18 Types of Furcraea: False Agave Care and Propagation Guide

The Furcraea plants are originally from the tropical regions of both Americas but today, you can find them in many different parts of the world like Thailand, India, Portugal and Australia thanks to the love everyone seems to have for domestic gardening. Furcraea foetida (Green Aloe) is the most commonly grown domestic species and smells like rotten leaves.

Types of Furcraea

Furcraea andina

Furcraea andina

Furcraea cabuya

Furcraea cabuya

Furcraea foetida (Green Aloe/Mauritius Hemp)

Furcraea foetida

Furcraea foetida variegata

Furcraea foetida variegata

Furcraea gigantea variegata

Furcraea gigantea variegata

Furcraea guatemalensis

Furcraea guatemalensis

Furcraea guerrerensis

Furcraea guerrerensis

Furcraea hexapetala (Cuban Hemp)

Furcraea hexapetala

Furcraea longaeva

Furcraea longaeva

Furcraea macdougallii

Furcraea macdougallii

Furcraea niquivilensis

Furcraea niquivilensis

Furcraea occidentalis

Furcraea occidentalis

Furcraea parmentieri (Weeping Furcraea)

Furcraea parmentieri

Furcraea pubescens

Furcraea pubescens

Furcraea quicheensis

Furcraea quicheensis

Furcraea selloa (Wild Sisal)

Furcraea selloa

Furcraea selloa var. marginata

Furcraea selloa var. marginata

Furcraea tuberosa

Furcraea tuberosa

Is Furcraea an Agave?

Well, plants of the Furcraea genus certainly look a lot like agaves and that leads to confusion, but they actually belong to a related genus. Biologically speaking, the big difference between the two is that Furcraea has bulbous-shaped flowers. Both plants belong to the Agavaceae family but the Furcraea plants are larger than the average Agave.

Furcraea species are a type of succulents that have stiff and thick leaves that grow in the form of rosettes. Some of them have tall stems but some others are stemless. So, that’s not an identifier. Some of them even have pine-y leaves like agaves, which don’t help with the confusion.

The flower head of a plant—which includes flowers, stalks, stems and bracts—grows up to 40 feet in some Furcraea plants. So, when we say they are big, we mean they are BIG. These plants are also capable of producing hundreds of bulbils (which is a bulb-like axil of a leaf) that eventually fall to the ground. That’s how they are propagated, but more on that later.

Now, both these plants are essentially xerophytic plants that do very well with little or no water for long periods of time. So, if you have a semi-humid, arid garden, at least the Furcraea species will fit right in.

Furcraea vs Agave: Similarities and Differences

These two varieties are often confused with each other not only because of the visual resemblance but also because of some of the common names that are used for them both, colloquially. So, here’s a look at just some of the things that cause the confusion and some others that set them apart.

Similarities

  • They both belong to the Asparagaceae family.
  • Both agaves and Furcraea are a type of succulents.
  • Biologically speaking, they are both of the rank genus.
  • Most varieties of both plants are from tropical regions of the Americas.
  • Most species of Furcraea and agaves are monocots, which means they are plants that have only one embryonic leaf. It is what helps them bloom.
  • All agaves and Furcraea plants are xerophytic species.
  • They are both referred to as the “century plant”.

Differences

  • Agaves come with very thin filaments while Furcraea have thick filaments.
  • Agave flowers are bell-shaped while Furcraea flowers are bulb shaped.
  • There are more than 200 species of agave plants while there are 23 accepted Furcraea species.
  • Most agaves are monocarpic which means that the plant dies after blooming once but some agaves are known to be polycarpic.
  • Furcraea plants are grown commercially for medium-grade fiber production, but no such luck with agaves.

How to Care for Furcraea

Furcraea is a succulent shrub kind of plant that grows 59 to 79 inches in both height and width. The stem alone grows about 40 to 80 inches tall and the leaves are thick and fleshy and in the form of a beautiful rosette.

Some species come with spine-y leaves and once the plant matures, you will notice that the stalk looks like an asparagus shoot. It will then produce innumerable bulbils in green color (well, hundreds of them). They will eventually fall off the stem and start growing on their own when they touch moist soil.

Furcraea plants live for 10 to 20 years depending on how you take care of them. So, let’s learn a little something about that, shall we?

Weather

Temperature is an important factor when growing a succulent. So, in the summer make sure the plant is kept exposed to 71 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit while in winters the 44 degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature base.

But it can tolerate mercury dips till 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, the plant will die. Remember, it is naturally a xerophyte meant to be grown in an arid climate. Whether the plant is indoors or outdoors, the humidity must be low to medium.

If you are going to keep the plant indoors, the southwest or south window is the best option because these plants grow well in bright sunlight. But windows facing east or west are also not such a bad idea because they get a little bit of shade too. You must check the specifics for the particular species you are bringing home.

Also remember that most of the time, these plants love bright sunlight and tend to thrive in those situations. If you are growing it outdoors, make sure that it does get some shade from time to time.

Soil

Furcraea plants need well-drained soil just like any other succulent. They need two parts of perlite or coarse sand and one part of sphagnum along with one part of garden land and one part of gravel. These plants like the soil to be a bit acidic so make sure the pH level is between 6.1 and 7.8.

When it comes to transferring the plants, do it once a year and preferably to another clay pot where they have the best chance of growing well. These are massive plants so when you are repotting the plant remember to get a large new pot.

Remove any other dead roots and old soil that might already be lodged in the soil. After the transplant, don’t water it for at least a week to stop the roots from rotting. And in the summer, keep an eye out for large white-ish green flowers.

Watering

As is the case with most succulents, you must not give these plants too much water because fundamentally, they are xerophytes which means they can survive a long drought rather comfortably. Watering them once every three to four weeks is good enough. Just make sure that the soil is completely dry before you give the plant more water.

Fertilizing

If you want to add fertilizer, which is not a bad idea, you can add it once every two or three weeks during the growing season. Feed fertilizer meant for cacti works just fine or you could get complex fertilizer and dilute it.

How Do You Propagate Furcaria?

The Furcraea plants are propagated by using small plantlets also called bulbils that are usually grown at the bottom of an existing plant. Just wait for them to fall off the leaves, which will happen naturally, and plant them in a separate clay pot.

In fact, they grow even if you leave them right there on moist soil. And these plants look great in clusters. So, it’s not a terrible idea. Just be sure not to overwater the plant because of the new plantlets and make sure they are both getting enough light.

FAQs

Do Furcraea die after flowering?

There are 23 accepted species of Furcraea and all of them are monocarpic which means that they die after flowering. But they do live for many years before they get to that part so you can enjoy the plant for a while.

What is a False Agave?

False agave is another name given to Furcraea plants because it looks very much like the agave genus of plants. They belong to the same family and are related as such but they do not share the genus.

Is False Agave toxic?

It is not known to be toxic but some varieties of agave plants might be. Furcraea plants are toxic to fish so it is recommended that the waste from these plants not be dumped anywhere near water bodies. Waste might be produced when they are processed commercially to produce fiber.