Agave Hardiness

treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNYMarch 1, 2006


I was browsing online about hardy cacti and succulents and came across some hardy agaves I'd like to try growing. I was wondering if A. parryi and A. havardiana would survive the winters in my area. The soil they will be growing in is regular topsoil mixed with crushed limestone. I already have a couple types of hardy prickly pear as well as a couple types of hardy yucca growing and was thinking about expanding my small collection of cold hardy cacti/succulents. Any information on winter protection or growing techniques is more than welcome. I was considering laying some of that thick black plastic over the top of the plants from late fall through spring (our wettest time of year) to keep out the water as well as help insulate the plants during the winter. I was also thinking about the possibility of building a small cold frame for these guys out of some old windows I have laying around. Thanks all for advice/input!

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If it were me, I would pot the agave paryii, bury the pot, and then bring it in for the winter. Your devices might work, but your zone is too cold.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 6:10AM
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cactus94945(S.F. Bay Area)

Here is a godd website on Agaves. Go down to the Agave Data section to get hardiness info.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 3:05PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

Thanks for the info. Are there any Agave species that would survive my area's winter temps with ample protection?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 10:47PM
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milwdave(Zone5 Milwaukee)

Agave utahensis should be hardy for you with moisture protection. A friend of mine here in Milwaukee has one planted in the middle of his yard and it survives. It's planted on a mound and is covered by sheet plastic during the winter.

Dave 5, IF I'm lucky

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 6:59AM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

Dave, thanks for the encouragement. I just purchased some A. utahensis seeds the other day. I'm planning on making a large coldframe out of some sliding glass doors that I picked up after someone threw them away this past summer. I'll try putting the cold frame over them in early october and leaving it on through the end of march or possibly april. Also, I'll try laying some of the thick black plastic over the plants in the cold frame to help capture the sun's radiation within the cold frame. Should be an interesting experiment over the next couple years. Hopefully I'll be able to post with a success story down the road!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 3:34PM
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patrick_in_fb(Zone 9 So. Calif.)

I wouldn't lay black plastic over the plants, unless you want them to die from lack of sunlight! Lay it under them, maybe. The poor things will get little enough sun during a New York winter - don't take away what little they have. And on warmer days, don't forget to prop the coldframe open a little bit to give them some fresh air; too much humidity would be death for little agaves.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2006 at 3:49PM
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Hi treeguy,

Based on my observations in New Mexico and Colorado, I would not be at all concerned about your zone being too cold. I have seen plenty Agave parryi in zones 6, 5, and even 4 that appear to do fine with no protection whatever. Granted these are in more arid situations and many also have good drainage, but this is not always the case. I have seen agaves here plopped in the middle of a lawn with clay soil that survive as well.

In my humble opinion your efforts to grow these plants in your cold AND wet region are best spent on improving the drainage of the planting bed. For example, construct a raised bed and don't use any soil, just gravel (that's often what these things grow in in their natural, arid environment). You might also consider using a wall or large rocks to retain solar heat in the bed, and definitely try to maximize the availability of sunshine overall.

If you're able to increase drainage sufficiently the extra step of using a coldframe may not be necessary, and in fact, as Patrick said above, it may trap too much moisture instead.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that cold should not be your worry (we've had subzero temps here in Santa Fe, and much colder in Denver even in this overall very mild winter - but there are plenty of agaves doing great in both places), but moisture may be. That's really not too bad, because I'm sure you can come up with ways of limiting moisture to the bed.

One final encouragement. If you really want to grow these plants outside, and you can get them for relatively cheap, you might as well put them in the ground and go for it. Just remember, some of the places A.parryi occurs naturally are downright cold, and some locations even receive over 20 inches of annual precip. And that's nothing compared to some of the climates in which they are successfully cultivated. And I think A.parryi is one of the most beautiful agaves, hands down. So have fun, and good luck.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 11:09AM
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milwdave(Zone5 Milwaukee)

thanks Treeguy,

That encourages me to try a couple myself...:)


    Bookmark   March 4, 2006 at 10:54AM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY


I guess I was under the impression that the agaves would be dormant and not grow during the winter like the trees, and therefore not need light while the temps are below freezing point. I did the plastic thing with my Opuntia humifusa and it seemed to do much better than it had without it in the past . . . ?

The place where I'm getting my parryi says that the source is "on the brutally cold, exposed high-altitude plateau near Flagstaff, Arizona". Hopefully this will ensure success somewhat.

