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AGAVE lechuguilla

Image of Agave lechuguilla

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Agavaceae

Botanical Name

AGAVE lechuguilla

Plant Common Name

Lechuguilla, Shin Dagger

General Description

Native all the way to central Canada (as well as to much of the rest of central and western North America), this prickly pear dispels the myth that cacti are only for warm climates. It is a ground-hugging, mat-forming species bearing small, cylindrical or flattened, spiny pads that are specially adapted to survive beneath snow or dead prairie grass. Although they appear to be succulent leaves, the pads are in fact swollen stem segments (but are treated as leaves in the following description of characteristics). Relatively small yellow flowers — sometimes with red centers — perch atop the pads in early summer, followed by tan, dry-fleshed fruit.

This exceptionally cold-hardy cactus likes sun and well-drained soil, and will not tolerate hot desert climates. It is indeed fragile, with pads disengaging easily when spines snag on passing animals, its main means of distribution. They can also be easily detached by gardeners for the purpose of increasing this plant, provided due respect is paid to the piercing spines and glochids (barbed bristles). It is an exceptional choice for native gardens, particularly where it can be nested in rock outcroppings, out of the reach of children and pets.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 3

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2"-4" / 5.1cm - 10.2cm

  • Width

    12"-14" / 30.5cm - 35.6cm

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer

  • Native To

    Central United States, Western United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Prostrate/Trailing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Groundcover, Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No