Pups Ready to Leave Home….

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Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

Now, you may think that I am talking about soft, cuddly puppies finding a new home.  But, I am actually talking about my agave pups.  The word ‘pups’ refers to the small agave offsets that sometimes form from the adult agave.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

 Agave americana surrounded by her ‘pups’.

Some agave species produce quite a few pups, while other species rarely do.  I do try to stay from agave species like Agave americana because they produce so many pups that it becomes quite a maintenance chore to constantly remove them all.  But that being said, I have many friends and clients who just love this particular agave.

Well, the day finally came in my garden for my agave pups to move away from their childhood home.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

Can you see them?  There are 4 in the picture above.  Three are quite small still, but more then ready to leave their mother, my Agave parryi.  I am actually quite excited to be getting pups from this agave because in my experience, they do not produce many pups.  It may be that this one has because it does receive overspray from my lawn sprinklers.

Okay, this may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people just start digging in the middle of their gravel (granite) without clearing it away first.  Believe me…you want to clear it away first or else you will be left with a mixture of rock and soil mixed together.

agave pups

Aren’t they cute in a prickly sort of way?  They really are quite tiny.

agave pups

I carefully removed the soil around the pups, leading to the mother plant because the pups are still attached to her by a thick, fleshy root.  You can see that the pups are beginning to form their own roots, branching out to the side.

Just cut the root connecting the pup to the adult agave….that’s it.  It is really very easy.

Now, this same adult agave also has another pup, which has grown much closer to home then these tiny pups.

agave pups

This one did not want to leave home, even though it was quite grown up.  When the pups are growing right up alongside the adult plant, just insert a shovel and push down firmly, cutting the connecting root.  **Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful in getting some pups to leave home  😉

agave pups

I was able to harvest 5 pups.  I was so happy and had fun selecting where I wanted to put them in my garden.

Before you plant them, you need to put them in a dry, shady spot for 4 – 7 days so that the cuts have a chance to dry first.  This helps to prevent rot when they are planted.  Don’t worry about them surviving without water for a few days….they have plenty stored inside – they are succulents after all.

Once you have planted them, they will need supplemental water to help them establish and grow roots.  Agave do best when given supplemental water, even when mature.  Most are connected to my drip irrigation system.  The others receive overspray from my sprinklers, which is enough for them.

If you haven’t noticed this before, I am not a perfect gardener and am likely to tell people, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  But, I do not profess to be a perfectionist and so I will show you one of my larger agave, whose pups should have left home long ago…


This is my Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana).  I love this type of agave.  It is medium size, and the sides of the leaves do not have thorns.  The thorns on the tips can easily be cut off if desired for a more pedestrian friendly agave.

As you can see from the photo above, the pups are quite large and should have been kicked out long ago.  So, I brought in the muscle (my husband) to help get them out.

Because the pups were growing close to the parent plant, a shovel had to be used to separate them.


Agave desmettiana is known for producing offsets (pups), but in my experience, there are not too many.

Actually, the adult agave below was grown from a pup.


A proud parent and her 8 offspring.  I planted a few and gave some to my mother, Pastor Farmer, of Double S Farms.

There were times when I worked on golf courses that my budget was tight, so I would ask residents to bring their agave pups to me so that we could use them in landscape areas around the courses.  The residents were very generous and after a while, we had more then we knew what to do with.  So, if you have some agave pups, plant one in a pretty container and give to a friend or donate them to your city, church or other organization.

**My son continues to do better each day.  We did have a little bit of a setback on Saturday, but yesterday and today, he is feeling much better.  Thank you again for your support and prayers!

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
30 replies
  1. pamsenglishgarden
    pamsenglishgarden says:

    Hi, Noelle, Your agave is enormous! I have a tiny Agave neomexicana in a hypertufa pot. It wont grow any bigger than 2 ft x 2 ft. Of course, I have to bring it indoors in the winter … My little bit of desert beauty.

    Glad your son is continuing to make good progress! Pam

  2. Antique ART Garden
    Antique ART Garden says:

    Don't have any agave pups here in the South but I have my little crape myrtle ' pups' that I dig up and plant here. They love my yard ! Glad to hear your little boy is doing OK, take care ! Gina

  3. Bangchik
    Bangchik says:

    In a way, this is quite a treat, not having to collect seeds, sow them and keep checking if anything emerge from the little pots. A ready made seedling is a true blessing. We do have clusters of sansevieria (locally known as lidah jin) in the garden which behave in the same manner… Cheers, BANGCHIK

  4. Country Mouse
    Country Mouse says:

    This is very timely for me – I do want to plant quite a lot of succulents around our home as they are excellent for fire safety besides being very interesting, and I have no experience with them – thanks for the very useful info – I would never have thought of leaving the pups to dry out!

  5. Liza
    Liza says:

    Noelle this post is informative and so useful. I share your love of Agave. I like to plant them underneath my windows as a (future) security device. Nothing like giant thorns to deter would-be burglars!

  6. Rosie@leavesnbloom
    Rosie@leavesnbloom says:

    Hi Noelle – I love getting plants for free and your agave plants are ever so obliging. I think thats interesting information about leaving the stems to dry for a few days before replanting. Sadly its not a plant that likes our climate. I remember once having to cut off all those thorns on a few we had at work before a health and saftely inspection.