I'll deffinately focus on drainage as my main concern and temperature protection second. The area already has soil that is roughly 50% crushed limestone. I'll buy a bag or two of gravel and mix it in as well. This should decrease the soil to rock ratio as well as raise the area for better drainage.

Thanks all for your help!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 9:02AM
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Actually, I don't honestly know about the dormancy thing. I can tell you for sure though that agaves (at least here in the West) don't shrivel up like many opuntias over the winter. Perhaps that means they are not fully dormant since they still have water in their tissues. I know that evergreen plants back East, such as mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) actually do much of their growing during winter, when light is more available (no leaves on trees above to block it), but I guess we'd need to consult an expert about all this to know for sure.

In any event, that's interesting about the plastic benefitting the Opuntia humifusa. It does make sense that a warmer, moister environment might reduce shriveling (there's probably a more scientific word for this but I don't know it) at the very least. Even if agaves do go dormant in winter, I would imagine that some light would help reduce fungal growth in the plant's environment, but if it works for your prickly pear it might work for agaves too.

Anyway, have fun...


    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 10:11AM
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Hi Treeguy,

I realize this is a late posting to your thread, but I thought you might like to see some agave pics from Santa Fe. Photos 1 and 3 are the same individual, what seems to be a very large (about three feet wide) A.parryi, and photo 2 is an unknown agave, maybe A.macroculmis, with long (30 inch) leaves and an open habit, to which the picture does not do jusctice, as it's really nice in real life.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 10:36AM
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I just joined! I have a quarter-mile driveway and at one time I planted it with 100 Italian Cypress trees. Some 'wing-nut', while weed-eating the drive, girdled every tree. I am in the process of replacing them with A parryi. They work great! I thought they would be a sure-fire bet for the driveway. Last summer another derelict drove the lawnmower right over top of one of the A. parryi. This year it is coming back just fine!
These are all growing in Northern Calif. with coldest temp to 20F and about 30" of rainfall (all in the winter).
That picture of A parryi has rather pointy leaves. My standard plant is much broader-leaved.
How do I attach a pix?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 11:38PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Hey Treeguy,
Check in at the UPSTATE NY forum. Remy has yuccas growing in her garden and they do fine. Both of us are trying red yucca from seed this year. I also have some red yucca pups that I will be putting out this year. My husband's aunt also has an agave growing in her yard that was transplanted from my in-laws yard when they moved to Fl. 10 years ago. both the aunt and Remy live in the Tonawandas. Sorry I don't know the Agave that the aunt has.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 8:31AM
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Welcome to the forum agavepete!

In case you are still wondering how to put photos right into your post, I thought I'd give you the rundown because sometimes other explanations make it confusing. Also, I'd love to see your pics of your agaves.

Here goes: First you have to have the photo you want to include in your post stored somewhere on the web. I have mine in a free photo corner provided by my internet service provider. Then you've got to copy and paste the address of the photo where it lives (do this by right clicking on the photo as it's displayed, and selecting Properties, then highlighting the URL, selecting Copy from your right click menu, and then pasting it into the body of your post) with a very simple line of code, and voila, the photo should show up when you go to preview your message.

The code is
keeping in mind that the only space is between the IMG and the SRC, otherwise no spaces, as I have had to type here.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 11:57AM
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Did any metion the Agave victoria regina
Frost Tolerance: Hardy to 12°F (-11°C).
Sun Exposure: Full sun.
Origin: Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Mexico (where it is endangered).
Growth Habits: Slow growing succulent rosettes to 18 inches in diameter (45 cm).
Watering Needs: Infrequent water, soil should be dry.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 3:29PM
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Personally, I wouldn't try planting Agave in New York state mainly because of the amount of moisture there. Also, the wet winters and cold temperatures. I am from Colorado (the Denver area), and we sure do have our share of cold weather in the winter months. But, our winters here are dry and sunny, and when it snows, it usually melts within a day or two.... For example, in my yard I have Agave neomexicana and Agave americana growing very well. They've both been through snow and cold temperatures for 2 winters and show no signs of distress.

But, it wouldn't hurt to try planting one in New York state, just make sure that the soil is well drained and put it in a Southern location around your house. Therefore, the sun can reach it during the winter months. Personally, I would put in close proximity to a south facing wall so the warmth of the winter sun can radiate onto it during the winter.

