Agave bracteosa (Candelabrum Agave)

Agave bracteosa (Candelabrum Agave)

Scientific Name

Agave bracteosa S.Watson ex Engelm.

Common Names

Candelabrum Agave, Spider Agave, Squid Agave

Scientific Classification

Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave


Agave bracteosa is a slow-growing succulent that forms rosettes of spineless, pale green leaves. The rosettes are up to 1 foot (30 cm) tall and up to 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter. Leaves emerge vertically in the center and arch gracefully back towards the outside of the plant. When rosettes mature, a up to 5 foot (1.5 m) tall spike bears a dense terminal cluster of white flowers, distinctive from all other Agaves. After flowering, the rosette slowly dies, but younger suckers perpetuate the plant.


USDA hardiness zones 8a to 11b: from 10 °F (−12.2 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Agaves are not difficult plants to grow. They are slow-growing and dramatic and will even thrive on a bit of neglect. If you are the type of person who likes to fuss with houseplants and water a lot, Agave is probably not the plant for you. If, however, you are the type of person who likes to set it and forget it, and you have a sunny window, Agave might the way to go. Be aware that some of the large varieties will eventually outgrow your room (unless you have a large greenhouse), and Agave can be aggressive. They have irritating sap and sometimes very sharp thorns that can cause injuries to small children and even pets.

In general, Agaves do not need to be repotted every year. Most of the species commonly found in cultivation grow very slowly and take a long time to outgrow their pot. It is also best to handle your plant as little as possible since they do not like to be disturbed. When you do repot, refresh the spent soil with a new potting mix and make sure the plant is firmly anchored in its pot. However, be careful not to pot the Agave too deep as that will encourage stem rot during the growing season.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Agave.


Agave bracteosa is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico, in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León.


  • Agave bracteosa 'Mediopicta Alba'
  • Agave bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost'


  • Back to genus Agave
  • Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus

Photo Gallery

Subscribe now and be up to date with our latest news and updates.

Horticultural Data

Names and Synonyms: Agave bracteosa S. Wats. ex Engelm

Common Names: Candelabrum Agave, Squid Agave, Spider Agave

Family: Agavaceae

Origin: Mexico – more specifically, the Coahuilan Desert feet between Saltillo and Monterey, growing on limestone cliffs between 3,000 and 5,500 feet in elevation. There they are often found growing with pines and Agave victoriae-reginae.

Mature Size: individual rosette

Height: 12-18″

Width: 12-18″

Cold Tolerance: 10 to 15°F, -12.2 to -8.4°C

Heat Tolerance: Very high

Light Requirement: Part sun inland (to prevent yellowing of leaves) to full sun near the coast

Water needs: Very drought tolerant, but needs some irrigation in hot inland climates

Maintenance: None

Uses: Great in containers, landscape borders, cactus gardens or xeriscape plantings. In a rock garden Agave bracteosa could be combined with small pines and Agave victoriae-reginae to create a setting similar to its native habitat.

Propagation: Replant offshoots. Seeds can be collected after flowering.

Special notes: This is a slow growing smaller agave. It is a unique agave with spineless recurving and pliable leaves so it can be planted near paths and pedestrian traffic. This plant needs well draining soil. Keep it dry in winter in the cooler zones of its hardiness range. It resembles a puya or similar bromeliad in many aspects. This species is more adaptable to light and moisture than most agaves. It is semi-monocarpic so the plant does not always die after flowering. Its white flowers are held on striking unbranched candelabra-like 4 to 6 foot flower spikes. Initially solitary but eventually spreading into a large colony by offshoots.

Research Links:

Agave bracteosa (Candelabrum Agave) - garden

Origin and Habitat: Garden origin (Nursery produced cultivar)

Accepted name in llifle Database:
Agave bracteosa S.Watson ex Engelm.
Gard. Chron. (1882) I. 776. f. 139.

Description: The Agave bracteosa is a solitary or clumping rosette up to 45 (60) cm in diameter, It forms clusters to 1,2 m across.
Leaves: Medium green, spineless and toothless both along the edge and at the tip, smooth and soft. The They are upright and recurved above the middle (fountain like) measure up to 40 long and 3-5cm wide near the base and taper to the tip. Variegated forms occur.
Flowers: The inflorescence is a spike of creamy yellow flowers, 1.8 m tall, coming in early summer.
Remarks: The Agave bracteosa does not always die after blooming, contrarily to most other Agaves. There has been some controversy to whether this species is always monocarpic, but most of the plants with mature flowers will dye, so it appears to be at least 'mostly' monocarpic.

Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Agave bracteosa group

  • Agave bracteosa" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Agavaceae/315/Agave_bracteosa'> Agave bracteosa S.Watson ex Engelm. : Atypical-looking plant with narrow spineless and toothless leaves both along the edge and at the tip, smooth, soft, irregularly spreading and recurved at the tip.
  • Agave bracteosa f. mediopicta alba" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Agavaceae/33018/Agave_bracteosa_f._mediopicta_alba'> Agave bracteosa f. mediopicta alba : has heavily variegated leaves distinguished by the green leaf borders and cream variegation in the centre.
  • Agave bracteosa cv. Monterrey Frost" href='/Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Agavaceae/17462/Agave_bracteosa_cv._Monterrey_Frost'> Agave bracteosa cv. Monterrey Frost : has variegated leaves distinguished by the creamy-white in the leaf borders and green in the centre.

Notes: Remarks: The Agave bracteosa does not always die after blooming, contrarily to most other Agaves. There has been some controversy to whether this species is always monocarpic, but most of the plants with mature flowers will dye, so it appears to be at least 'mostly' monocarpic.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Monocotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 06 December 2012
2) San Marcos Growers contributors Agave bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost' - Frosted Candelabrum Agave San Marcos Growers . Web. 17 June 2016.
3) Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. “Agave bracteosa 'Monterrey Frost'” . Web. 17 June 2016.

Agave bracteosa cv. Monterrey Frost Photo by: Raimondo Paladini
This is the variegated form of the species, with wide cream-colored margins on each leaf. Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli
The coloration is stable, with each little pup an exact duplicate of the parent. Photo by: Valentino Vallicelli

Send a photo of this plant.

The gallery now contains thousands of pictures, however it is possible to do even more. We are, of course, seeking photos of species not yet shown in the gallery but not only that, we are also looking for better pictures than those already present. Read More.

Cultivation and Propagation: Agave bracteosa cv. Monterrey Frost is an exellent choice for growing in a container. Remains small and grows slowly, very slowly offsetting and forming a large colony of plants. A very elegant plant, this variegate deserves a special place in a semi-shady area of the rock garden, xeric garden, or even as an accent plant in the Mediterranean or tropical landscape.
Soil: As with most of the species, this one is not very particular about the type of soil it is in as long as it has good drainage.
Hardiness: It can tolerate extremes of both cold (Hardy to -8°C) and scorching heat.
Exposure: The variegated form can thrive in in half-sun, filtered-sun or deep shade and is more moisture tolerant than most agave but, the soil must be well drained. It grows particularly well under the shade of small trees.
Water requirements: It is drought tolerant although they will respond to supplemental water and is more moisture tolerant than most agave.
Landscape value: Agave bracteosa looks great as a potted plant, and can be placed on patios, near entryways, or in other spots where the plant would be highly visible. In the ground, use this beauty under the shade of small desert trees, mix into cactus and succulent gardens.
Propagation: Suckers (This Agave offsets freely and the pups can be removed and repotted or planted elsewhere) Keep a few however, for the main plant dies when it sends up its spectacular spike of flowers. Individual specimens are particularly beautiful.

Agave bracteosa

Agave bracteosa is a species of agave sometimes known as spider agave or squid agave. It is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico, in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León. It is found on cliffs and rocky slopes from 900 to 1,700 meters. [2] Although it occupies a small range, it is not considered to be threatened. [1]

Small among the agaves, its green succulent leaves are long and lanceolate, 50–70 cm long and 3–5 cm at the base, where they are the widest. They have minute serrations (teeth) along the margins, but no teeth nor spine at the end. The leaves have a tendency to curl somewhat, in a fashion reminiscent of the octopus agave A. vilmoriniana. The inflorescence spike is also short at 1.2-1.7 meters, and its upper third is densely covered with white or pale yellow flowers. The flowers are distinctive in that tepals arise from a disk-shaped receptacle rather than the usual tube. The stamens are quite long. [3]

Gentry defines a group "Choritepalae" that includes A. bracteosa along with Agave ellemeetiana and Agave guiengola, and states that the discoid receptacle and unarmed leaves are different enough from other agaves to justify placing A. bracteosa and A. ellemeetiana into a separate genus, but that characteristics of A. guiengola link the group to the rest of Agave.

Watch the video: Planting my Agave americana variegate