Most people I talk to get excited when they learn that a plant that they love will do well in their garden and climate. Usually this is a plant with amazing flowers. Amazing fragrance. Something that they can eat. There is not as much of a thrill initially for a plant who’s visual appeal is bold texture, architectural. But sometimes there is. In fact, I’d say that a plant that is unique and carries a lot of good ‘form and function’ goes into the: “Hmmm… let me see about that,” category.
With Agaves, there’s something special. If you are lucky, and able to grow them: they do well in mild Mediterranean gardens, in USDA 9 and upwards, you’ll be happy to know that there are many varieties (and new ones continue coming to market).
If you live in a flat or apartment and only have a sunny balcony for space, some of the small and medium sized Agaves make cool modernistic focal points (See below: A. parryi , A. victoriae-reginae and A. attenuata ‘Variegata’). These are also good for small gardens, or use them as the solo act in a container. You can use small and medium Agaves for bold sweeps and mass planting. Or, use a giant – like Agave americana – as living sculpture if you have lots of space!
Many Agaves form rosettes with broad tapered leaves and symmetrical foliage. But, there is also much variation in
foliage, leaf patterns and texture. Their artfulness in design and unusual form makes many of them excellent candidates for your garden. Some visually resemble their common names like octopus, foxtail, artichoke, and shark skin. So for example, the texture of Agave ‘Sharkskin’ is rough like sandpaper. Fox tail agave (Agave attenuata) has a flower that resembles a curling fox tail.
A word of caution…
Many, if not most Agaves have thorns or spines. The ones I mention below (with the exception of SOFT succulent, Agave attenuata, and varieties of this plant) do have some sort of SHARP point or perhaps prickles. Like roses and other plants with thorns, be careful when you’re pruning, planting and handling. Wear gloves! Also, if you’re planting a kid-friendly garden, these may not be the best choice.
Some Popular Agaves Having All of the Fun!
Agave impressa ‘Impressive’
Ok, sorry. This particular variety is tough to find. What’s nice is the next 2- photos of Agave victoriae-reginae, you’ll find similar white lines that look like they, too, were hand painted.
Agave victoriae-reginae (Queen Victoria Agave)
This popular slow growing Agave is highly variable in form, but in general the rosettes are small and compact. Green leaves are short and rigid with a pattern of distinctive white markings. The markings are generally along leaf edges. They are toothless, but as you can see, have a short black spine on the leaf tip. Also, the leaves grow close together and form a cool spherical shape!
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta’
This gorgeous variegated Agave has a bold yellow center with blue edges. It is much smaller than Agave americana, which grows 10 to 15 feet tall and wide. But it is a large Agave. For a smaller variety, with cream instead of the yellow, try ‘Mediopicta Alba’ which grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.
Agave americana ‘Marginata’
This dramatic variegated Agave has leaves with a bluish-green center and yellow edges; it’s very eye catching. In this photo, the two ‘Marginata’ Agaves look amazing with the dark-magenta Aeoniums and the sweeps of softer looking succulent companions.
Agave filifera or Agave shidigera
Not sure which one this is. Both plants have the interesting pointy leaves with spines, and unique threadlike filaments that grow from the edges.
This cool spherical Agave has the artichoke look mentioned earlier. It’s silvery grey-blue with reddish black serrated edges and tips. It is heat tolerant and also considered to be one of the most cold-hardy of succulents. It’s very neat, and small to medium in size. Height 1 to 5 feet width 3 to 6 feet. As you can see in the photo below, the multiple plantings look great in a bed of gravel!
– No spines! This soft Agave is excellent when you don’t want to have spines and thorns present! The variegated one below is also good for that. Massing up to 4 to 5 feet tall by about twice as wide, individual rosettes may reach 4 feet wide atop a stout curving smooth gray stem that rise up to 4 feet tall.
Agave attenuata ‘Variegata’
-No spines! This is an offsetting Agave. It is slow growing but will eventually produce pups. Because of the price tag, (can be pricey) you might want to consider using it more as a specimen or showcasing it.
ps: If you want to get a succulent overview, check out Types of Succulents.
Don’t live in an area conducive to growing succulents? You may want to try an Artificial Agave or Succulent. Click on our Amazon link to check out the selection. These artificial options keep getting more realistic!