I hope that I have helped you in some way :)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 2:48AM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

All of the agaves here were encased in ice for 3+ days this winter. I can't imagine Americana (or parryi) not surviving your winter IF you have good drainage. As mentioned earlier, I would not use black plastic...there is no need...clear plastic, 7mil, costs the same and allows for light. Jo

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 5:18PM
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I have some agaves in pots (americana, parryi, victoria-reginae, ovatifolia) that I submerge underground in the spring, then I dig out the pots in the fall, trim back the roots, and keep them stored dry in my garage, no light all winter. When cold and dormant, there is no photosynthetic activity so no need for light. Same goes for cactuses.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 7:06PM
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I just purchased agave parryi and it looks as if it has suckers growing out the side. Should I remove those when I plant it? Also, does it need full or part sun? I'm relatively new at gardening (3 yrs) and have no experience with agave. I got interested in them after reading a magazine article saying they're hardy in my zone.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 10:17AM
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Some Agave are predictably hardy to zone 7 only if kept dry and protected with mulch. Keeping them dry all winter is not simple.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 6:30AM
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pasimachus(z4 MN)

I bought one of those Agave parryi descended from a Flagstaff line, and I'm going to try it here in Minnesota (where I am it is zone 4). This is allegedly about at the limit of where these guys can survive. So far it is living in a pot (I bought it in June) and has grown, albeit rather slowly. I'm going to keep it (and its pot) in a coldframe, where it should stay dry and a little warmer (the coldest night last winter got to -22F, but in the coldframe it was in the single digits). Here in Minnesota winters are a little more like the mountains in the west where parry grows than like New York - it gets very cold, but usually is fairly dry. The reputation Minnesota has for snow is somewhat overrated; the ground is usually white, but more because it is too cold for melting than because of constant snow.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 4:05PM
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It's not necessarily the overnight cold that is a problem for these plants, but when it stays cold in the day they will be toast.

Even up in the mountains in the Mexican Sierra, it warms up in the daytime with bright sun.

It's great to experiment and learn from the results, but I will be shocked if your plant survives. But after watching the NY Mets collapse I guess nothing should shock me anymore :-)

Growing in a pot puts the plant at an even further disadvantage due to lack of root spread and exposure to colder air. Why don't you just bring the plant into a garage? It won't need light since it will be dormant.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 7:51AM
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After reading the post I am encouraged and I am going to put my A parryi in the groud. I am in the Seattle area and I know most of you know it rains a lot here. I will amend the soil with a lot of gravel and do my best to put stones around it and keep it alive. I do love Agaves and I am always looking forward to not having to move them. I also thought that maybe I could use those conical plastic devices that are made to provide extra heat to tomatoes. They don't look too pretty but it sure beats transfering plants in and out of the garage ( I already do that with a ton of stuff). I hope it provides some protection during the winter while letting light through. Just experimenting here. By the way, thanks so much for the tips on how to post pictures. I have been trying (and giving up) for a long time. Thanks again

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 2:38PM
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Good luck to all of you...I think flora in the Seattle area has a much better shot at success than the fellow in Minnesota, make sure you report back your results so that future agave fans know what they can expect.

By the way, agaves along with most other succulents do not need light when it is cold. They are not photosynthesizing. You can put a garbage can over your plants to keep them dry. The hard part is keeping it in place if it is windy.

As for me, hauling in my agaves in pots is no big deal, I do it once in the fall and then again they go out in the spring, and I know they will survive because I've been doing it for a long time with similar plants.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 4:50PM
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I have some miniature agaves growing like gangbusters here in SE Michigan. We are in a small microclimate in and near Detroit that is a Zone 6B. We rarely keep snow on the ground and we've successfully have grown fan palms, tree yuccas, agaves, cactii (prickly pear and Cholla), Fig trees, monkey puzzle trees, and Banana Trees. Some get just a pile of oak/cottonwood leaves on in the winter, but no other protection and do well.

We also get a some more sunshine than upstate NY because we a too far from Lake Michigan to keep the Lake Effect snows/rains. We have certainly become more continental and have a similar climate to Northern KY or Arkansas (hard to believe but true).

