Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With wiener dogs.

January 3, 2018

How to trim an agave

Agaves are beautiful plants for the desert landscape. They use precious little water, don't mind the extremes of hot and cold, and while they're not really "tropical" they're a nice complement to tropical plants. They do require a few tricks to keep them looking their best, but luckily, it's easy.

First of all, they're deadly deadly deadly sharp. Be sure to plant them well away from where anyone would be walking, or even if they strayed a bit off the path. If you put them where people can be jabbed by them, or children can run into them, I hate you. So don't do that. I know you won't.

After finding a safe place to plant your agave, you will find that, like all other plants, it will grow, and need to be trimmed, or it'll look ratty. I have a strong opinion about how my plants, and trees, should look, and it includes trimming. That's the difference between a garden and just out in the wild, care.

Gauntlet gloves and a gardening knife. You can get them at any garden center.

You can trim agaves anytime of the year, but I recommend not doing it in the middle of a Phoenix summer, and that's just for your comfort. The agave won't mind. You are going to need a few things: A gardening knife, gauntlet gloves, a tarp (or an old shower curtain) and a "butt cushion" (I use one of my outdoor pillows). I also recommend that you take a deep breath, and take your time. Rushing out to the garden and trying to do this in ten minutes with some snippers will just make the plant look terrible, and besides, you'll probably leave blood all over it (which also looks terrible).

Lay out the tarp next to the plant to be trimmed and sit down. Using the gardening knife, make a quick cut at the base, one quick motion. That's what gives the beautiful cut edge that you see in the photo. If it's raggedy, take a deep breath, and cut again. It takes some practice, but you'll get it. Then put the cut frond on the tarp, and adjust your seating area. Move all around the plant. No, don't do this leaning over, or with snippers. No. No. Like I say, take your time, get in position, and then slice very quickly. The setup takes take and the cut takes less than a second.

Once it's all done, grab the tarp and carry away the cut fronds, and then water the plant. It will look great! You'll need to do this about once a year.

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