How to Grow and Care for Parry's Agave (Agave Parryi)

Parry's agave plant with blue-green leaves and red spikes

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Parry's Agave (Agave Parryi) is native to the deserts of North and Central America. This perennial succulent showcases unique geometry in the form of slate gray/blue rosettes. Its broadleaf evergreen foliage feels coarse and looks especially showy. Each leaf is less than six inches long and three to six inches wide.

Growing slowly, Agave Parryi has a clump-forming habit. While it rarely flowers, when blooms do arise, they do so majestically 10 to 15 years after planting upon six to 20-foot tall stalks. Summer buds are typically red and open to blooms ranging from gold to light yellow to green. One flower stalk comes from each rosette. Mature plants can produce 20 to 30 side branches, each with hundreds of flowers.

Living for many years, Parry's Agave is also known as Century Plant. After they put on a magnificent floral show, they die, leaving a legacy of bold bluish foliage and high-reaching plentiful blooms.

Botanical Name Agave parryi
Common Name Parry's Agave, Century Plant
Plant Type  Perennial succulent/cacti
Mature Size  1 to 3 ft. tall, 2 to 3 ft. wide (up to 20 ft. with flower stalk)
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Sand or well-drained fertile loam
Soil pH  Slightly alkaline to slightly acidic
Bloom Time  Summer
Flower Color  Gold, light yellow, green
Hardiness Zones  7b-10a, USDA
Native Area  North and Central America
Toxicity  Mildy toxic to some humans and pets

Agave Parryi Care

Agave parryi can be planted as specimens in containers on a patio. They also work well grouped en masse in landscaped locations with the right weather conditions. Space them one to three feet apart.

Once established, it requires little maintenance. Welcome these succulents into any sunny, drought-tolerant garden and watch the rosettes unfurl.

Parry's agave in partial shade closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Parry's agave plant growing in between rocks

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Parry's agave plant leaves and spikes closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Being a desert plant, Parry's Agave requires full sunlight. It is not ideal for growing indoors and it would need a bright window position with as much natural light as possible. Bring outside in the spring to fall and return indoors during the cooler months. This plant does not perform well near high reflection so refrain from white-colored concrete from sidewalks or shiny, mirroring windows.

Soil

While it does tolerate most soils, Parry's Agave prefers well-drained loamy soil that is quite fertile. Sandy or shallow rocky soil is good too. Maintain a slightly alkaline pH between seven and eight. Established plants can tolerate slightly acidic soil too.

Water

From spring to fall, water your Agave parryi well whenever the soil becomes dry. Note that root rot can happen in overly moist soils. In winter, water once a month. Plants in containers will need more frequent watering.

Fertilizer

Give the plant a small amount of fertilizer in the spring for the first two years.

Temperature and Humidity

Parry's Agave is drought resistant. Native to Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico, it is usually found at elevations from 4,000 to 8,000 feet. During its growing season, it thrives in warm temperatures. During winter, it rests in cooler temperatures as low as 5 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is Agave Parryi Toxic?

This plant is mildly toxic, especially to children and pets. Native Americans have used it traditionally to make food, medicine, fibers, and soap. When the plant is about to flower, its liquid can be fermented to make "pulque" which can then be distilled into tequila or mescal.

Symptoms of poisoning

Juice from many agave species can cause acute contact dermatitis. Symptoms include reddening and blistering for up to two weeks. Itching might occur off and on for about a year later without any visible rash. For this reason, dried parts of the plant are safer to handle.

Growing in Containers

If your Parry's Agave plant starts becoming pot-bound, transplant it into a new pot that is just slightly larger than the previous one. Use fresh soil and give it one week or so to readjust, then water it again.

Propagating Parry's Agave

Because the plant can take many years to produce seeds, the main form of propagation is by offsets. Remove offsets in spring and summer.

Sow seeds in spring. Fill shallow pots with a well-draining sterile soil mix. A 50/50 of coarse perlite and pumice with sphagnum peat or good compost is best. Avoid manure-based compost. Sow seeds in this environment, then water from below. Place in bright, indirect light and cover with a transparent material to hold in moisture.

Varieties

  • Agave parryi subsp. neomexicana (New Mexico Agave, New Mexico Century Plant, Trailer Park Mescal) forms one-foot long rosettes of blue-green leaves. Mature plants grow up to 10-foot tall flower spikes topped with cloud-like yellow flowers on both sides of each stalk. "Sunspot" has creamy-yellow-edged leaves.
  • Agave parryi var. couesii (Coues Agave, Coues Century Plant) has smaller, narrower leaves that start off more green and mature into a pale bluish-green. The rosette of this variety is more open.
  • Agave parryi var. huachucensis (Huachuca Agave, Parry's Agave, Parry's Huachuca Agave) produces a flower spike that rises up to 20 feet. Flowers are lemon-yellow tinged with pink.
  • Agave parryi var. truncata (Artichoke Agave) is only four feet wide. It grows in a tight shape reminiscent of a lotus. Silvery blue leaves are broad, short and thick with reddish-brown teeth. Its flowering spike grows up to 15 feet tall. Flowers come in dense clusters, in yellow tinged with orange when in bud.