• The Sisal plant has a shallow root system, maximum 60cm deep
  • The roots develop mainly horizontally and form suckers, which can be used for propagation
  • The base of the plant consists of a short trunk, about 30cm x 150cm.
  • The leaves are spirally arranged around the trunk.
  • The growth point is situated on top of the trunk from where the leaves develop and eventually the flower stalk.
  • The leaves of the plant consist of 3 % fibre.
  • The sisal plant flowers only once and that is at an age of about 12 years.
  • Before flowering a flower stalk of 4.5 to 6.0 meter develops from the growth point.
  • The flower stalk subdivides to form branches that bear the flowers.
  • The flowers do not produce seed, but form bulbills, which are used for reproduction
  • The bulbills are place in beds 10cm x 10cm apart where they grow for six months. After that they go to secondary beds where they are placed 30cm x 30cm apart. After another six months they are planted in the field in a tram track fashion. Distances between rows should be 1.0 to 1.5 meter and 4.0 meter.
  • From its fifth year the leaves are ready for harvesting.
  • The following fibre production can be expected:

Year 5: 0.25t/ha
Year 6: 0.5 t/ha
Year 7: 1.0 t/ha
Year 8: 1.5 t/ha
Year 9: 0.75 t/ha
Year 10: 0.75 t/ha
Year 11: 0.25 t/ha
Year 12: low


  • Only ripe leaves must be harvested. It is ripe as soon as the colour of the thorn at the tip changes from dark brown to a light brown colour.
  • After 12 years selected leaves might be harvested
  • The plant must always be left with at least 35 leaves.
  • The harvested leaves go through automatic decorticater to obtain the fibre. After that it is cleaned by mechanical brushers and then dried on drying lines.
  • Fiber is classified according to length:
    - Grade 3 L, at least 915mm, without knots and cream to a light straw colour
    - Grade 3, at least 610mm
    - Grade UG, darker colour fibres
    - Grade PM, shorter than 610mm with knots and darker colours
  • The production areas are the Northern Province (Potgietersrus, Pietersburg, Giyani, Mhinga and the Phalaborwa corridor) and KwaZulu-Natal (Hluhluwe, Mtubatuba and Port Shepstone)
  • The plants are not frost tolerant and produce the best in areas with an annual rainfall of 500mm and higher
  • It is not soil specific, but do the best on a loamy soil.
  • The fibres are used for cards and carpets, car upholstery and plasterboards.
  • Local people use the flower stalks for construction purposes. It has a lifespan of six years.
  • Bird breeders use the hollow trunks of the plant for nesting.