What to Do When Your Agave Blooms
Seeing an agave bloom is always a spectacular sight! Their tall flower stalks look like whimsical trees from a Dr. Seuss book. When an agave flowers, it’s reaching the end of its initial life cycle—however, it will produce baby plants in one of two ways, depending on your specific variety! So, while you may lose one plant, you’ll gain several new ones in the process! Here’s what you need to do once your agave starts blooming, so you can begin the cycle of life once again.
What Happens When an Agave Blooms?
Agave plants take a long time to bloom, so don’t worry—you won’t have to part with them immediately after planting. Some varieties take eight years to flower, and some take eighty years; this is why they’ve earned the nickname “Century Plant”—they have a pretty impressive life span!
Agave flowers are full of sugary sweet nectar, commonly used as a vegan substitute for honey. A large, spike-like stem will emerge from the center of the plant—some varieties grow flowers all over the stalk, while others have flowers that appear at the ends of “branches” that sprout from the sides of the stem. The blooming period generally lasts about 3–4 months. The individual flowers on the stalk will last for about a month, after which they’ll begin to fade and wilt towards the ground.
You’ll be shocked by how quickly your flower stalk grows—some can reach as high as 35 feet tall! It’s no surprise that your plant uses all its remaining stored energy during this final growth stage. Generating all those flowers and baby plants takes up a lot of energy, and your plant won’t be able to continue once its bloom time is over.
Removing the flower stalk early in its development won’t stop the agave plant from completing the first cycle of its life. Flowering is the sign that your plant is reaching the end, but allowing it to flower will help encourage a new generation of agaves to form!
Restarting the Agave Life Cycle
Agave will reproduce in one of two ways. The first way is by producing “pups” similar to a bromeliad or many other succulents. Do not immediately cut off or remove the pups that might be forming around the base, or remove the drying main mother plant too quickly. These pups need a little more time to keep growing before they detach from the parent and live a new life on their own.
Another way that many agaves will reproduce is by producing little baby plants called “bulbils” along the stalk where their flowers once grew. These bulbils are easy to plant, so there’s no need to fret when your mother plant is dying—you’ve got plenty of new plants to take her place! In nature, the flower stalk would eventually fall over on its own, landing a few feet from mama. In the wild, the bulbils would root into the soil at that point. However, gardeners can simply twist off the bulbils from the fallen stem and replant them in their preferred location. No need to use shears—just a simple twist should do it.
An agave usually uses only one of these two processes to replicate itself after flowering, either through pups at the base or bulbils along the flower stalk. There are a few varieties that reproduce both ways, but in most cases, the pup types don’t have bulbils, while the bulbil types don’t grow pups. Watching your plant and then re-starting a new generation is a lot of fun.
What to Do When Your Agave Blooms
Since that tall flower stem will eventually topple over when the plant is weak and finished growing, you can prevent it from landing on your other garden plants and damaging them by cutting it off with a hand saw.
To remove a dead plant from the ground, you need to take extra precautions because the sap in many agave plants is caustic. Avoid burns and skin irritation by wearing protective gloves, long sleeves, and goggles. If you get any agave sap on your skin, wash it off immediately with soapy, warm water.