How To Care For Agave Attenuata | Foxtail Agave

Agave attenuata [a-GAH-vee] [at-ten-yoo-AY-tuh] is an unusual succulent belonging to the Agave plant genus and the Asparagaceae family of plants.

It’s native to central Mexico in the state of Jalisco where it produces long, curved flower stalks with greenish-yellow flower color.

The common name of Attenuata agave includes:

  • Fox Tail Agave
  • Lion’s Tail
  • Swan’s Neck

… all due to the interesting, curved inflorescence.

Several Agave attenuate plants growing in the landscape in front of commercial building

How To Care For Agave Attenuata

How Big Does Attenuata Grow?

The leaves grow in a bunches near the base, ranging from 20” to 28” inches in length and 5” to 6” inches in width. As the leaves die off, the stems remain visible.

These stems can reach heights of 60” inches. However, the inflorescence can reach up to ten feet.

This flower stalk curves back towards the ground and sometimes feature a second arch, resembling a fox tail.

The fox tail agave produces many “suckers” or offshoots. These offshoots increase the clumping of the foliage, resulting in thicker growth.

Does The Foxtail Agave Flower?

When the inflorescence blooms, the flowers feature small, greenish-yellow petals.

These flowers eventually fall and are replaced by seed pods, making agave propagation easy.

What Lighting and Temperatures Does The Fox Tail Agave Prefer?

The cactus should be planted in partial shade and does very well growing in full sun.

However, if it’s been grown in the shade, it needs to get acclimated to the sun when transplanting.

It is intolerant to frost and freezing temperatures. Avoid planting it outdoors if temperatures drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit.

Typically, you should aim for a room temperature environment. While you want to avoid freezing weather, you also want to avoid extreme temperatures.

Botanical illustration of Agave attenuate showing inflorescene, flowers and specimen plant

How Much Water And Fertilizer Does The Plant Need?

The fox tail has low water needs. It is drought tolerant and only requires occasional watering to keep the ground from completely drying out.

Luckily, it’s hard to overwater the foxtail Agave.

During the summer growing season apply a weak balanced liquid fertilizer to the Fox Tail Agave. In general, the plant requires little additional fertilizing.

During the summer, thoroughly water the plant about once per week. As the temperature cools, you should need to water it less frequently.

In fact, during the winter, you hardly need to water the plant at all.

When watering, Don’t need to water the leaves. For potted plants water the soil thoroughly and allow the water to drain completely.

Do not allow the plant to sit in water.

Foxtail Soil and Transplanting Needs

The plant should be grown in sandy or soil with lots of gravel. The soil should offer good drainage and remain dry most of the time.

However, the foxtail attenuata can be planted in almost any soil that offers good drainage. The sandy soil just makes it easier to ensure that the soil will drain well.

NOTE: It’s also important to avoid planting it in an area that gets a lot of strong breezes or cold temperatures.

When planting multiple plants in the landscape, keep them about eight feet apart. This offers enough space for the plants to reach their maximum spread of eight feet.

You should also use caution when transplanting. The Foxtail Agave doesn’t hold up well to sudden changes in lighting.

Transplanting plants from partial shade to full sun may burn the leaves.

When placing it in a container or pot, the plant does not need a deep pot. The root structure doesn’t go very deep. While the plant still grows in deep soil, it’s simply a waste of soil.

The soil should also be replaced every two years when the plant is planted in a container or pot.

You can remove the offsets when transplanting or repotting, especially if they’re crowding the mother plant.

Pruning, Grooming and Trimming Agave Plants

You only plant grooming required is if you’re worried about the leaves getting too large. You may want to remove the basal suckers for aesthetics or propagation purposes.

Group of flowering Fox Tail agave attenuata
Collection of flowering Swan’s Neck Agave showing why they earned the name “Fox Tail Agave”

How To Propagate The Foxtail Agave

To propagate Fox tail agave, simply collect the offsets or collect the seed pods. Remove the pods in the spring or summer and let them dry for several days.

The agave seeds germinate when fresh and should be placed in good potting soil.

Is Attenuata Subject To Pest and Disease Problems?

The plant may experience issues with:

The Foxtail attenuata ray of light is an attractive plant with unique features. As with many plants, you’ll find a few select varieties or cultivars available. Here are a few attenuata choices:

  • A. attenuata “Ray Of Light” – variegated selection, white streak on the outside edge of the leaf.
  • A. attenuata ‘Nova’ (aka ‘Boutin Blue’) – a ‘blue” selection
  • Attenuata is one of the parents of Agave Blue Glow.

Related Reading: The Artichoke Agave (Agave Parryi)

Suggested Attenuata Uses

The swan’s neck Agave is commonly grown in gravel and rock gardens. It also looks great potted container plant in courtyards, southwestern landscapes, Mediterranean gardens or used as a border plant in a flower bed.

It helps add more texture to a garden bed, especially when the “fox tail” sprouts.

When planting in a garden, keep in mind that the attenuata Agave has a spread of up to eight feet.