He succulent leaves of most Agave species have sharp marginal teeth, an extremely sharp terminal spine, and are very fibrous inside. The stout stem is usually extremely short, which may make the plant appear as though it is stemless. Agave rosettes are mostly monocarpic, though some species are polycarpic.[page needed] During flowering, a tall stem or "mast" ("quiote" in Mexico) grows apically from the center of the rosette and bears a large number of short, tubular flowers and sometimes vegetatively produced bulbils (a form of asexual reproduction). After pollination/fertilization and subsequent fruit development, in monocarpic species, the original rosette dies. However, throughout the lifetime of many Agave species, rhizomatous suckers develop above the roots at the base of the rosette.[page needed] These suckers go on to form new plants after the original rosette desiccates and dies.[page needed] Not all agaves produce suckers throughout their lifetimes; some species rarely or never produce suckers, while others may only develop suckers after final maturation with inflorescence. Agaves can be confused with cacti, aloes, or stonecrops, but although these plants all share similar morphological adaptations to arid environments (e.g. succulence), each group belongs to a different plant family and probably experienced convergent evolution. Further, cactus (Cactaceae) and stonecrop (Crassulaceae) lineages are eudicots, while aloes (Asphodelaceae) and agaves (Asparagaceae) are monocots. Agave species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, including Batrachedra striolata, which has been recorded on A. shawii.
Agaves need full sun and gritty soil that percolates easily. They can even do quite well when potted but use an unglazed clay pot that will allow evaporation of excess moisture. Water needs are moderate to light depending upon the heat of the season but the plants should be allowed to dry out before irrigation.