How To Care For Agave Bracteosa: Growing The Squid Agave

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Agave Bracteosa (a-GAH-vee brak-tee-OH-suh) is a perennial succulent plant that originates in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountain ranges and commonly found growing on rocky slopes and limestone cliffs.

This heat and the sun-loving plant is a member of the Asparagaceae family of plants.

Agave bracteosa - Squid Agave - growing outdoors in the landscapePin

You may hear it commonly referred to as:

  • Candelabrum Agave
  • Calamari Agave
  • Spider Agave
  • Squid Agave

Reasons To Love Spider Agave, aka Squid Agave + Care Tips

Agave Bracteosa Care

Size and Growth

Spider Agave grows in a rosette form that can rise to a height of 4′ feet with an equal width. This is a slow-growing plant, so it takes quite a while for it to attain this maximum level of growth.

It’s easy to keep the plant at a height and width of a foot or so in pots or containers.

When planted in the landscape, Squid Agave tends to spread and multiply through suckers that form at its base, commonly forming a colony of plants.

Flowering and Fragrance

Candelabrum Agave white flowers are small and fragrant. The bright white or yellow flowers grow in a cluster atop an inflorescence spike that usually resembles a bottle brush. The densely packed flowers also stand between 3′ and 5′ feet high. 

Blooming is a rare and one-time occurrence for Squid Agave. The plant does not bloom until it reaches full maturity. This can take many years.

As with most agave plants, blooming is the harbinger of death. When the blossoms have faded, the mature plant will perish; however, it will leave lots of pups behind to take its place.


The Calamari Agave species typically present with about 20 grayish-green leaves per rosette. This plant is grown more for its interesting, year-round foliage than for its rare blooms. 

Its interesting candelabra-like leaves are characterized by its clumping rosettes. In addition, the succulent leaves of this plant are not sharp or dangerous.

The plants’ long, tapering leaves explain their common names, Spider, Squid, or Calamari Agave. 

As the leaves grow longer, they tend to twist and curl, giving the appearance of long legs or tentacles. For this reason, the plant is sometimes confused with Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana), which is similar.

Light and Temperature

Spider Agave grows naturally on dry, rocky mountain ranges. It thrives well in filtered sun or light shade.

Moreover, the plant likes good ventilation and lots of sunshine. As a natural mountain dweller, it can tolerate fairly low temperatures, but without ample light, it will suffer stunted growth and failure to thrive.

The excessively harsh afternoon sun or direct sunlight may cause brown, unattractive sunburn spots. In very hot climates, it is best to position your Candelabrum Agave in a setting that receives full, direct morning sun and dappled or partial afternoon sun.

This plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7b and above. In winter, it can survive temperatures ranging from 10° to 50° degrees Fahrenheit in a state of winter dormancy. This rest period benefit’s the production of suckers in the springtime.

It is also possible to keep this compact agave as a houseplant through the winter months. 

Keep the plant at normal room temperature in a setting where it can receive bright, indirect sunlight throughout most of the day. Near (not in), a south-facing window is a good location.

Watering and Feeding

As drought-tolerant plants go, Spider Agave is a bit of a contradiction. Although it does well in a xeriscaping situation, it needs regular watering, especially during its growing season (spring and summer).

This agave should be planted in sharply draining soil and given soak-and-dry watering regularly to prevent root damage and encourage good growth.

To know how often you should water, you must keep an eye on the leaves. After providing a thorough watering, you should see that the leaves become plump and hard. When it’s time to water again, they will become slightly soft and even shrink slightly.

The exact amount of time you can allow to pass between waterings will vary depending on the weather.

During the hot, dry days of summer, you’ll water more. As the days shorten and cool in the autumn, you should reduce watering.

In winter, you won’t water plants in the landscape at all. Even indoors, watering should be kept at a minimum during winter to prevent problems with root rot.

Always pour water through the soil of potted plants and water close to the ground for plants in the landscape. Avoid overhead watering because water trapped between the plants’ leaves can cause leaf and crown rot.

Agave is not a hungry plant, and you may not need to fertilize at all if you can provide a top dressing of worm castings in the springtime.

If you wish to use a commercial fertilizer, choose a liquid product with an NPK ratio of 3-3-2. Provide only a half or quarter dose every month throughout the growing season.

You can also use liquid fertilizer during the summer months to encourage healthier and fuller growth. Stop fertilizing altogether in the autumn.

Soil and Transplanting

As with most succulents and cacti, agave likes to be planted in well-draining or sharply draining soil. 

A good quality commercial succulent or cactus mix will do, or you can mix up your own substrate by combining half-and-half high-quality standard potting mix and a combination of organic matter (e.g., aged compost, leaf mold, or manure) and coarse matter to improve drainage.

Examples of coarse drainage materials include perlite, pumice, or coarse sand. You can also throw in a bit of bone meal for nourishment.

If you live in a very dry climate, you’ll go a little bit heavier on the organic matter to help keep the right amount of moisture near the roots. 

If you live in a very humid climate, you should add a greater proportion of coarse matter to encourage good drainage and discourage root rot.

When potting Spider Agave, choose a wide, fairly shallow container that has plenty of drainage holes. It’s best to use a roomy container that will allow the plant to spread and produce pups. 

