Is Agave A Cactus? ( See The Difference Here )

Despite the fact that agave is not a cactus, many people refer to it as one. In fact, these two are not the same and are different in many ways. Having said that, these two plants also share some common traits. 

You might find it difficult to identify these two plants as they have similar features in their appearance. Needless to say, both cactus and agave plants are succulent species. They conserve water in their foliage such as in their stems and in their leaves.

So, if you wish to learn “Is Agave A Cactus”, you can continue reading this article as I am going to cover the different features they have, the common features they share , the way you need to care for the Agave plants etc.

Is Agave A Cactus

Is Agave A Cactus: difference between a cactus and an agave?

Cactus and agave come from different families and are not related in any way. The most significant distinguishing feature among these plants is that cactus plants don’t come up with leaves. Further, cactus plants won’t conserve water in their stems as well. On the other hand, agave plants usually have thick leaves. 

Agave and Cacti common characteristics

Many people tend to think that all succulents are cacti species. However, cactus species are a succulent type, and they don’t originate from the same family as the agave. That said, both agaves and many cacti hail from America. They could also be found in some parts of Mexico.  

Both Agave and cacti have adapted to grow in hot, dry drought areas, and they conserve water in their leaves as well as in their stems. Furthermore, both Agave and cacti have a spiky, prickly nature, which would protect them from the animals that are drawn to the plants.

That said, the spines and thorns that would appear on both plants would vary from one to the other. If I further elaborate on this, agave spikes would form on the ledges of the leaves. On the other hand, cactus  spines would arise from the indentations in their stems, and they are called areoles. You could distinguish these plants by their spine formation. That said, the spine formation of Agave would also vary from Agave species to species.

See also  Avonia Papyracea | An Unusual Succulent |
Is Agave A Cactus

What are the differences between Agave and Cacti in detail?

The most significant factor when it comes to differentiating the Agave from other cacti is that cacti do not usually come up with leaves. Further chances are that some cacti may sometimes have leaf-like protrusions, which would usually have rounded indentations on their stems.

Spines would usually develop from the areoles, and that feature gives them their unique appearance. In addition to that, the cactus areoles would be the main point where the flowers would also start to form. In general, once the cacti are 3 to 4 years old and mature enough, you can expect to see this occurrence every summer.  

Agave plants, on the other hand, only produced flowers once throughout their lifetime before dying. When agave plants flower, they first produce a very long flower stalk when compared to the plant’s size. Those flower stalks would come up either on branches or unbranched. Further, they may carry clusters of flowers. When the flowers fade, the plant foliage deteriorates and eventually dies. However, you could expect the agave plants, which are at least 10 years old, to produce flowers.

That being said, there could be several Agave varieties that would take a few weeks to produce flowers. However, when their flowers start to fade, it literally indicates that they are ready to replace the plants with new ones. Generally, Agave plants would produce a number of pups, and they would tend to overcrowd the pots once they formed the new plants. However, you could transplant the new pups into separate pots and grow them as individual plants too.

See also  Kalanchoe Sexangularis Flower (Toxic But Beautiful Flower)

Plants commonly mistaken for cacti or Agave.

You might be an expert in gardening and very confident in differentiating these two plants. However, you are likely to struggle and become perplexed when attempting to identify these two plants. There will be plants that bear a closer resemblance to cacti and agaves.

For example, we can consider plants like Aloe vera, as you may sometimes assume an Aloe vera plant is either a cactus or an Agave. Aloe vera is a succulent species that has a similar appearance to cacti and agave plants. That said, the aloe leaves would be fleshy and tend to release gel once you cut them. Many people tend to use them to remedy sunburns. On the other hand, Agave plants are fibrous, and they would not release a gel as the Aloe Vera plants do.

Is Agave A Cactus

About Agave and the care tips you need to practice

The Agave genus has more than 300 different species, and all of these plants are perennials that hail from southern parts of the USA and Mexico. Many of these plant species’ leaves are more sword-shaped. Furthermore, they would consist of sharp teeth on the leaf edges as well. The spines would be much larger, and they would form on the plant’s tips.  

Agave root system is quite shallow, just like the cactus. Moreover, they have a network of rhizomes, and those rhizomes would be crucial in capturing moisture. Furthermore, agave plants have a coating layer which avoid the evaporation of the leaves.

Agave is an eye-catching plant that usually develops some attractive markings along with some curled threads and striped leaves as well. Their durability is so long, and they can even thrive without water for weeks or months. It is noteworthy that agave plants are fire retardant as well.

See also  Peperomia Ferreyrae Dying | 7 Reasons |

If I briefly explain the plant care tips, keep in mind that Agave is very dependent on sunlight in the morning. They would prefer to have partial shade when the weather is too intense. Soil-wise, the best would be to provide a soil mix that has excellent drainage. Ideally, it has to have a low content of clay and a sandy or rocky texture.

You can water the agave plants once or twice a week, usually. Further, you need to make sure that you let their soil dry between two watering sessions. If you end up overwatering the plants, it will make the plants susceptible to fungus infestations.

Agaves opt to grow in zones 8 to 10. Literally, the warmer subtropical conditions would be ideal for them to perform well. However, there are certain agave species that are tolerant of extreme heat as well as extreme cold.

Is Agave A Cactus

Do agave flowers?

When mature enough, agave flowers. In fact, they would produce flowers when they were about to perish. Literally, their flowering is a signal that they are going to die. Agave flowers would form on the long flower stalks, and they would bloom in yellow. In other words, agave is called a monocarpic plant.

Is Blue agave considered a cactus?

Blue agave is not a cactus, but it is a succulent. They are well known for their anatomical features such as thick waxy cuticles, fleshy leaves etc. 


To conclude, agaves are a type of succulent and not a cactus. Agave are an impressive and distinct succulent species; in fact, you can tell them apart just by looking at them. Just because the agave has painful thorns does not mean it is a cactus species. So, now I hope you were able to identify the difference between the agaves and the cacti. 

Credit to : plantz tho

Read Next : Best Cactus Soil Mix For A Perfect Cactus

About author

I’m Dr. Chamika, As a hobby love talking about plants and showing you that taking care of indoor plants. My website is knowledge I’ve learned over the years and continue to learn about growing succulents. If you’re a succulent lover, then you have come to the correct place.