What's Wrong With My Agave?

Good to Know

Oct 10, 2012

Originally from Mexico, the Agave Americana, also known as the century plant, is typically very hardy.  It can live from 10 - 30 years; reach a height of 5-7 feet and a spread of 8-12 feet.  It blooms once at the end of its life cycle where the stalk may reach up to 26 feet. The plant dies after flowering, but will produce shoots from its base.

The Agave Americana may look fine one day and show no signs of stress and quickly the base leaves begin to droop and curl under.   Snout nose weevil infestations usually don%u2019t become apparent until much damage has occurred and it is too late to save the plant.

The adult agave snout nose weevils become active and remain active through the summer.  The female weevil searches for a place to lay their eggs and will often seek agaves that are about to bloom, but can also attack non-blooming plants.  The females chew their way into the plant base creating tunnels to lay their eggs.   Their bite leaves a small dose of bacteria which quickly spreads and rots the plant.  Later when the eggs hatch the larvae burrow and eat their way into the heart of the agave.  As the larvae start feeding on the plant base and roots, the leaves begin to wrinkle and droop.  Usually a majority of the leaves will fall to the ground and the central spike will remain standing. The damage is often fatal.

What to watch for:  Wilting or curling  leave, sparce growth, small holes in the leaves, and leaves that pull away easily from their base. You can try watering the plant several times to test for lack of water, if they do not perk up, chemicals are usually recommended.  Control of the agave snout weevil is difficult.

Systemic insecticides with the active ingredient Imidaclorprid have been fairly effective in preventing and controlling infestations.  It's also suggested the Orthene (Acephate) may help in prevention.  The product is injected around the base of the plant and is absorbed by the roots and carried throughout the plant.