Agave does not need to be able to grow deep roots, and in fact, if the roots grow too deep, they will be more likely to rot.

When you place your agave in a broad, shallow container with plenty of open surface area, the soil can breathe, and the plant can reproduce. You can keep it in this container until it is crowding the sides, which may take several years.

Grooming and Maintenance

Candelabrum Agave needs very little grooming and maintenance. When older, lower leaves naturally turn yellow and wither, pull or trim them off.

If a leaf becomes damaged, diseased, or infested with pests, prune it away and apply fungicides, pesticides, etc., as needed to eradicate the problem.

If your plant produces a flower spike, you can remove it when the flowers have faded. Check the top of the spike for little plantlets that may have sprouted. You can use these for propagation.

Know that you will soon need to remove the plant because it will fade and die. You should be able to simply pull it out of the center of a ring of offshoots.

How To Propagate Agave Bracteosa

This agave naturally spreads by rambling roots, so the most common propagation method for spider agave is division, which is usually carried out during the growing season or when repotting.

To do this, just remove the offset from the mother plant by cutting through the base.

You can also propagate Squid Agave by carefully trimming away the suckers and rooting them. Allow the sucker to air for several days before potting it up in its own pot. This will allow the pruning wound to callus over so that fungus or bacterial infection will not set in.

Care for the transplanted sucker just as you would a mature plant. It should set roots within a couple of weeks.

If your plant produces plantlets atop a flower spike, treat them as suckers. Plant them in their own pots, and care for them as mature plants.

It is also possible to grow Squid Agave from seed; however, it takes a very long time. If you plan to collect your own seeds for propagation, you’ll need to be sure that cross-pollination has occurred so that your seeds will be viable.

With viable seeds and good conditions, the germination rate is quite high. To grow this agave from seed, you should sow the seeds lightly over a damp seed starting mix.

Cover the mix lightly with plastic, and place the tray or container in an area that receives consistent warmth and ample bright, indirect sunlight. 

Keep the seed starting mix evenly moist (not soggy). You should see germination within ten days. When this happens, you can remove the plastic.

Understand that it will take years of careful care for your tiny baby agave plants to attain any significant size.

Agave Bracteosa Main Pest or Diseases

With the right balance of sun, water, and ventilation, your Spider Agave will stay pest and disease free. Too much water or humidity and too little sun and ventilation can lead to bacterial and fungal infections, such as:

  • Gray Mold begins as a small light or dark green spots on leaves. If caught in time, simply lowering humidity around the plant can solve the problem. If the condition escalates, the spots will become soft and rotten. At this point, you must treat with fungicides containing carbendazim or chlorothalonil.
  • Anthracnose is a fungal infection that appears as greenish or yellow leaf lesions. It can be treated with alternating fungicidal treatments. Extended use of one type of fungicide leads to resistance,
  • Leaf Spots present as gray lesions on leaves and can be treated with careful pruning and treatments of emulsified oil.

 Healthy agave will resist pests. Those that have been compromised by poor conditions and the development of bacterial or mold diseases may become easy prey to common garden and houseplant pests, such as mealybugs, scale insects, and armored scale insects.

Agave Snout Weevils present a specific danger to agave plants. Some beetles, such as Longhorn Beetles, can also be quite damaging.

Prevention is the best cure for pest infestation, but if your agave does develop a pest problem, deal with it by manually removing as many of the creepy crawlies as you can.

Follow up by treating the plant with a pesticide containing Methidathion. Follow packaging instructions concerning repeat treatments.

Correct any problems that may have enabled pests to get a foothold.

If you are unable to eradicate the pests with these steps, you may need to unpot your plant and disinfect it by washing the entire plant, roots and all, with a mild soap and water solution. Rinse the plant and allow it to air for a few days while you treat its former location for pests.

When you repot your plant, treat it with a pesticide. Be sure to use an entirely fresh potting mix and a brand-new (or sterilized) container.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?

Even though Squid Agave’s leaves are not sharp, the sap inside can be irritating to the skin and eyes. 

Contact may cause irritation, dermatitis, blisters, and the like. Symptoms may recur sporadically for as long as a year after contact. Ingestion of the sap can cause gastric distress.

Always wear gloves and eye protection when handling and pruning your agave. Wash up promptly afterward.

Keep agave plants out of the reach of children, pets, and livestock, and be sure to locate these plants in areas where they will not be trampled or bumped against.

Is the plant considered invasive?

The Succulent Agave is not reported as invasive in any location. In fact, it is listed as permitted for all locations in Australia (where almost every plant tends to grow rampantly with wild abandon) and is not assigned any control category by the government.

Suggested Agave Bracteosa Uses

Agave Bracteosa is an excellent choice for xeriscaping in any hot, dry climate as it’s a deer and drought-tolerant plant. 

It also makes a beautiful addition to a rock garden and can be used as a high ground covers over larger, open, sunny areas.

You can also mix this attractive plant with cactus, making it highly suited for succulent gardens and Mediterranean gardens. 

It’s also perfect for raised planters, patio containers, and small planting spaces.

In cold climates, this lovely, low-growing, compact succulent makes a nice container plant to be displayed on the patio, porch, or poolside in the spring and summer and by a sunny window in winter.

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