    I'm glad Kai is getting stronger and stronger each day.

  7. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Noelle, I love agave, and yours are beautiful! I have the A. Desmettiana…I thought it was an Americana, but your photos clearly show me otherwise. I'm highly sensitive to it's sap. Your small agave is pretty!
    Glad to hear a good report re. Kai!

  8. Jim Groble
    Jim Groble says:

    It's good that your son is doing better. It is alwys satisfying to split plants and give them away. i never cease getting great joy from giving plants away. jim

  9. Gail
    Gail says:

    Nice puppies! I have a real fondness for agave and try to grow ones that survive here…They do look great in containers! gail

  10. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Noelle, sending you my healing wishes for your son, first of all. You and Kai both are so brave. I was thinking about you this morning while doing dishes, and the thought that popped into my head was that I am so glad there are people like you and your husband who want to adopt special needs children, and who see the worth and potential in each of your children, no matter what. 🙂

    As for the agaves, I'm glad you got so many volunteers — although it seems totally counterintuitive to me to let them sit outside drying for a few *days.* Every plant I'm used to working with would be long dead by transplant time. 😉

  11. Ungersvenden
    Ungersvenden says:

    Hi Noelle

    How fun it is to see an american desert garden! And how well you take care of your plants!
    There's certainly big difference from your desert garden to my Danish mostly wet garden.

    Greetings from Denmark
    – Ungersvenden

  12. Amy
    Amy says:

    Your smooth leaf agave is very pretty! It is hard working with the agave americana…ouch! I have one in a container with lots of pups. Good post!
    I'm glad your son is feeling better. 🙂

  13. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    You have lots of Agave. I love to look at them but i am not really keen on planting them, maybe because of the thorns at the tips, some neighbors with small gardens who plant them put egg shells at the tips for protection. They never painted the shells but maybe if they would, it would look like a funny colorful "Christmas tree". BTW, can you pls look at Tatyana's My Secret Garden as she's asking for ID of plants i thought would be either maguey, sisal or Agave. thanks.

  14. Rose
    Rose says:

    Well, yes, I did think this was about the cuddly kind of pups:) But I do love agave, so having these kinds of pups is exciting, too. In fact, the small agave I brought home from Arizona a year and half ago has a little pup in the container. Is it okay to leave it there for awhile? Your agave are beautiful!

    Glad to hear that Kai is doing better.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    So glad to read that Kai is improving! I'm impressed that you have the energy to be a caretaker and continue to write about your garden.

    Pups make great gifts for sure. I shared part of an agave with a neighbor and he was so grateful and in love with the plant that he featured it in a prominent spot in front of his newly remodeled house. Your A. desmettiana is a beauty!

  16. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    I was excited to elarn you are from Arizona. My oldest son and his wife just bought their first home in a Phoenix suburb and he looks around the yard, thinking..what am I supposed to do.
    I will direct him to some of your posts.
    Glad to hear your son is improving and feeling better.

  17. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    I have zero Agaves so I know nothing about them. Once again, you are a great resource.
    I haven't been by in awhile so I just caught up a little on your blog. So sorry to hear about everything your son has been thru. He (and your entire family) are so brave and he is so lucky you found him. You're giving him every opportunity Noelle. It's wonderful. I hope he's back walking and this latest surgery is just a memory very soon.

  18. Ami
    Ami says:

    Nice informational post! My Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' is the one that produces pups the most. I have been sereparate them and pass them to the friends. It is fun and easy! I clipped those thorns out of my agaves, so that I won't be hurt when working around them 🙂

  19. Balisha
    Balisha says:

    Gosh, I always learn something here.You give such good information and directions. These plants are beautiful…I'm loving the desert garden more and more each day.
    Say hi to Kai…He's a real trooper through all of these things he's had to go through.
    Thanks for the tip on the Butterflyl Pavillion. My Grandson, Collin, just loved it. The butterflies hatched on his birthday. The pavillion was in the middle of the room, so we could all watch them hatch.

  20. Christine B.
    Christine B. says:

    Amen about the mixing gravel and dirt thing. I have a gravel garden in the front yard and gravel pathways in the back, so there have been plenty of times I've regretted not pulling the gravel back wider from a newly dug hole. I should probably invest in some kind of screen;)

    No pups around here. Agave is one reason I regret not living in the desert. What a great plant for impact!

    As for "do as I say and not as I do" we're all garden hypocrites to some degree, right? Whenever I'm in a hurry or it's a hot day, I find I'm especially hypocritical in the garden!

    Christine in Alaska

  21. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    Agaves are such neat looking plants. It's interesting to learn their babies are called pups, how cute 🙂
    Glad your son is doing better. I'm sure he's anxious to get out of the wheelchair and help work in the garden.

  22. Growing vegetables
    Growing vegetables says:

    Nice and informative post, though I'm not living in desert, I'm a lover of succulent, I mean all types of succulent. I have a round one, I think it is called snow ball.

    Happy to know that Kai is getting better. Hope he will be stronger day by day.

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