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A Dreaded Chore: Repotting an Agave

sad, sad Agave

I’ll confess. I had avoided repotting (for almost a year now) what had become one very sad looking Agave.  The older leaves had become brown and ugly, and obnoxious weeds had taken root. The piercing tips and teeth on the leaves looked ferocious, and I didn’t want to give blood. So there it sat, in a neglected corner, a woeful sight indeed.

As we were gathering all the tender plants to bring inside for the winter, it was time to make a choice about whether to save or toss the misbegotten Agave. A decision was made: yes, save it. A plant that has the will to carry on despite such neglect deserves not only respect; it deserves admiration. And as it turned out, grooming and repotting wasn’t a big deal after all. Here’s how we went about it:

The first thing to do is put on some protective gloves. Carefully remove the Agave from its pot, standing over a wheelbarrow or large receptacle to catch the debris. Tilt the plant so you can get at the base of the crown with your clippers and remove the dried up foliage. Next, loosen up the soil around the roots and remove any weeds that may have established, teasing out their roots so they won’t make a comeback.

Use a very well drained soil mix amended with sand and perlite, and if you have access to grit or gravel, add some too. (We don’t add fertilizer, since Agave are very light feeders. Instead, we liquid feed with fish emuslion/seaweed 2 or 3 times a year.) Position the Agave in the center of the pot, and then backfill. The repotting is accomplished, and we can now place the Agave in a spot where it merits attention.

carefully remove old leaves

loosening the roots

Agave, happier looking now



  1. You make it look so easy! But what if it’s the size of a VW? I’ve been putting off repotting one of our biggies for … a good 2-3 years now. (Poor old thing.)

  2. Repotting a jumbo Agave is a 2 (3, 4?) person project. And it probably helps if the helpers lift weights and practice yoga as part of their exercise regime.

  3. I acquired my agave from a roadside in CA . It was a baby from a 8′ diamater mom. My plant is now a couple feet wide and has a baby of it’s own. I too have postponed transplanting. Are the roots smallish? I hope.

    The pot is 10″ wide.

  4. Marsha, You can transplant it now, as long as you have some root integrity on the offset. In fact doing it now before it gets larger is a good idea. Be sure to use a very well drained soil mix, and water only as necessary, since you want to encourage the roots to search for moisture and extend within the pot.

  5. Mine is like an agave celsi with at least 3 sections where leaves are un-furling…to keep it about the same size (and not increase the size of the pot each year) do I want to remove it from the pot and cut off about half the root structure? It’s not quite root bound, but close…

  6. Trina, I would need to see a pic of your Agave to give a better answer, but if I understand correctly it sounds like you have 3 offsets on one plant. As long as each offset has roots, you will have little trouble establishing the divisions. As for keeping it the same size, it depends on which Agave you have, as there are many hybrids with various growth rates. Be sure to use a lean well drained soil mix. And, the less you feed and water your agave, the slower growing it will be.

  7. I was in a very similar predicament, its early September, and I am going through what I have on the terrace, and what needs to be done before the weather changes and stuff comes indoors. I have this agave for a few years, maybe about five or six, its sitting in a plastic pot, we emptied an Adenium yesterday from a slightly larger terra cotta planter, and this morning a scrubbed it clean, and will be potting the Agave in the bigger pot. I live on the ocean and happen to have some sand, which I will mix with fresh potting soil. I give this plant very little water, but once I’m done getting it all positioned and planted into the new pot, I will give it one good soaking. My plant has been developing a thinner base at the bottom from the cutting away of the dead stuff, and its giving it a little of a lollipop look, which I like and think will become more attractive over time as and if it continues to suspend the first (bottom) leaves from the top of the soil and sand mix. My experience is that these things are doing better in the clay than the plastic, so I am expecting and hoping for great results from this move we are making today.


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