Agave parryi
Common Name: Parry's agave
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Southwestern United States, northern Mexico
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Culture

Reliably winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10. Best growth occurs in a sandy/gritty, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates some light shade. Sharp soil drainage is important. Poorly-drained soils inevitably lead to root rot. Tolerates dry soils and drought. Surprisingly good winter hardiness for this succulent. Plants have reportedly survived winters with temperatures as low as -20F (USDA Zone 5), but cold temperatures should be "dry cold" as opposed to "wet cold".

Noteworthy Characteristics

Agave parryi, often called Parry's agave or mescal, is a rosette-forming perennial succulent that is native to grasslands, chaparral, desert scrub, pinyon-juniper and oak woodlands in Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico typically at elevations from 4,000 to 8,000 feet. It is most noted for its attractive blue-gray to gray-green evergreen leaves, but is also noted for its infrequent but spectacular flowering spikes. Thick, rigid, smooth, ovate to oblong, blue-gray leaves (to 12” long) form a large, dense, symmetrical, basal rosette. A rosette will typically mature over time to 2' tall by 3' wide. Each leaf has spiny margins with a one inch terminal spine. Suckers/offsets root at the base of the rosette forming over time a colony of rosettes. Each rosette will flower only once, usually at some point between 10-15 years (not the 100 years suggested by the also-used common name of century plant used for some agaves), but sometimes flowering will not occur until 20-30 years. One huge flowering stalk (to 20' tall) will rise from each rosette, with each stalk producing 20 to 30 side branches and with each side branch containing a large cluster of creamy yellow flowers. In its native habitat, flowers typically bloom in summer (June - August). Flowers are followed by seed pods. The flowering rosette dies after flowering, but new rosettes formed by suckers/offsets from the base of the mother plant will remain. Native Americans used this agave as a source of food, fiber, soap and medicine. Plant liquids may be fermented to form an alcoholic beverage called pulque which may be further distilled to form mescal or tequila.

Genus name comes from the Greek word agauos meaning admirable in probable reference to the flower spikes.

Specific epithet honors Charles C. Parry (1823-1890), physician-botanist-plant collector.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Agave weevil can be troublesome. Slugs and snails may damage foliage. Root rot may occur, particularly in poorly-drained or overly-moist soils.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this agave serves as an interesting tropical accent or specimen. Mass plantings can be spectacular. Borders. Ground cover. Container plant for areas where it is not winter hardy.