Monday, March 5, 2012

Easy indoor plants: Agave

Spring will soon be on us, and I like to give the indoor plants a little freshening up before the garden calls. One of my favorite indoor plants is an agave. Agave, I've always loved them, but never thought I could take care of one. I was given the gift of an agave when I completed my Master's degree years ago.

Every year since then I give the plant a soak and a haircut. The rest of the year I let it go and grow with the occasional watering.

An unintentional diet plan. If you place the candy dish under the
spines of an Agave, you'll never want that candy again.



Why do I soak the plant? Agave really like arid soil or dry soil. The problem is that they still need water. Most of the soil sold for household plants holds too much water. You can over water pretty quickly.

In an effort to not over water, we water less. This causes the soil to dry out. Once this type of soil dries out, it begins to shed water instead of absorbing it. It becomes hydrophobic.



If you've ever watered a plant and watched the water roll right off the top of the soil, straight to the sides of the pot, and down into the pan (and probably all over your hardwood cabinet), then you understand how water resistant soil can become if it dries out too much. If you let the root system dry out too much the plant dies. Alternatively, if you over water a succulent, like an agave, it dies.

The real solution, the best solution, is to use a sandy soil that allows water to penetrate the roots, while not sticking around too long. Then, occasionally soak the roots. Give it a sunny location too.

To soak the plant, I take the whole plant out of the pot and stick it directly into a bucket (or the sink when no one is looking) of water and let the water fully saturate the soil. This process really helps revive the roots, and let the soil regain its water retention properties.



Agaves and other succulents are great. There are minimal pest problems. They have lots of different textures, lending themselves to great displays. Right now, succulents are super popular and therefore much easier to find a type that you really enjoy. The only caveat is many succulents can get much bigger than expected. Another tip, agave and other cacti can capture your attention while you are trying to handle them with their sharp spines or needles. Handle with care.

I don't have a full sun location in my house, and that's okay. My agave seems to tolerate moderate sun. It will flourish in full sun and an occasional watering, but it does well in my house, and life can be a bit harsher here than the natural environment for a plant. I really enjoy the plants that can endure without lots of TLC.

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