magic on your plant.
Agave parryi prefers part sun to full shade. It should be exposed to at least 12 hours of light daily, but not in direct sunlight. It will die if temperatures drop below 50 degrees F for an extended period of time. If it is in a pot, keep it on a heat mat or bring it indoors during cold nights. Also, don’t overwater. Let the soil dry out between watering sessions.
The mescal agave plant is a xerophytic plant. This means that it has a low tolerance for humidity, so make sure to water it sparingly and only during hot summer months when its roots can quickly suck up moisture. Watering outside during spring and fall will encourage root rot. The best way to determine if your agave is thirsty is to examine its leaves. If they feel soft or pliable instead of stiff, it’s time for some water.
The ideal humidity range for Agave parryi is between 30 and 50 percent. This can be achieved by placing a humidifier in your home, or by placing your agave plant on a tray of wet pebbles to increase moisture in its immediate environment. If you choose to use a humidifier, make sure that it’s set to no more than 50 percent humidity, as anything higher could damage your plant.
In addition to climate, one of the factors affecting your mescal agave’s growth is how it’s pruned. Generally speaking, it should be trimmed about once every three years. Keep in mind that trimming is only necessary if you want your plant to grow taller; if you prefer a shorter size, you don’t need to cut it at all.
There are two main methods for pruning: top-cutting and basal cutting.
Top-cutting involves removing a section from the top of your plant and replanting it elsewhere.
Basal cutting involves cutting off sections from along its base.
The main difference between these two methods is that top-cutting will encourage more lateral branching than basal cutting will, basal cuts tend to produce tall plants with few branches, while top cuts tend to produce short plants with many branches.
When to repot
Agave parryi can grow up to three feet and will need to be repotted every two years, or when its root ball becomes too large for its container. The best time of year to repot mescal agaves is during their dormancy, between December and February.
The soil should dry out thoroughly before repotting, so that it doesn’t disrupt its winter dormancy period. However, if you live in a mild climate where your plants don’t go dormant in winter you can repot at any time of year. Be sure to water your plant well after repotting.
In its native range, Agave parryi is dormant in winter and resumes growth again when spring and summer arrive. In more temperate climates, it is commonly grown as a xeriscape plant that doesn’t require irrigation through dormant winter months.
Most growers have not observed any loss of live plant material during winter dormancy if proper conditions are provided, including protection from cold temperature extremes and adequate moisture retention within the root zone. However, there are some reports of leaf dieback or browning at leaf margins on mature plants during extended periods of cool weather or freezing temperatures.
This can be especially problematic for plants growing in containers because they cannot be easily moved to shelter should unfavorable conditions occur. Growers should monitor their plants carefully during late fall and early winter to determine whether their agaves need additional protection from freezing temperatures or prolonged periods of cool weather.
Parry’s agave flower & fragrance
The small white or yellow flowers of Mescal parryi have been used to make a sweet floral syrup that’s said to be better than agave nectar. The fragrance is delicate and complex, with hints of citrus, lavender, and vanilla. But I’m not going to lie: It smells more like dirt than anything else to me!
Mescal agaves don’t grow particularly fast and are slow to mature. It takes at least 7 years for a plant to reach flowering age and after that, growth is still relatively slow with only 1-2 feet per year being considered a normal growth rate. Mature plants can reach up to 6 feet tall. In ideal growing conditions, however, an older plant might be able to shoot up 5 feet in one season!
Agave parryi contain saponins, a type of chemical compound found in many flowering plants. This compound can be harmful if consumed and may cause organ failure in some instances. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you believe you’ve come into contact with saponins from any plant. Ingesting a small amount of mescal agave will likely result in only minor symptoms, however.
USDA hardiness zones
Agave parryi thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8-10. In these areas, it will grow as a perennial and can be planted outside year-round. In colder climates, it can be grown as an annual or overwintered indoors. The plant requires full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought tolerant once established but should be watered during dry spells to keep leaves from shriveling up.
Pests and diseases
Agave parryi are not susceptible to many pests and diseases, however, you may see mites or spider mites on your plant. This is quite common for most types of agaves and cacti. These bugs are relatively harmless and often come in with new plants from nurseries.
Luckily, they can be easily killed with a product called Avid. You will need to use systemic insecticides like acephate or imidacloprid that work by contact. You should also consider using a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid if you have aphids on your agave.
Aphids are small green insects that suck sap from plants causing them harm. You can identify an infestation by looking at leaves for white cottony masses where aphids have been feeding and by checking for ants crawling around your plant’s base.
In conclusion, agave parryi is a hearty succulent plant that can grow both indoors and outdoors. However, it should be noted that mescal agaves need lots of sunlight. If you’re growing your mescal agave outdoors in an area with poor drainage and excess humidity, then you should keep your plant on a raised bed.
The good news is that mescal agaves are pest resistant and require little to no maintenance once they’ve established themselves in your garden or around your patio.