Friday, July 25, 2008


Agaves are an important structural feature in my garden. 

Agave desmettiana is one of my favorites because it make an enormous number of pups which is a good thing because it is not reliably hardy in our area. If they don't winter over then I can easily replace them with those growing in pots.

These ones were all put in the ground this spring. I may try to protect them this winter as they are not too large to cover.
My first agave was Agave parryi. I fell in love with its tight blue rigid leaves. I think it cost about $40 so it was expensive. However, it was going to give me years of joy, or so I thought.

I planted it in the ground in 2002. By early 2004 I noticed that in the center there was a rather tight narrow and pointed rosette of leaves. Oh no, I thought, it's going to flower! I love the candelabra out there in the desert scene but not in my garden- yet. It was to be. Each day the flower stalk grew by at least a foot. No wonder the plants dies after flowering (monocarpic).
Finally the stalk reached its full height and it burst into flower. Every bee in the neighborhood was there. I saved the seeds and some were allowed to fall on the ground but none of them germinated. There were no pups and no bulbils and the plant duly died.  I have read that aside from pups which grow from the rhizome, agaves will reproduce by forming bulbils in the axils of the flower stalk. I had never seen this until walking around my son's neighborhood in Phoenix I espied and agave with pups and bulbils.

Bulbils galore!  Certainly would like some of those. I don't know what variety it is but I'm sure it would do well in a pot.
Now, seeing these bulbils reminds me of a photo I took of an Echinacea plant in my garden. I decided it was a mutation but maybe the Echinacea is mimicing the Agave.


  1. I'm enjoying your posts from Phoenix. It's fun to explore gardens in such different climates. That's one thing I enjoy about reading garden blogs from all over the world--but being there is better.

  2. The agaves were something I always thought of as small houseplants, until I saw them in the gardens of Austin, and now Phoenix. The flower is dramatic, to say the least.

  3. My Agave escapades have got out of hand in recent weeks, see for yourself. Thousands of pups! If anyone in Austin wants to grab some they are free for the taking!
    I love this plant, and I am planning a new bed featuring them and more succulents.
    Your Pheonix post have totally given me ideas for the front of my lot.

  4. I have really enjoyed the desert plantings all over town. I never gardened with agaves before I came to Texas but now realize I could have had them in other places I have lived. I have read Pam's section on Snout Agave beetle and realize that I may have lost one last year to this scourge.
    What kind are they esp?

  5. After seeing your lovely A. desmettiana, I picked one up at a cactus sale today. (The sale continues tomorrow. I'll be posting about it before morning.) If I can find a place for it in the back garden, it may overwinter, as I garden in the warmest part of Austin, I'm convinced. But the front is my sunny garden, so who knows.

  6. Pam- that is where the original agave came from. The man told me it was hardy for Austin but the first winter it melted. As you know we are in a colder part of Austin and when there is frost it rolls down the hill into our patch. You should be fine where you are. The other thing is that this agave likes a little more shade and does very well in filtered sunlight. I have it in a variety of microclimates and it is happy in all of them. You'll enjoy its propensity for pup making.

  7. A. desmettiana is one of my faves. Thanks for posting it. I'm also a push-over for A. vilmoriniana (Octopus agave) for its smooth sculptural look.

    I really enjoy that first shot of your garden - nice balance of wild color and the underpinnings of the stout agaves to hold it all together.

    Shame about the tortured Texas sage. Might as well drop in a gray block of styrofoam, save water and hydrocarbon exhausts and have something just as attractive.

    If you pop by my Flickr site and click on these, I've got some nice agave shots from Santa Barbara, CA.

  8. Love your landscaping! My A. desmettiana has not bloomed yet. I've read they must be over 8 years old to send up a stalk, but your agave proves that is not true.