Saturday, September 3, 2011


I divide my agave collection into 3 kinds according to what happens when you fall on one:
Soft Agaves ~ You say 'oops' and keep gardening.
Specialty Agaves ~  You say 'Ouch!' and get a bandaid.
Serious Agaves ~ We don't let small children or pets near these. Burglar deterrent.

These are my favorites. You will have a difficult time finding them in nurseries along the Texas coast. Rarely offered and some are mail order only. Austin, Texas will have some and so will California and Arizona. You will need to protect most of these from freeze damage and some from excessive watering.
Agave attenuata

The beautiful, oval powdery green leaves are almost surrealistic. Very frost tender and brittle leaves are the downside to this one. Rarely offsets here in Houston. I've read it grows commonly in San Diego, California. Mine is in dappled light and a clay pot with quick draining, sandy loam soil. Forms a stem over time. Likes to be pot bound. Stays in a sunny southern window in the winter. A similar plant called 'Nova' is shown below.
Both versions are worth all the fuss!

Agave celsii

Similar to attenuata but armed with a harmless row of tiny teeth. Likes to grow in bright shade. Can take frost down to 26 degrees here. Offsets slowly. Turns yellowish and less attractive in Houston's full sun. Prefers more water than most. I lost this one to the agave weevil, but will try to grow this again. Very beautiful in clusters or as a single specimen. There are some growing along Sunset Blvd across the street from Rice University.
Rarely offered in Houston, but found mine at Wal-mart.

Agave celsii 'Nova'

One of the parents of this hybrid is celsii; the other is unknown. Notice that it has a tiny row of teeth. A bit stronger than the parent and less susceptible to frost damage (still, I'm taking no chances). Looks very delicate, but grows quickly and can take temperatures up to 109. Not sure if it offsets, but I hope it does.
The other parent is a subject of discussion by Agave experts and plantsmen.
Loves dappled light and water if in a well-drained clay pot. Very similar to attenuata.

Agave 'Unknown'
I took lots of these little plantlets off  a bloom stem in my brother's yard in College Station, Texas.
It was a tall bloom stem with many yellow sessile buds opening a few at time all the way up to the top.
It might be close to an A. bracteosa bloom spike, but not sure.
Very slow growing and really needs to be kept from frost. I let mine fight it out both winters and they took an entire year to regrow.

Agave bracteosa ~ Squid agave

Can grow in dappled light under a tree. This one took temperatures down to 25F with no freeze damage.
Leaves are very brittle, so leave lots of space around it. Slow growing, but keeps adding those cool leaves year round.

Agave desmettiana (Regular version)
I lost my beautiful, full grown plants during the heavy freezes. All I have are these little ones. I'll try to find a picture of the full grown parent.

Agave desmettiana (toothed cultivar)
I have seen these offered in Houston. Offsets freely. Protect from frost. Nice blue green color.

Agave desmettiana variegata ( usual variegation pattern on edge)

Agave desmettiana variegata (highly variegated patterns)
This is one of the most beautiful desmettianas I have and I was lucky to find it. This one offsets freely, but the variegation patterns of the babies are not set until they grow older. I'm not sure if this parent transfers its bold pattern. I hope so.

Agave 'NOT SURE' 
I thought it was Agave weberi until I found a weberi for sale. It's a beautiful plant, takes heavy freezes with NO damage, and offsets like there's no tomorrow. Can tolerate flooding, but prefers it dry.
Never for sale at nurseries, but passed along from people in Mexico to their friends. Found in many parts of Houston.

Agave weberi

Agave desmettiana 'Joe Hoak'

Very beautiful and rare here in Houston. I had to buy it mail order from Florida. Grow it in bright shade the first 3 years. Grows very slowly. Beautiful variegation patterns make it stand out from a distance.

For comparisons: Regular variegated desmettiana on top, 'Joe Hoak' on the bottom. It looks whitish green.
Agave 'Nova' on the right.

Whew! So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the tour.
Thanks for stopping by.
David/ :-)


  1. Hey, David, those are some mighty fine agaves you have there. The ones you gave me are sitting quietly in their pots, pretending they aren't going to grow up to be attack plants.

    Hey, I have something for you here. Come by after school one day!

  2. Yay for the friendly agaves...I look forward to seeing your really dangerous ones soon!

  3. Soft agaves - those sound nice and sweet. I really like the squid agave - and nice to know it can take a bit of a freeze.

  4. Your attenuata and bracteosa look great and that is wonderful variegation on your desmettiana. My desmettiana is not variegated but I got it for less than 50 US cents so I'm not in a position to complain.

    Looking forward to your next installment.

  5. Hello from a gardener in Arizona who could not resist coming to the rescue of a sorry looking agave on the shelf of my local supermarket...near death it was, but after some serious tlc and some cosmetic surgery it's rewarding me with absolutely beautiful growth. So anyway, while trying to id it online I came across your blog. Great! I think I've got it pinned down - "agave celsii".

    Thank you! Great blog. Great sense of humo[u]r :)


  6. Hello, a friend of mine is looking for Agave desmettiana variegata and I wish I could give her one as a present. We live to the North from Austin. May I ask if you have any babies from those you have or where did you get yours from? Thanks in advance, Daria.


I always appreciate your comments & questions! Happy Gardening from David/ Tropical Texana

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