Agave winter protection experiment

MIcrowave covers over agaves2

One of the difficulties growing agaves in our climate is keeping them dry in winter.  Our biggest losses occur when temperatures drop below 20 degrees F, and the ground is damp. While we always plant agave on slopes, that only helps with the external drainage…it does not necessarily keep the soil dry.  Once agaves grow large enough, they are better able to shed water and keep the soil dry, so our dilemma is getting young plants to survive.  This year, we decided to experiment using microwave covers.  Keep in mind  we are not interested in cold protection, only protection from moisture.  We were also looking for something that would keep the soil dry, while not baking the plants when the sun was bright.  If the covers were not filled with holes, the heat underneath would actually make the plants start to grow and become more cold sensitive. We’re only half way through winter, but so far, our experiment is a great success. We only cover the agaves several days before the temperatures are predicted to drop below 20 degrees F.  This allows time for the soil underneath the cover to dry before the extreme cold arrives.  We’ve dropped to 12 degrees F once and 19 F once so far this winter.  Plants that died in previous uncovered winters at similar temperatures still look great.  The heights of the covers seem to range between 3″ and 4″, so size according to the height of you plants.

8 thoughts on “Agave winter protection experiment”

  1. It looks great! Some modification may reduce danger temperature spikes. More ventilation on the sides and perhaps more elevation would not hurt. Here on the OBX a little more weight might necessary. I think it could stay in place for longer periods.
    I might go so far as to say that would work in zone 4 or 5

  2. i do the same thing on a larger scale with my palm and laurel in northern VA. I wrap them in oak leaves and burlap and put a cover over the top that keeps moisture from actually getting down into the crowns. There is air circulation because it isn’t completely enclosed on the sides just a rain cap of sorts. It seems to work for them.

  3. Great idea for another use of those frozen food containers. I have only used them to cover other food in bowls and sometimes as a strainer. Sharon in Oklahoma

  4. Daryl Bruvelaitis

    I built some mini “houses” for my most sensitive plants in the rock garden including my Agave. They are made of pine with 45 degree plexiglass A-frame roofs that extend down close to the ground. I also put some plexiglass on the sides facing the prevailing winter winds.

    So the idea is that the plants underneath still receive most of the light, have good air circulation yet are protected from the harshest winds and are kept dry.

    I may now trying to decide if some sort of burlap covers on the plants underneath would be helpful as well. Do agaves require the light in the coldest dormant months?

    I’m in zone 5 (pushing 6) and this will be the cacti and agave’s first winter outside.

    Thanks for the article though. It’s good info.

    I’d like to post pics of my little plant mansions but not sure if I can do that here.


    1. Daryl-
      I’m curious to see what you constructed for your Agaves and how it worked out. Is there a place where you can post photos or update me re how well it worked this past Winter?

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