Pronounciation: A-GA-ve sal-me-A-na
USDA 9-11 (semi arid to arid zones only)
Landscape Use: Very coarse large accent agave for semi-shaded succulent, desert gardens, and native landscape planting themes.
Form & Character: Montrous, imposing, awesome, intimidating, stiffly well armed, dangerous, yet strangely vulnerable.
Growth Habit: Perennial, very large evergreen rosetting succulent agave rapidly growing to 8 to 10 feet tall with equal spread, produces rhizome-like basal offsets, monocarpic.
Foliage/Texture: Foliage is typically strap shaped, waxy blue-gray, long and broad to 5 feet long in length when mature. Leaves with a coarse toothed marginal serrations; very coarse texture.
Flowers & Fruits: Eventually produces a single massive and tall candelabra inflorescence which rises to over 20 to 40 feet in height bearing small yellow flowers that attract birds, hummingbirds, and bees.
Seasonal Color: None
Temperature: Cold tolerant to 18o to 25oF, otherwise fairly heat tolerant though exposed landdscape locations in Phoenix will impact overall productivity making for a somewhat smaller plant.
Light: Needs partial sun to filtered light high canopy shade. Giant agave will not tolerate a strong western full sun exposure in the Phoenix area.
Soil: Avoid poorly drained soils, needs good drainage!
Watering: Fairly drought tolerant in central Arizona deserts, but for best performance irrigate giant agave once every 2-3 weeks during summer.
Pruning: It may be advisable to lightly clip foliar tip spines if located in areas of human traffic.
Propagation: Seed and more easily by division of basal offets.
Disease and pests: Agave snout weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus), treat preventatively with registered pesticide during the spring or fall. The agave snout weevil can lay eggs between the densely compacted basal portion of the leaf rosettes of this agave. Grubs eat the agave interior leaf and stem tissues. Wounded tissues become infected with decay bacteria that ultimately can kill the plant. Agave are also prone to Phytophthora fungus under damp and poorly drained soil conditions mostly during the summer months.
Additional comments: Overall, giant agave has limited usefullness in urban landscapes because of it's great size and intolerance of full Phoenix sun exposures. Named cultivars include 'Green Giant', 'Green Goblet' (semi dwarf) and two variagated selections called 'Variegata' and 'Butterfingers'.
Giant agave is considered to be the great wine making agave "maguey de pulque" and has long been cultivated in south central Mexico for this purpose. Giant agave has also been in cultivation in Europe since the 19th century.