The Blue Agave - Agave tequilana, is an important economic crop, native to the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Why so important? Because the blue agave is used to produce the base ingredient of that Mexican nectar known as tequila. Like other plants within its family, the blue agave grows to be a large succulent with spiky fleshy leaves that can reach an impressive 2 metres in height.
The blue agave thrives in the rich and sandy volcanic soils that are found at altitudes of more than 1,500 metres.
In their native environment, agaves will produce a tall and distinctive flowering stalk once they get to about five years old. This stalk will then grow an additional 5 metres topped with yellow flowers. If the blue agave is being grown for commercial reasons then this stalk is removed in order to save diverting energy away from the heart of the plant.
Agaves are an ancient family and so unlike most other insect pollinated plants, their flowers are pollinated by bats. In this case it is the native bat - Leptonycteris nivalis. Once pollinated, an agave is capable of producing several thousand seeds per plant. Unfortunately, once the blue agave has produced its seed it will die. However, all is not lost as suckering basal shoots would have emerged from the base of the dyeing mother plant.
How to grow agave from seed
The compost mix for agave seedlings is very simple, mix equal parts of sifted steralised top soil and crushed granite/horticultural grit. Using a seed tray or individual pots, fill with the compost mix then sow the seeds giving each seed a couple of inches spacing. Lightly cover the seeds with some more of the compost then, give them another light covering grit.
Water the tray or pots by setting them in a pan of water until the wet surface indicates that the soil has become thoroughly saturated. After the tray/pot is removed, allow it to drain for several minutes, then cover the pot with transparent cover such as a sheet of glass, propagator lid or even plastic wrap!
Place the tray/pot on a warm windowsill, but out of direct sunlight.
The seedlings begin with a single leaf, approximately round in cross-section, thicker near the base and tapering to a point at the top. The empty seed husk is normally seen perched on the top of the plant, obscuring the actual tip. This seed remnant may remain on the plant for several months until it falls off unless you get tired of looking at it and remove it yourself.
Seedlings will vary considerably in size during their first weeks of life which usually reflects the size of the seeds that produced them. Agave seedlings have a tendency to fall over. If this occurs, add some course sand to the tray/pot to help shore them up.
After two to four weeks of development, a slit develops near the base of the first leaf and out of it come the second leaf, this one looking much more like an agave than the first, but still elongated and devoid of marginal spines. The third leaf,when it appears, tends to be wider than the second is, and it does contain small marginal spines. By the time the third leaf has made its appearance, the initial leaf has begun to
turn yellow and dries out from the tip. It has done its job and it proceeds to disappear. Try to keep the soil moist, but even at this early stage, seedlings can dry out completely for several days
with no apparent damage.
The seedlings will let you know if they are receiving too much light or too little. In the first case, they take on a purplish tinge. In the second, they turn pale. Try not to change their light regimen abruptly, it is far better to do it in gentle stages.
By the time the third leaf arrives, the plants begin to bear some resemblance to their
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Article based on http://www.centralarizonacactus.org/plantinfo/seeds/GROWING%20AGAVES%20FROM%20SEEDS.pdf
Photo care of http://blossfeldiana.com/2008/02/10/agave-seedlings/ and http://biorganicbubu.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Agave_utahensis_seed_pods.jpg