Agaves are succulents, similar to cactus and yucca. All succulents have features that enable them to survive in hot, harsh environments. For this reason, agaves are not tolerant of cold weather and often suffer injury when temperatures drop. Selecting plants that are adapted to the weather conditions in your living area is key to having healthy garden plants.
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Agaves are succulents with fleshy leaves that grow in spears and thick cuticles. Sharp teeth grow along the sides of these spears and the leaf tip has a sharp spine. There are over 200 species of agave that can be placed in the yard or garden. Agave vary greatly in size, with some only a few inches tall and others exceeding 10 feet in height. These succulents are fairly tough and can withstand strong winds, heat and drought conditions. Agave can survive cold temperatures, but do not tolerate freezing weather well.
According to the University of Florida, agave are native to cool, moderate climates, high altitudes and tropical weather conditions. When agave are grown outside of their native range they are susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. Damage to agave occurs when temperatures drop to freezing levels for several hours. Freeze damage to agave cannot be repaired once it occurs.
Freeze damage to agave may only be cosmetic, unless temperatures drop very low and remain there for a few hours. Agave with severe damage from freezing temperatures exhibit symptoms such as cracks in the leaves or water-soaked lesions on leaf surfaces. Leaves with severe damage will turn mushy, dry and brown. Agave are often unsightly with heavy freeze damage and removing damaged leaves alters the shape of the plant.
Taking a few preventative measures before winter can help your agave survive the cold. Placing agave near a patio or wall, can keep it warm when heat radiates from the brick or concrete during the night when temperatures are the coldest. Placing a cotton sheet over your agave can also help prevent cold damage. Avoid using plastic to cover your plants, as this causes injury to the plant where the plastic touches the leaves. Consider growing agave in containers, so plants can be moved indoors during cold weather.