This clumping plant was an important food source for Native Americans, and grows two feet tall and four to six feet wide. It forms numerous rosettes of grayish-blue to green, thick, sword-like leaves. Fibers from the leaves were used to make clothing, rope, and other useful products. The flower stalks were roasted and the hearts of the plants were eaten. Alcoholic drinks were also made from the sweet juices of the plant. Sharp teeth form along the edge of the leaves and the tip. The leaf size ranges from six to fifteen inches long and two to three inches wide and sometimes develops a noticeable band in the center. The agave produces many offsets over its lifetime. After ten to twenty years, it develops a flower stalk that grows ten feet tall with bright yellow, funnel-shaped blossoms with many branches. The flowers bloom for an extended period from May through July. After blooming, the flower stalk dries and noticeable seed capsules remain on the plant for many months. There are two distinct subspecies of this plant that are hard to distinguish from each other. Agave deserti subsp. pringlei is greener with a distinctive spine in the middle of the leaf. Agave deserti subsp. simplex does not produce many offsets. Use it in hot, dry desert gardens or mixed in with large boulders. It can also be mixed into low-water-use cactus and succulent gardens. This plant is native to rocky areas in the high deserts of southern California where it grows in arroyos and western slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains. It also is endemic to areas of Arizona and northern Baja, Mexico where it grows at 300 to 5,000 feet in elevation.
The plant needs full sun and tolerates reflected heat. It is drought-resistant, but prefers supplemental irrigation and well-draining soil. The desert agave is hardy to five degrees Fahrenheit.