I thought that this might inspire you to at least try it. Tree yuccas, Fan Palms, southern magnolias, and cactii are now sold commonly here even at Lowe's and Home Depot for outdoor use.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 11:03PM
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I have an agave neowmexicana outdoors in our zone 6, high desert of Western Colorado. It survived easily last year even though it got below zero cold for several days.
The problem was that even a small amount of snow on the leaves, and we get very little snow, made them turn yellow and fairly ugly. Well, thinking about it I must admit I am not positive it was the snow or just the cold. The leaves that were effected were the outside leaves that were somewhat horizontal and held the snow. Those leaves died in the summer and I trimmed them off after a while and put the plant into a pot. I'm bringing it indoors this year, because it is such a spectacularly beautiful plant when in good form. It is a variation on parryi but with black edges to the leaves.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 7:14PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I would worry more about excess moisture than cold. Make sure the drainage is perfect, and that water doesn't pool in the leaves. Planting at an angle (as on a slope) so that water drains and does not pool would not hurt.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 9:30PM
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I doubt they'd make it unprotected in MN, winter certainly is dry since it's sub-zero for the duration, but in the spring theres a couple weeks where everything is ankle deep in slush. I imagine that'd do in most xeric species.

Opuntia fragilis grows in MN, check that one out - it's a cute miniature.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 5:31PM
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Agave montana might be worth a shot for some of you.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 11:03PM
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I have tried growing cacti and succulents in Minnesota and some have made it while others didn't.

1. Pediocactus simpsonii( Mountain Cactus) had 3 plants and lost two during one summer, then lost the other one the following summer. I know it wasn't the cold that killed them since they grow high in the mountains and most of the growth is during the spring when it is still cold. I don't think they received enough water in the summer and/ or it could of been the heat. They are known to despise heat especially humid heat. They didn't look dead after the winter so I doubt it was the cold. Im guessing they require more rain than other cacti and in the mountains there is a sufficient amount of rain for good growth.

2. Opuntia imbricata- Survived one winter here but that was it. It could be because all my cacti arn't planted in a raised/elevated bed. The soil is amended though and there is a 1 foot layer of just rock at the bottom of where they are planted.

3. Opuntia polyacantha " Alberta, Canada" - These have survived 2 or 3 winters now and im suprized since Alberta, Canada is a much drier climate than Twin Cities, Minnesota.

4. Opuntia compressa(O. humifusa) These have also survived although one plant it either rotted or a snowstorm or rainstorm damaged one of them during the winter. I took a pad which broke off and was laying on the ground in early march and replanted it indoors in a pot. I put the plant outdoors in May. Now I have two plants rather than only one (I originally started with 2 before the damage). They are said to like cold and wet but O.polycantha has done alot better.

5.Echinocereus viridiflorus - collected from Hot Springs South Dakota. Has survived 2 or 3 winters now and is very small still.

6. Agave utahensis- Peach springs, AZ. It didn't even make it 1 winter. Im not sure if it was the cold or the fact that it got wet when it was cold. It may of survived if planted on a slope or raised bed in rocks.

All of my plants are on the south side of the house next to the house so it is warmer and they get alot of sunlight during the summer and winter. They arn't planted in the middle of the yard! So it is kind of a microclimate.

I started all of these from seed and didn't plant them outdoors the first winter.

I am thinking of trying Yucca glauca , Agave parryi, and Escobaria vivipara.

I will have to make an elevated planting area or cover the Agave in the winter.

I think Agaves dont mind cold it is the combination of wet and cold that usually kills them.

New mexico can get very cold but at the same time it is dry. Florida can get very wet but usually it is warm.

Agave americana can grow in Florida and Cuba despite alot of rain but you have to remember it is usually not very cold in those places. Agave americana can also grow in the Southwest where it gets very cold but it stays dry through the winter there.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 10:46PM
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cactusjordi(z10 CA)

You are absolutely right when you say:
"I think Agaves don't mind cold it is the combination of wet and cold that usually kills them"
and this is not only correct for Agaves but for all (with very few exceptions) frost hardy cactus and other succulents.
When hardy cacti have frost it usually is for a longer period of time and it is like a DRY-season for them, because ice and snow are dry. When the ice melts in spring the soil doesn't stay wet for a long time due to good drainage and soon following desert conditions. That's the period these plants thrive and the (short !) length of time they only can stand having wet and cold 'feet'.

Years ago I've seen a huge colony of Escobaria vivipara in southern Alberta, Canada. I bet they are now already covered by snow and hibernating dry and relatively cosy warm in the low 20s.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 12:06AM
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I'm going to try a agave montana from seed. it'll be a potted plant that i'm going to keep under our porch in the winter.

i'd really like a blue a. parryii as well.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 8:49AM
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Just yesterday I found a 195 page book preview.

Enviromental Biology of Agaves and Cacti.

Lots of interesting stuff about temp variations etc and how the plants cope with the temp changes.
All about soil/minerals etc too. A bit heavy going in places but interesting. Sorry I don't have the URL for it, but if the title is googled, I'm sure it will come up.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 4:15PM
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