Cold hardy to zone 5, with proper protection (the winter must be dry for this), Parry’s Agave is a fairly small, blue-gray to blue-green succulent commonly found in the southwestern United States. These typically live anywhere from 15 to 30 years. At the end of the primary rosette’s life, it uses all of its energy to produce an enormous, 6 meters (20 foot) tall flower spike that grows extremely quickly,
Agave parryi (Parry’s agave)
Hardiness Zones: 7-10 (reportedly survives in zones 6 and 7 if the winter has very low amounts of precipitation (considered a “dry” winter))
Height: The leaves grow up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) tall; the inflorescence (flower spike) can reach 6 meters (20 feet) tall.
Diameter: The primary rosette grows up to 1 meter (3 feet) in diameter.
Growth Rate: The inflorescence grows extremely quick, maybe up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) per day. Other than the flower spike, however, Parry’s Agave grows slowly.
Age: Single above-ground plants live until they flower, ranging from 15-30 years. After that, the main plant dies (this is called being “monocarpic”), and smaller offsets/pups sprout from the primary rosette. The leaves may persist for this agave’s entire lifespan.
Root System: fibrous, wide, and shallow
Subspecies: subsp. parryi, ssp. neomexicana, var. truncata (smaller)
Tolerates: drought, dry/shallow/rocky soils, poor air quality in polluted cities
Problems (major): Overwatering or poorly drained soils will lead to root rot, which is typically fatal.
Problems (minor): agave weevil, snails and slugs (consume the foliage)
Poisonous: not known to be toxic
Soil requirements: demands sandy (light) or loamy (medium) extremely well-drained soils
Air requirements: tolerates urban pollution
Watering requirement: low
Sun requirement: prefers full sun, tolerates some shade
Primary photosynthetic organ: leaves
Leaf structure: thick, smooth, blue-green or blue-gray, toothed, apical spine usually gray
Leaf shape: lanceolate to ovate, up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) long
Flowering structure: a gigantic flower spike with up to 30 branches containing yellow, upright flowers in clusters of 25-50, 4-8 centimeters (1.5-3.0 inches) tall
Flowering frequency: infrequently, usually mid-summer (late June to August), gives way to small, brown, ovate seed pods with tiny seeds
Reproduction by offsets: yes
Monoecious or dioecious: hermaphroditic
Monocot or dicot: monocot
The gigantic flowering stalk grows up to 6 meters (20 feet) tall with up to 30 branches holding upright flowers.
These have been previously eaten as food, for fibers, and for various medicnial purposes. The liquid inside the succulent leaves can be turned into an alcoholic beverage (called pulque or mescal) that can be distilled into other drinks, such as tequila.
A gigantic, dying flowering spike roughly 6 meters (20 feet) tall
Two (2) A. parryi, one finishing its flowering cycle and the other still mature and healthy
All of the images provided were taken by me at the Denver Botanical Garden in June of 2014. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.