Agave attenuata: A Guide to the Foxtail agave

Discover the Foxtail agave, a unique and eye-catching plant perfect for Australian gardens. Learn how to grow and care for this drought-tolerant beauty, and why it could be the missing piece in your garden puzzle.

Meet the Foxtail agave, a member of the Asparagaceae family. This small shrub is known for its rosettes of succulent leaves and its unique, swan-like curved flower stalks which a single time, once the plant reaches maturity.

If you’re looking to add a touch of flair to your garden, this could be the plant for you.

Family and Subfamily: AgavoideaeAgaveae

The Agavoideae subfamily, a part of the Asparagaceae family, hails originally from the Americas. These perennial plants are tailored for dry settings, possessing succulent leaves and a rosette growth pattern that enables efficient water storage.

Though not indigenous to Australia, several species have found their way into gardens nationwide.

Delving deeper, the Agaveae subfamily stands out with its thick, succulent leaves and pronounced spines. Many showcase a basal leaf rosette and a prominent flowering stem, with some even flaunting large, striking flowers, cementing their garden appeal.

Agave attenuata: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Swan Neck Agave, Foxtail agave, Lion’s tail agave
  • Scientific Name: Agave attenuata
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Family: Asparagaceae
  • Subfamily: Agavoideae
  • Plant Type: Small shrub
  • Size: 1-1.5 meters in height and width
  • Leaf Type: Long, slender, arching leaves
  • Flower Colour: Yellow-green

Appearance and Features

Agave attenuata plant | Plant Profiles

Agave attenuata is a small shrub that typically reaches a height and width of 1-1.5 meters. Its leaves are long, slender, and arching, with a grey-green hue.

It boasts a unique flowering structure that sets it apart from other agave species. Once mature, after about 10 to 15 years, this plant produces a remarkable curved flower spike, reminiscent of a fox’s tail. This tall spike, reaching up to 3 metres, is adorned with clusters of greenish-yellow flowers.

Natural Habitat

This plant is native to Mexico and thrives in dry forests and rocky areas. It’s important to note that while it may be suitable for some gardens, it can be invasive in some areas outside its native habitat.

How to Grow Swan Neck Agave

Agave attenuata | Plant Profiles

Many people choose to grow Foxtail agave for its unique appearance and low maintenance requirements. However, it can become invasive if not properly managed.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Well-draining, sandy or loamy soil with a pH of 6-7
  • Light: Full sun to part shade
  • Climate: Warm, not frost-tolerant

Planting Guide

Plant in spring or early summer. Space the plants 1-1.5 meters apart to allow for growth.

Care and Maintenance

Water moderately, letting the soil dry between waterings. Prune dead or damaged leaves and remove the flower spike after blooming. Mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Pest and Disease Control

Look out for signs like yellowing leaves, which could indicate over-watering or insufficient light. Common pests include the agave snout weevil and scale insects. Treat with insecticides or biological controls as needed.

Special Features

The Foxtail agave is particularly noted for its unique, swan-like curved flower stalks. This feature makes it an excellent focal point in any garden.

When does agave attenuata flower?

Agave attenuata typically produces its famous foxtail flower when the plant reaches maturity, which can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years. Once it reaches this age, it will produce a tall, curved flower spike that can reach up to 2.5 to 3 metres in height. The spike will be covered in greenish-yellow flowers.

It’s important to note that after the Agave attenuata flowers, the main plant will die. However, it will usually leave behind offsets or “pups” around its base, which can be left to grow or be replanted elsewhere.

Wildlife and Pollinators

The nectar-rich flowers of the Foxtail agave attract birds and bees, adding a lively touch to your garden.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

This plant is ideal as a feature or focal point and is also suitable for rockeries and containers. However, be cautious as it can become invasive if not properly managed.

Environmental Benefits

The Swan Neck Agave is drought-tolerant, making it a good choice for water-saving gardens.

Swan Neck Agave FAQ

Is Foxtail agave suitable for small gardens?

Yes, with its moderate size of 1-1.5 meters, it fits well in small to medium-sized gardens.

Is Foxtail agave frost-tolerant?

No, it prefers a warm climate and is not frost-tolerant. Make sure to plant it in a location that meets its climate needs.

How often should I water my Foxtail agave?

Water moderately, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Over-watering can lead to root rot and other issues.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.


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