Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla) is an ornamental small succulent plant that grows up to 60 cm. Each plant consists of a crown bearing 20 to 30 thick, fleshy leaves up to 5 cm wide and up to 45 cm long. The leaves bend upward, have prickles on the margins and end in a sharp spine. The plant reproduces most often through underground offshoots, creating large colonies. It also can flower anytime after the plant has reached three to twenty-one years of age, producing a leafless stalk that can reach 12 feet in height. The flower clusters are located at the top and are funnel-shaped in purples, reds, and yellows. The plant dies after flowering.
Scientific Name: Agave lechuguilla Torr.
Synonyms: Agave poselgeri, Agave multilineata, Agave lophantha var. tamaulipasana, Agave lophantha var. subcanescens, Agave lophantha var. poselgeri
Common Names: Lechuguilla, Maguey lechuguilla, Shin Dagger, Tampico Fiber
Benefits of Agave lechuguilla:
- It has been used for food, drink, and fiber for over ten thousand years. The toxic juices have been used as an arrow poison, a fish stupefier, a medicine, and a soap. Aztecs made a powerful antibiotic from a mixture of Lechuguilla juice and salt and used it as a dressing for wounds and a balm for skin infections. The Mescalero Apaches baked the central stems in pits and then rolled out the pulp, dried it and stored it as a sort of sweet bread. They also fermented the pulp to make an alcoholic drink that is made today and sold in Mexico as “Clandestino”. The water stored in the leaves is rich in salts and minerals and is sold as a sports drink.
- People have always valued lechuguilla for its fiber. Its leaves are so thick with fiber that it is difficult to see how the plant stores anything else inside. The fibers are long, tough, resilient, strong, and extremely durable.
How to grow and maintain Agave lechuguilla (Lechuguilla):
It thrives best in full sun to light shade. A south or south-east facing window works great.
It prefers to grow in well-drained soil. Use standard succulent or cacti potting mix.
It prefers warm spring and summer temperatures 70ºF/21ºC – 90ºF/32ºC and cooler fall and winter temperatures 50ºF/10ºC – 60ºF/15ºC.
In spring, water this plant when the top inch of soil is totally dry. Don’t let the soil become completely dry. In the winter and fall, when growth is suspended, water very lightly. Too much water can cause root rot or cause the leaves to become pale and flop.
Fertilize with a standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks during spring and summer. Do not feed during fall and winter.
It can be easily propagated from offshoots which is the fastest and most reliable method of agave plant production. Agave plants put out offshoots from the base of the mother plants that are easily removed to begin a new plant. Growing agave from seed produces a large number of plants quickly. A moist, sterile soil mix containing equal parts perlite and sphagnum peat is ideal for germinating seeds in a warm location with indirect light. The soil must stay lightly moist until the plants are established. A clear plastic covering helps keep the soil moist during the two to three weeks until the seeds sprout, then a daily misting keeps the seedlings moist until ready to transplant.
Pests and Diseases:
It has no serious pest or disease problems. Watch for mealybugs and scale.