Agave Bracteosa – [Squid Agave] – Care and Growing Tips

Agave bracteosa [a-GAH-vee, brak-tee-OH-suh] is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in Mexico. 

It’s found growing on rocky slopes and cliffs at high altitudes.

It’s also known as:

  • Candelabrum Agave
  • Squid agave
  • Spider agave due to its long, thin succulent leaves.
Agave bracteosa - Squid Agave - growing outdoors in the landscape
Image: Stan Shebs [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spider agave belongs to the Asparagaceae family, best known for the common garden asparagus. 

As with many other types of agave plants, it’s a perennial.

With proper care, it may last for many years and eventually produce a short inflorescence spike covered in small yellow or white flowers.

Agave Bracteosa Care

Size and Growth

Bracteosa agave is a slow-growing plant but may eventually reach 2’ – 3’ feet tall. The rosette typically contains about 20 succulent leaves.

As the plant grows taller, the green leaves start to curl inward, resembling the octopus agave – Agave vilmoriniana.

Flowering and Fragrance

Spider agave is a perennial taking many years to mature and may eventually produce a single bloom.

After the plant matures, it typically sends up a 3’ – 5’ foot tall spike producing a cluster of white or yellow flowers. 

Instead of covering the entire inflorescence with blooms, the flowers cluster around the top third of the spike.

When the flowers die, the main rosette starts to die. 

Luckily, it produces a few offsets as it matures.

Light and Temperature

Spider bracteosa is native to the dry, arid mountain ranges in Mexico and can survive relatively cool temperatures. 

It’s winter hardy in USDA hardiness zone 8a to 11b.

In the winter, it goes dormant but survives temperatures between 10° – 50° degrees Fahrenheit (-12° – 10° C).

Grow the plant under partial shade but avoid too much shade. 

Spider agave grows best in full sun but protected from direct afternoon sunlight.

If placed indoors, direct sunlight from a south-facing or west-facing window may scorch the leaves. 

If scorch marks appear, move it to another spot.

Watering and Feeding

As with most succulents, spider agave is drought tolerant. Allow the soil to dry between watering.

The plant goes dormant during the winter and may not need watering at all.

Use liquid plant fertilizer during the summer months to encourage fuller growth. However, feeding isn’t a requirement.

Never pour water directly into the center of the rosettes as it may cause mold growth or fungal disease. 

Water the soil around the base of the plant.

Soil and Transplanting

Use well-drained soil, such as a 50/50 combination of potting soil and organic matter, pumice, or perlite.

The water should mostly drain from the surface within ten minutes of watering. 

If the soil becomes waterlogged after watering, add organic matter to improve soil drainage.

Candelabrum Agave doesn’t need frequent repotting. In fact, handling the plant too often may harm the root system.

Only transplant when it outgrows its pot. The plant grows slowly so it may only need repotting once or twice in its lifetime and shallow pots and containers work well. 

If the root system grows too deeply, stem rot may appear during the summer months.

Grooming

Spider bracteosa doesn’t need grooming. However, after the flower appears and dies, some gardeners prefer to trim off the spike.

How To Propagate Squid Agave

After two to three years, the plant may start producing offsets. 

It doesn’t typically produce many offsets but should provide at least a few for propagation before it matures.

To propagate from offsets in the spring:

  • Carefully dig the soil from around the young plants. 
  • Remove the offset and locate the stem connected to the mother plant.
  • Use pruning shears to disconnect the offset. 
  • Plant in well-drained soil in a shallow container.

The offset may take a few weeks to resume active growing. 

During this time, keep the plant under bright light while avoiding direct afternoon sunlight.

Allow the soil to dry between watering, checking it every two to three days to avoid long periods of drought.

Agave Pest or Disease Problems

Be careful when growing any Agave around children or pets. 

The juices inside the succulent leaves may cause mild contact dermatitis, resulting in reddish patches or blisters on the skin.

The red spots or blisters may only last a week or two, but itchiness and general irritation may last on and off for up to a year.

Stem rot may pose a problem when the root system grows too deeply. 

The best way to deal with this issue is to transplant to a shallower container and limit watering until the rot passes.

If the rot remains, propagate the offsets and discard the mother plant.

When growing the plant indoors, aphids or spider mites may appear. The Agave snout weevil is another potential problem.

As soon as the pests show up, take the plant outdoors and wash them away with sprays of cold water.

Suggested Bracteosa Uses

Due to the long leaves, being drought tolerant and deer tolerant, the spider agave is often used to add color to the rock garden. 

They also work well as stand-alone plants in their own containers.