Cactus and Succulents forum→Help getting an Agave to make roots

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Victoria, BC (Zone 9a)
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GardenGems
Oct 22, 2019 2:58 PM CST
I was very ill most of 2019, so I don't remember everything that went wrong.

I know I was going to put it in a larger pot this past spring. I took it out of it's old pot. I pruned off all the old dead roots. Then I was ill a long time, so it did not get back into a new pot until late summer. By then it had absorbed enough of it's leaves to survive it actually fit in a pot smaller than the original. I don't remember exactly what I did, but it did stabilised for a bit. Stopped or slowed done absorbing old leaves. Based on a small tug, i could tell it was starting to root. At that point I increased the watering, but then more leaves started shrivelling up and I could tell from a light tug it lost the roots I thought it had grown. I took it out of the pot this morning to take a look at the roots and to remove some of the old leaved. It's now lost two years worth of growth.

What is the best method for getting this little guy to grow roots. I have the equipment to provide it with whatever the ideal conditions need to be. If that's summer like conditions I can do that.

I have some other agaves growing in semi-hydro conditions. I could switch it back to terrestrial in the spring. That is an option, but it would not be my first choice.


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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
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mcvansoest
Oct 22, 2019 3:52 PM CST
Let the roots dry out for a bit - check that the base of the plant is solid and not squishy.

Then get fast draining soil, stick it in there and leave it alone in well lit warm conditions, does not need to be hot, but if possible eighties. If you can provide it with 60+ overnight temperatures.

It will probably still sacrifice some leaves, and do not water except for at least 2 weeks, then if you do water only water a little bit. This plant is big enough it needs a good set of roots. You want the roots to develop well before you start watering more and more frequently.
It is what it is!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Oct 22, 2019 5:25 PM CST

Moderator

Some notes based on my experience here... I have a set of agaves outside waiting to be potted up for exactly this purpose.

I use fast draining soil like Thijs has described (mine is 50% pumice), with strong light but not a lot of direct overhead sun. I prefer a pot that is wider than deep to start with. Our daytime temps are usually in the high 60s this time of year, our nighttime temps just below 60°F. As far as I can tell, agaves root well down to our annual minimum of about 45°, given daytime temps in the 60s. They definitely do not need temperatures in the 70s or higher, at least not the ones I've tried. But warmth is not a bad thing in any case.

Good airflow and strong light are important to help dry out the soil and simplify the watering. I water every week, which corresponds with the bottom drying out some but not going bone dry. Our climate is very moderate and predictable. It is probably best to time the watering based on soil moisture, rather than adhering to a fixed schedule. Do as I say, not as I do, unless you can provide conditions as stable as ours. Smiling

At the very beginning (especially with damaged roots or rootless offsets) I might water lightly for a couple of weeks before starting with the deep watering.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Oct 22, 2019 5:33 PM (+)]
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
Plant Identifier Plant and/or Seed Trader Cat Lover Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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mcvansoest
Oct 22, 2019 9:56 PM CST
More good advice!

However, based on my one visit to Vancouver to visit some family, I suspect that Victoria, BC is quite a lot more humid than both Baja California and the VotS, so I would worry that watering that particular plant (I suspect either Agave applanata 'Cream Spike' or Agave parryi var. truncata variegata) as frequently as once week with the roots in the state they are in is asking for more trouble, so I would really focus on when the soil is dry rather than a frequency, something Baja already suggests, but I figured I'd emphasize it.
If you are going to water, I think you want to keep the plant nice and warm, definitely warmer during the day than the night, but if the humidity is high, I would not let the night time temps for the plant get too low. Poor roots make for much greater sensitivity to damp and cool/cold.
It is what it is!
Victoria, BC (Zone 9a)
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GardenGems
Oct 22, 2019 10:17 PM CST
Thank you. Pretty much sounds like what I have been doing, I guess I will just stay the course.

or maybe I should put it in my rooting tray. It's where I root off-sets and other plants. It always stays fairly dry. Even if I water the tray, because it is so shallow and open, it dries out in a few hours. I have lots of luck rooting most plants in it. I will need to make some space. There are plenty of plants in it that are ready to go into pots. It sits above the grow light, like sitting above a dishwasher, it stays around 30°C during the daytime and drops down to just above 20° at night

What do you think of using the rooting tray?

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Even though Agave applanata cv. Cream Spike is not technically cold hardy for my region, I would have left it outside all winter on our covered deck if it had roots, but I will be keeping it inside this year to work on roots.

Outside this time of year is 10-12° daytime highs and 7-4° at night. On average it will not get that much colder than this the rest of the winter. There will be some weeks of colder temps, normally a few day of below freezing, but otherwise as long as most of my agave are kept dry they stay outside. (just for comparison for weather - I do not think we even broke 25°C (77°F) the entire summer. Anytime we get a stretch of weather above that there are issued heat advisories)




Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Oct 23, 2019 8:46 AM CST

Moderator

The rooting tray could work out for you. I would think watering once a week is probably okay in a container that shallow, even indoors, given the temps you have described. Does it get good light? You mentioned it is located above the grow lights, which would seem to suggest the opposite.
Victoria, BC (Zone 9a)
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GardenGems
Nov 21, 2019 4:55 PM CST
I planted it in some well drain soil, similar to the soil I use for the rooting tray in the above picture. I put it in the brightest window I could find. Also the most difficult to get to, so less likely to water it too much. The best I had at the time was a 2.5" plastic pot.

After that I forgot about it. It hasn't changed below. A little more shrivelled on top. I had a hard time getting it to stay down in the loose soil, like coarse sand, so it managed to move up some. In other words the caudex part got unburied. I know from aloe, haworthia and other agave, this is where new roots come from.

I just repotted it in a 2.5/3" terra cotta pot. I used my typical succulent mix. I am watering it and putting back in the window. I will not water it again for another month, maybe less. I will take it out of the window, give it not lots, just enough to soak in. Keep repeating this pattern. If I need to go longer without water I will. I've managed to get any other agave to root for me. I just need to trust in myself. It will work. If not I do have small 2" baby, it fell off when I was transplanting this plant. It was so tiny. This was spring 2018.

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