Agave filifera (a-GAH-vee fil-LIF-er-uh) is a clump-forming member of the family Asparagaceae (a-SPARE-uh-gay-see-eye). Hailing from central Mexico, this perennial succulent is very similar Agave schidigera (a-GAH-vee ski-DEE-ger-ruh.
You can tell these two Agave plants apart as Agave filifera has less conspicuous and finer hairs on its leaves. You may hear this plant referred to as Thread Agave or Thread-leaf Agave.
Agave Filifera Care
Size & Growth
An established, mature Thread Leaf Agave is made up of several mounds of moderately sized heads of dark green leaves packed closely together. Individual leaves are very rigid, sharp, and up to a foot long.
Thread Agave has long, sharp, lance-like deep green leaves. White markings run lengthwise with curly, attractive threads along the margins.
Flowering & Fragrance
When mature, Filifera will bloom by sending up a 6’ to 8’ foot long flower spike from the center of a rosette. There is no set time of year for this event to occur. Because these plants are monocarpic, it is a one-time event. After blooming, the parent rosette will die.
The spike’s stalk is deep purple, and so are the flower buds that appear all along the length of the shoot. It takes about a month for the flower stalk to reach its full height and complete bud production.
When the inch-long flowers open, they are very pale yellow with tinges of purple. Each one has six tepal-tips (a combination of petals and sepals). These tepals curl back to reveal dark purple stamens and pistils.
Light & Temperature
Thread Leaf Agave is quite cold tolerant. It can withstand temperatures as low as 20° degrees Fahrenheit. They are also incredibly heat and drought tolerant and able to handle the punishing summer sun. They do well in full sun but also do quite well in lightly shaded settings.
Watering & Feeding
Although these agaves are drought tolerant, you can speed up growth by watering liberally during the hot, summer months. Just keep in mind that the faster your plant grows, the faster it will mature. This will mean blooming and the death of the rosette that blooms. The non-blooming rosettes that remain will still live.
Also, bear in mind that like all cactus and succulents, these plants cannot tolerate standing in water.
In the winter, water extremely sparingly if at all. If you notice the leaves of the plant shriveling, provide water.
Agave Filifera requires little if any fertilizer. If you do decide to provide fertilizer, use a slow-release formula, low in nitrogen, and intended for cactus and succulents. Fertilize once, early in the springtime, and perhaps again during the summer.
Soil & Transplanting
Thread Agave can do quite well in any sandy, gravelly, well-draining soil when planted in the landscape. If you want to keep your agave in a container, use a commercial succulent or cactus mix.
Alternately, you can make your own with a mixture that is half peat moss, a quarter loam and a quarter pumice.
Remember that excellent drainage is essential, so always use containers with plenty of drainage holes. Terra-cotta or other porous material is preferred.
Grooming & Maintenance
Remove damaged spears as needed the thread agave. Handle with care as the spears are quite sharp and have a razor-like edge.
How To Propagate Agave Filifera
Agave Filifera produces many new rosettes throughout the growing season. Only a few of these will flower and die, so your clump of agave will grow bigger with the passage of time.
To propagate, you can simply divide the rosettes and pot each one up as a mature plant.
Recommended Agaves For Containers (Care Info)
Agave Filifera Pests or Diseases
Well cared for Thread Leaf Agave has few if any disease or insect problems. Like all agave, it can be attractive to the agave snout weevil.
Plants kept outdoors (and especially in damp conditions) may attract snails and slugs. If overwatered and/or maintained in poorly draining soil, root rot will ensue.
Is the Filifera plant considered toxic or poisonous?
Agave juice can cause serious contact dermatitis resulting in red, blistered skin that can be painful and itchy for a couple of weeks. Additionally, the itching may spontaneously recur within the ensuing year.
Be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection when handling this plant. Wash up thoroughly afterward.
Is Filifera considered invasive?
Thread leaf agave is not considered invasive in the United States. [source]
Suggested Agave Filifera Uses
This compact agave is quite versatile and can be used as an indoor plant or in a wide variety of full sun outdoor settings.
When you grow Thread Leaf Agave in a pot, you can easily control the size.
It makes an excellent addition to any room with consistently warm temperatures and bright direct or indirect sunlight.
Outdoors, this attractive succulent makes a beautiful specimen plant addition to a cactus garden or rock garden. Your agave can also make a lovely anchor plant in the center of a perennial or annual garden.
In Mexico, Agave filifera has many practical uses. The alcoholic drink known as ‘pulque’ is derived from its sap. Additionally, its pulp and fibers are used to make products such as soap, rope, and some food products.