Artichoke Agave: Care Tips For Growing Agave Parryi

The artichoke agave, Agave Parryi is a herbaceous evergreen perennial succulent and a member of the family Asparagaceae along with many other agave plant varieties.

It hails from Northern Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico. It grows well in oak woodlands, pinyon and juniper woodlands, desert scrub areas, chaparral, and grasslands.

This succulent agave is often called by the common names:

  • Mescal agave
  • Parry’s agave
  • Artichoke agave

The genus name comes from the Greek word ‘agauos’ meaning “admirable,“ and references to the plant’s very impressive flower spikes.

The species ‘parryi,’ honors the 19th-century physician, botanist and plant collector Charles C. Parry.

artichoke mescal agave in low water landscape

Artichoke Agave Parryi Care

Size & Growth

These plants grow to 2′ feet high and 3′ feet wide. Flower spikes grow to 30′ feet high and may branch 20′ or 30′ feet wide.

Flowering & Fragrance

Individual rosettes flower only one time, usually around the age of 10 or 15 years. Some specimens, delay flowering until reaching 20 to 30 years of age.

Mass plantings of Parry’s agave are extremely impressive. Every flowering plant will display a giant stalk reaching as 20 feet tall.

Each stalk has multiple side branches (up to 30), and every branch is graced with hundreds of fragrant, bright yellow flowers.

When the flowers are in bud, the buds are red. When open, the flowers are a bright and impressive yellow.

In the wild, the flowers usually bloom during the summer months. When the flowers end, seedpods form.

The parent rosette dies after flowering. However, there should be ample offsets and suckers around the base of the mother plant to carry on.

Foliage

This structurally beautiful plant has very good looking evergreen grayish green or blue-gray leaves. The leaves are rigid, smooth, thick and oval or oblong.

Leaves may be a foot long, and grow to form a dense and symmetrical basal rosette. Individual leaves have spiny margins and rather menacing, inch long terminal spines.

Temperature & Light Requirements

As desert plants, Parry’s agave prefers a full sun setting. They will tolerate some very light shade.

These desert plants are surprisingly winter hardy. Officially, this plant is cold hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that some have even survived temperatures as low as -20 Fahrenheit (USDA hardiness zone 5).

The most important thing to remember when planting Parry’s agave in an area with cold winters is that it can tolerate dry cold, but it cannot handle wet cold.

If you get a lot of snow in your area, you’ll need to plant Parry’s agave in a sheltered setting where it can be covered and protected against snow and eventual snowmelt.

Watering & Feeding

This drought tolerant plant has medium water requirements. Once established, you may never have to water it as long as your area receives a moderate amount of seasonal rain.

Soil & Transplanting

Parry’s agave grows best in well-draining, rocky, sandy, gritty shallow soil. It tolerates dry soil and drought.

It is not picky about pH levels and is an excellent choice for areas where other things just don’t want to grow.

How To Propagate Agave Parryi

The plant propagates via offsets and suckers at the base of the plant. If allowed to grow unchecked, the pups will form large colonies over time.

Because of this, this plant may be thought of as a groundcover, albeit a very large one.

Growing from offsets is the easiest and most natural way to propagate this plant.

If you do not have access to pups, grow this succulent from seed. To learn more about propagating cactus and succulents, see our comprehensive article.

Agave Parryi Pest or Disease Problems

This plant is remarkably pest resistant.

As long as you provide:

  • Plenty of sunlight
  • Plenty of warmth
  • Well-draining soil

… you should not have any problems.

Poorly draining soil and extended exposure to moisture can lead to root rot.

Parryi’s thick, tough, hard to pierce leaves make the plant less attractive to attacks by the agave snout weevil.

Is The Parryi Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

Agaves have been used as a source of food and drink for thousands of years. If the central bud of the agave is taken out, the cavity it leaves fills with a fluid called aguamiel (honey water).

Fermented Aguamiel creates an alcoholic beverage known as pulque. Distilled pulque is what is used to make tequila or mescal.

The core of the agave becomes quite sweet just before the plant flowers.

Native Americans developed the technique of trimming away the leaves of the agave and harvesting the heart. The heart or core was then cooked in a lengthy pit roasting process taking up to four days.

Once cooked, the meat of the agave is sweet and has been said to be reminiscent of pineapples, sweet potatoes, and molasses.

Although tasty, the meat is very fibrous, and properly eaten by chewing it and spitting out the tough fibers.

Agave roasted in this manner can also be pounded to form cakes which are dried and eaten later.

Is The Artichoke Mescal Agave Plant Considered Invasive?

Although it grows enthusiastically in its native settings, it cannot be considered invasive outside those settings.

Plants do not grow fast enough or possess sufficient winter hardiness or tolerance of wet weather to be invasive in areas outside its native desert habitat.

Suggested Agave Parryi Uses

Parry’s agave is excellent as a specimen plant in any garden as long as all of its requirements are met. If you have a large open dry area that needs coverage, a mass planting can be quite spectacular.

In colder settings, the plant may add winter interest as long as temperatures don’t drop too low. Agave parryi also does well as a large container plant in areas where it will not tolerate the winter.

Popular Parryi Varieties:

  • Agave parryi var couesii
  • Agave parryi var huachucensis
  • Agave parryi var truncata
  • Agave parryi var truncata ‘Huntington’

Agave plants also have many practical uses. Native Americans used these plants for a wide variety of medicines, soap, food, and fiber.

Sisal fiber can be used to make many products including carpets, rope, twine, fabric, filters, and mattresses.

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