The name agave comes from the meaning illustrious, and the leaves of an agave plant are certainly illustrious when it comes to this showcase-succulent. A star performer of the cactus family, the agave leaves and the heart core of the plant are used to make agave nectar, which can be fermented into tequila. If you are the owner of an agave plant, saving its bottom leaves from dying is a top-most priority.

Why are the Bottom Agave Leaves Dying?

If your agave bottom leaves are dying, the plant may be getting too much sunlight. Sure, this is a sun-loving species of cactus that hails from closer to the Equator than most of us live. A solid indicator that your agave plant is getting too much sunlight is when the agave leaves turn yellow. Overexposure to sunlight will first turn the leaves yellow due to a lack of ability to synthesize chlorophyll. This causes the leaves to lose their green hue provided by chlorophyll through photosynthesis.

Instead of creating green chlorophyll that the plant can use to make energy for producing agave syrup and to grow its stalk and generate more leaves, the leaves turn yellow as they lose their chlorophyll. When the bottom agave leaves go from green to yellow, they soon turn to brown because they are dying. Brown leaves soon dry up and drop out of the plant, which is a sign that the plant is aging and may also be sick.

Getting too little sunlight will cause the same effect. Succulents like the agave plant are naturally found in habitats where sunlight is abundant and water is scarce, such as in Mexico or the southern US states. Therefore, you want to monitor the sun exposure in the space where you have planted or potted an agave plant. Too much shade is just as detrimental as too much sunlight. Be ready to move your plant to a new location when it is young or when you first receive it in order to experiment with the best growing environment. This will protect the plant’s leaves from dying as a result of the plant’s failure to thrive.

Another reason why the bottom agave leaves are dying on your plant is a lack of water and/or nutrients. Without proper fertilizers and adequate water on a consistent basis, even the hardiest of agave cactus plants will soon succumb. A healthy Blue American agave plant, which is one of the most drought tolerant species of plants on the planet, will require some water every now and again.

These succulents need water weekly whether you are planting the agave plant indoors in a pot or outdoors in nature. If you are not getting enough rainfall to water the plant weekly, then you will need to water an outdoor agave plant. If your plant lacks water, then the leaves will start to die, which will eventually cause the plant to completely die. On the other hand, if you overwater the agave plant, this will also cause the bottom agave leaves to die. Overwatering is indicated by yellowing leaves as well, meaning the plant is dying.

How to Revive a Dying Agave Plant?

Before you toss out a dying agave plant, consider how to save it. A dying agave plant starts with understanding what is the culprit that is causing your plant harm. Is it a poor growing environment? Do you have the temperature too cold where the agave plant is located? Are you overwatering or underfeeding your plants? What kind of growing mediums are you using for potting the plant? There could also be the issue of pests or molds that are contaminating your agave plant and causing it to die off. As a result, how to revive a dying agave plant depends on these factors:

  • Growing conditions—soil, growth medium, location, repotting, overwintering, etc.
  • External factors—insects, pests, molds, wind, bacteria, humans, etc.
  • Environmental issues—moisture and nutrients in soil, amount of sunlight, overwatering, etc.

The agave plant needs to have the best growing conditions you can provide, while taking into account external factors and environmental issues that are beyond your control. You can control the growing conditions to make up for a lack of moisture in the environment, or humans who might damage your plant when walking past it. Simply provide more frequent watering, and repot your agave plant to be in a safer location. This will help to protect a dying agave plant from further damage and hopefully save it from dying completely.

Your outdoor garden of agave plants may be exposed to herbicides or other poisons that you are unaware of. For example, if you have an outdoor agave plant near someone with a Christmas tree farm, they may be using an airborne herbicide, such as Tordon 22K, which is legally used to kill cedar trees. This can cause your bottom agave leaves to turn yellow and die, even though you are doing everything you can to protect your dying plant.

If you are repotting an agave plant to revive a dying plant, take caution about when you transplant a plant to a new pot. Choose to repot the agave when the plant soil is dry, rather than moist, to avoid causing root rot. Then water thoroughly after you repot the agave plant to help the roots avoid shock in their new environment, which should be more spacious than the old one. Newer pots should be larger in diameter than the existing pots to allow for the roots to grow more horizontally and vertically. This helps a root bound agave plant to have enough space to thrive, and will most likely bring a dying agave plant back to life.

