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Agave Plants
White Centered Agave

Agave are right at home in dry, rocky soil. You can see how the poppies and grasses are able to soften the sculptural quality of them.

Photo: © Marie Iannotti

Overview and Description:

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t called agave plants rosettes. So many of the common ones are spiny succulents, with leaves that jut out in often dangerous spikes. There is actually a lot of variety in the agave genus. There are the large, stiff specimens that can grow to 20 feet in diameter. There are also small dish-sized agaves and agave plants with soft leaves and no spines. Most have leaves that end in a sharp point.
  • Leaves: Agaves are all stemless, or nearly so, with strappy, succulent leaves that end in sharp points. Foliage tends toward a blue-green in hardier varieties and a gray-green in warm climate varieties. There are also some that are variegated with gold or white markings.

  • Flowers: When the plant matures, a tall, flower-stalk grows out of the plant’s center. The flowers are bell-shaped and long lasting, in shades of white, yellow and green. For most agave species, once the flowers produce the berry seed pods, the plant dies.

Botanical Name:

Agave

Common Name(s):

Sometimes referred to as the Century Plant, although that name is specific to Agave americana

Hardiness:

Most are not frost hardy, but there are agaves, like Agave parryi, that are hardy to USDA Zone 5, but most are only hardy in Zones 8 or 9 and up.

Light Exposure:

Full sun to partial shade

Mature Size:

Varies from a few inches to 20+ feet in diameter.

Bloom Period:

Agaves bloom once, at maturity. That can be anywhere from 5 to 40 years. They tend to bloom earlier in cultivation than they would in the wild. Most plants die after flowering.

Design Tips:

One large agave is all that is needed to make a sculptural focal point. Just make sure there is lenty of room to walk around it, so no one gets stabbed. They can also make nice border grouping, either by planting several of the same species or a tapestry of different varieties. They are textural and sculptural and make a vivid contract with other plants. Pairing them with ornamental grasses softens their hard edges. In warm climates, agave are popular around pools and patios. Their leaves don’t brown and drop frequently and they stay attractive all year. I’d suggest using a spineless variety, like the Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata). Smaller agave plants are excellent for containers, indoor or out.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Agave attenuata - A popular spineless variety also known as the Foxtail or Dragon-Tree Agave. Grows about 4 - 5 feet tall and a bit wider.

  • Agave parviflora - Leaves have white, graphic markings and curlng filaments that give it a hairy look. It only gets about 6 in. Tall and blooms in 6 - 8 years with green flowers on a 4 - 6 ft. spike.

  • Agave tequilana azul - Weber's Blue Agave is used to make a tequila, in Jalisco, Mexico, but it is also a very attractive garden plant, reaching upwards of 6 ft. tall and flowering in 6 - 8 years with a 15 ft. spike of yellow blooms.

  • Agave victoria-reginae - As the plant matures, the broad leaves cup inward, forming a dome. Reaches a height of about 12 in.. Cream flowers appear in 20 - 30 years

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