Agave attenuata

Accession Count: 6
Common Name: foxtail agave
Family Name: Asparagaceae
Botanical Name: Agave attenuata
Family Synonyms: Agavaceae
Sub Species:

Agave attenuata is a perennial succulent with a thick stem and simple, alternate leaves
(1) that are rounded and bluish-gray in color, lacking apical spines (2). It grows in symmetrical rosettes that form a cone in the center of the plant, and, after 10 years, a huge drooping inflorescence. This inflorescence is a raceme, up to 1.5m long, with densely packed yellow-white flowers (3) that eventually form multicarpulate fruits or bulbils (4). Suckers also form off the mother plant up until the florescence grows, and can be used for propagation.

Compound: Aga att
Geographic Origin: Central Mexico
Ecozone Origin:
Biome Origin:
Natural History:

Agave attenuata is rare in the wild, but has been found in small colonies from Jalisco east to Mexico, at elevations of 1,900- 2,500 meters (5). It was first discovered by Henri Guillaume Galeotti in 1834, who found the colonies in an unspecified location in central Mexico and sent specimens to Kew, England (5). The first description of Agave attenuata was detailed by Prince Joseph Salm-Reifferscheid-Dyck, or Salm-Dyck, who included it in his Hortus dyckensis: ou catalogue des plantes cultivées dans les jardins de Dyck (1834) (6). The name of the genus Agave stems from the Greek word agauos, which means admirable or noble, in reference to the flower spikes found on many Agave species (2). Contrarily, the specific epithet attenuata stems from the Latin word attenuo, to weaken or diminish (7). A common name, “swan’s neck”, or “foxtail agave” refers to the large drooping flower found on Agave attenuataToday, Agave attenuata is grown as an accent plant in cultivated landscapes throughout the southwestern United States in Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida (9). The species is also common in Libya (5) and other Mediterranean climates worldwide where it has naturalized (8).

Cultivation Notes:

Like many Agave species, Agave attenuata is used primarily in xeriscape design. It grows best in well-drained, sandy soils, and can tolerate poor soil, although it is sensitive to overwatering (2). It can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, the suckers that form from the mother plant, and bulbils (10). While Agave attenuata grows best in full sun, it is also tolerant of partial shade, but is intolerant of frost and perishes under strong desert heat (11). It grows best in USDA hardness zones 9 – 11 (with protection) (4).  Although generally drought tolerant, Agave attenuata must be watered weekly in the hottest part of the summer to avoid drought-stress (2). No pruning is needed, however when suckers grow from the mother plant, they can be removed or used to start a new colony of rosettes – this is especially helpful as Agave attenuata is monocarpic and each rosette will die after flowering.


Agave attenuata, as many agaves, has strong antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities
that lend value to its use in medicine or the health-food industry (12). Studies
have been conducted on Agave attenuata and have isolated a new steroidal
saponin from its leaves found to have hemolytic potential and anti-inflammatory
properties (13). Additionally, Agave attenuata is a natural snail control that serves as
a better remedy than synthetic molluscicides (14). As such, the plant is used as a safety snail control by rural communities, and even serves as a substitute for niclosamide, tape-worm medication (12). 

Height: 0 - 5 feet
Width: 0 - 5 feet
Growth Rate: Slow Growing
Grow Season:
Flower Season: Summer
Color: Yellow
Function: Patio
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Tender
Water Use: Moderate Water Use


1. University of Florida. Retrieved February 10th.

2. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved February 10th, 2020.

3. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved February 10th, 2020.

4. Arizona State University. Retrieved February 10th, 2020.

5. Atlas of Living Australia. Retrieved February 10th, 2020.

6. San Marcos Growers. Retrieved February 10th, 2020.

7. World of Dictionary. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

8. Presidio Park Plant Survey. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

9. Dave’s Garden. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

10. Desert-tropicals. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

11. Gardenia Creating Gardens. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

12. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.

13. Millipore Sigma. Retrieved February 11th, 2020.


Agave attenuata