How To Plant Agave ‘Pups’

Agave are often called ‘Century Plants’ due to the fact that they bloom once and then die.  However, unlike their

Agave are often called ‘Century Plants’ due to the fact that they bloom once and then die.  However, unlike their common name implies, they don’t take 100 years to grow before flowering.

While Agave do produce new agave when they flower, many also produce ‘offsets’ or as they are often referred to – ‘pups’. 

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'

Agave are made up of over a 100 different species and some species produce quite a few pups, while others rarely do.

My Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi), after being in my garden for 3 years.  Agave can be somewhat expensive, so I was thrilled to see little baby ‘pups’ appear.

 Can you see them?  There are four.  Three are very small, but they are more then ready to leave the ‘mother’ plant.

 I think they are cute in a prickly sort of way.

 First, I carefully removed the soil around the pups.  The pups are attached to the mother plant by a thick, fleshy root.  In the photo above, you can see that the pups are beginning to form their own roots, branching out to the side.  At this point, cut the thick, root and remove the little pup.

Now this same adult agave had another pup, which was attached at the base.

 To remove, simply insert a shovel and push down firmly, cutting the connecting root.  Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful in getting some pups to leave home.

 I was able to harvest 5 pups.  Now I had the fun task of deciding where to plant them in my garden.

But before planting,  I put the pups in a dry, shady area for 4 – 7 days so that their cuts had a chance to dry first, which prevents rot when they are later planted.  Don’t worry about them surviving with out water for a few days – they have plenty stored inside since they are succulents.

I planted all 5 agave pups around my garden.  They didn’t need any soil amendments – native soil was just fine.  After I planted them, I provided supplemental water  to help them establish and grow roots.  Early fall and spring is a good time to plant agave so they have time to grow roots before the heat of summer arrives.

If you have an agave, start looking for little ‘pups’.  Do you have more then you need?  How about planting one in a pretty container and giving to a friend?  They make great gifts.  You can also donate some to your local park, church or even golf course.  Agave are very beautiful, and low-maintenance plants that will give you years of pleasure.  So next time you have some agave pups, go ahead and help them find new homes.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.