Leuchtenbergia principis or Agave Cactus is a small strange looking cactus native to Mexico. In fact, it doesn't look like a cactus at all. It has a parsnip-like root, tubercles are 4-5 inches (10-13 cm) long and look like triangular agave-like leaves with the tips cut off. Each tubercle has 8-14 papery radial spines to 2 inches (5 cm) long and with 1-2 central spines to 4 inches. The apical areoles have gray wool. In nature the cactus can reach up to 2 foot (60 cm) tall with a 3 inch (7.5 cm) thick trunk. Besides being strange to look at, it is very easy cactus to grow.
Blooming: In the late spring to early summer, the cactus blooms with fragrant yellow flowers up to 4 inches (10 cm) across. The flowers are borne at the tips of new tubercles.
Culture: Leuchtenbergia principis need full sun to light shade with a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam to 2 parts coarse sand. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. We fertilize them only once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. During the winter months, the plants are moved to the cool room where the nighttime temperatures falls to 48°F (9°C). Plants are only watered enough to keep the tubercles from shriveling.
Propagation: Leuchtenbergia principis are best propagated from seed.
Leuchtenbergia principis was featured as Plant of the Week February 9-15, 2007.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.