You might also ask yourself why are my agave leaves curling. This is a common condition that is associated with a lack of water in the soil of the agave plant. Curling leaves occur when the plant is getting too much sunlight as well. The leaves are overstressed and unable to photosynthesize to produce chlorophyll. As a result, the tip ends of larger leaves are unable to stay moist and lose their protective cellular structure.

The tips are the first areas of the leaves to dry out, causing them to crinkle up and curl like long fingernails. Consistent watering and feeding with nutrients, as well as adequate shade from too much sunlight using an umbrella or shade cloth, will prevent your agave plant leaves from curling and subsequently from dying.

Another common reason you need to revive a dying agave plant is due to crown rot. Start with identifying if the agave is suffering from bacterial and fungal rot in the crown area. What you want to look for in agave crown rot is gray or black leaves near the crown of the plant. The agave crown is the base of the plant where the leaves shoot out, and is in close contact with the roots. The agave leaves may shrivel starting at the crown, or red or orange spores from fungal rot may appear in the agave crown area.

There may also be agave snout weevils, a natural enemy to the agave plant, that is inhabiting the plant. These bugs will reside in the agave crown out of sight. They like it where the water pools up in the otherwise hot environments where agave plants naturally grow. An agave snout weevil is a black beetle typically an inch in length. The agave snout weevil has a long snout similar to a horn or an elephant’s trunk, but on the same scale as the one-inch body of this insect. It is endemic to the Southeast, where agave plants are grown for tequila on a commercial scale. Fungal sprays and agave snout weevil treatments are available, but once your agave plant has been infested with the bug it is often too late.

This is because the agave snout weevil attacks and eats the heart of the plant, which is the flowering bud that will only reveal itself once in the plant’s lifetime. Once the insect has sniffed out the agave heart and started eating it, the plant’s leaves will wither and die as the plant will soon die in full. You can use insecticides like neem oil, which is not toxic, to the agave plant if you suspect that snout agave weevils are a threat. This can prevent agave plant infestations of this deadly insect.

Should I Remove Dead Agave Leaves?

Pruning dead agave leaves from an agave plant that is sick or in need of tender loving care is a good move. This practice is also called deadheading and is most commonly done in the fall before wintering the plant. However, you want to deadhead the agave plant whenever you see rotting leaves. This will remove any of the rotting plant material away from the center of the agave plant at the crown. You are also able to better identify the source of what caused the leaves to die.

However, you must use caution to avoid further harming the plant. Cut away any yellow or brown leaves on the agave plant using pruning shears or gardening scissors. Pre-clean and treat the blades with rubbing alcohol to protect against contamination if the plant has bacterial or fungal rot. Once the leaves have been cut away from the plant, dispose of them properly; do not leave rotting leaves at the base of an agave plant to be used as mulch. If your plant is not too far gone, by removing dead agave leaves and treating any existing crown rot conditions, you can save your agave plant.

How Do I Know if My Agave is Overwatered?

An overwatered agave plant will show yellowing leaves. Do not over water your plant, as the succulent leaves can also swell up and cause them to fall off at the crown. Too much water over-saturates the agave leaves and bursts the cellular structures. Once this happens, the leaves are no longer able to support the life-giving needs of the plant. An overwatered plant will lose any leaves that are oversaturated with moisture. Additionally, too much moisture in an agave plant will cause crown root rot due to a moist environment that fungi and bacteria grow well in.

In a colder climate, overwatering an agave plant will cause the leaves to be swollen with water that then expands with freezing temperatures. As a result, the plant leaves are destroyed at multiple levels. If you have transplanted an agave plant to an environment that is too cold, the plant is most likely going to die. The ideal temperature range for an agave plant is similar to the environments found in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The ideal temperature should be 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and no cooler than 55 degrees F at night. Low-humidity climates like the desert, where it’s arid, are best suited for agave plants. If you are in an environment where it gets colder than this in the winter months, prepare your plant to handle the winter. This involves providing shelter for the agave plant using wintering blankets to protect against freezing the internal cellular structures of the agave.

Author

My name is Dan and I am the owner of this blog. I have been tending to the garden ever since my parents moved to a home with a large garden when I was a teenager. Gardening takes time and patience. Let me show you the way to a beautiful backyard.