Growing Sisal

The plant matures in four to eight years after planting, sends up a central flower stalk that can reach a height of 3 to 6 m. Yellow flowers, about 6 cm long, form dense clusters at the end of branches growing from the flower stalk and with an unpleasant odour. As the flowers begin to wither, buds growing in the upper angle between the stem and flower stalk develop into small plants, or bulbils, that fall to the ground and take root. The old plant dies when flowering is completed.

Agavaceae has preference for regions in which the average temperature is between 20 to 28º C and where the annual rainfall average is 600 to 1500mm. This plant adapts well to tropical and sub tropical regions, tolerating prolonged droughts and high temperatures. Young plants, propagated from bulbuls or rhizomes (underground stems) of mature plants, are usually kept in nurseries for the first 12 to 18 months. At the beginning of the rainy season the plants are transferred to the field, where they are spaced 1 to 2 m apart. Sisal matures about three to five years after planting, depending upon the climate, yielding satisfactory fiber for seven or eight years thereafter and producing about 300 leaves throughout the productive period. Outer leaves are cut off close to the stalk as they reach their full length. The initial harvest is about 60 leaves; subsequent annual production averages about 30.