August 2, 2010

Tequilla! Collecting Agave

The Agave collection grows, since I try to add a couple new varieties or species each year. There are so many forms available, that a collection just keeps getting nicer every year as new forms are introduced. Don't be fooled by catalog pages where many types look alike, once you get each in a container, they are all unique and beautiful when displayed outdoors in the summer. Long lived ( a century? maybe with some!) and easy to please, these  are indeed, succulents that don't suck. But they do prick you! So if you have small children or a new puppy like use, keep these plants in a safe location, for the spines are dangerous, and they can poke an eye out, or get jammed into a finger joint - don't ask!
 Agave americana is perhaps the most common of all Agave, but this white variegated form is particularly sweet. There are many clones, white white stripes, yellow stripes or no stripes, and all grow large so plan on a large, heavy tub which you will need to drag into the house during the winter, if you live in areas with deep frosts or wet snow. Many Agaves can handle some dry, freezing weather, but north of Atlanta, they are best grown as house plants or greenhouse specimens which spend the summer, outdoors.

 Agave 'Meat Hook' is aptly named. This is one form which I now have to keep high on a shelf since we have a puppy exploring the garden.
 Many attractive new Japanese cultivars are being introduced, liek this Agave schidigera 'Shira ito no Ohi',  or Queen of White Thread Century Plant. This intense little Agave is slow growing, and smaller than most forms, making it an excellent house plant for a sunny exposure, or for  a small terrace or porch. In a collection, these smaller more colorful Agave add both dimension and texture not found in the larger forms.
Agave tourmeyana ssp. bella
This Arizona native is small enough for a rock garden.

 Agave scabra ssp. scabra
This un named form of a Mexican species has spines like sharks teeth. This is one of the newer species introduced, reportedly more hardy than other species, since it was collected at high elevations in the northern mountains of Mexico. For us, it is still an winter tender variety.

Agave parryi 'Cream Spike'
The experts seem to be informing the few growers of this variety that it may not indeed be A. parryi, which makes sense to me, since it is so small, practically miniature. A mature plant is said to be 1 foot in diameter, but my plant is barely 6 inches. It is a beautuful potted Agave, and it adds a different dimension to a potted collection of Agaves.

Agave 'Kissho Kan', or Lucky Crown Century Plant, is a Japanese selection somewhat new to cultivation in the west. Not as large as Agave americana, this form stays smaller than 18" when mature. It's form is compact, and it is very attractive in nice, terra cotta pots.
Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'
Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' grows slowly, and it is expensive, but as you can see, this three year old specimen is ready for repotting, and, some 'pups' are starting to emerge. The undersides of the leaf is not as colorful as the top, where stripes of yellow, lime and green give the plant it's name ( although, I think I would have named it 'tricolor' but that's just me).

A quick upgrade, and some fresh soild, and this Mexican native, Agave lophantha is  ready to be returned to the gravel garden for the rest of the summer, where it can fill it's pot, and hopefully give 'birth' so a few more babies.
The final potted Agave lopantha 'Quadricolor' in a new Guy Wolf & Co. pot. 

Not an Agave, but a Mangave. Related, and similar looking, this is a different genus, but I grow them with the Agaves since spots always go well with stripes.
Agave americana, again, two different forms.
One of the many clones of the yellow-edged forms of Agave americana, this form came to us from a plant sale in Vermont, and is quickly becoming a specimen plant. I love the combination of pale grey green, and light butter yellow together.


  1. The A. lophatha quadicolor is stunning. I am sorely tempted to start growing these in pots now. I can grow a few in ground, and I intend to make room for them in the future. But, you have given me motivation to start sooner, esp. with those dwarf variegated varieties.

  2. What a fine collection you've assembled. I love the last one too, the variegated A. americana, and found one with the reverse variegation, broad yellow band down the center, with grey green on the edges - wonderful plants!

  3. How unexpected to find a great post on agaves out of Mass! I grow a couple of the types you listed and they can't be beat for their architectural qualities, symmetry and colors... except maybe by bromeliads, but thats another story. I love your blog and the masthead design too!

  4. Matt, what a great collection! you have several I'd like to add to my little group...a perfect summer post! I have a theory about the Parmas' I tell you sometime...

  5. What a great collection. I marvel at home many different collections you have and how you fit all these tenders into the greenhouse or house come late fall

  6. Hi Matt. I ran across your blog about a year ago at work. I was doing some research for a customer of ours that asked about forcing lily of the valley slips in winter. Love checking in with you from time to time to see what wonderful, cool things you are growing. The nursery I work at is in North Carolina and we carry many agave cultivars that are actually hardy in most of North Carolina and one or two varieties that are hardy into zone 6.

  7. You have a very nice collection of agave plants. Impressive!!!

  8. mjazz6:43 AM

    A very nice collection. I have some too & like to get more but am running out of room indoors in the winter in Rhode Island.
    I'm interested in the ones that are hardy in North Carolina because I'd like to send some to my brothers who live there.


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