It’s been a year and a half since I blogged about my favorite agaves. All of the varieties I described then are still among my favorites (some are included in this post as well) and many others have joined the collection.
While I didn’t set out to write about potted agaves in particularly, I realized after I’d assembled the photos for this post that they’re all of potted specimens. Since planting space in our garden is very limited, I’ve limited myself lately to buying varieties suitable for pot culture. By necessity, these are smaller species. While they don’t have the wow factor that a mature 4-foot rosette of Agave ovatifolia might have, these smaller plants invite up-close examination—something I find very enjoyable.
The Agave geminiflora in the first two photos lives in a large pot on our front porch. It gets virtually no direct sunlight, which doesn’t appear to be detrimental to its health or looks. With its hundreds of long, narrow leaves decorated with curly white hairs, it’s a very architectural plant. I bought it at Walmart in a 3-gallon container but it’s easily quadrupled in size since 2008.
Adult specimens of Agave ornithobroma (below) supposedly have a form very similar to Agave geminiflora (above), but my juvenile looks quite different. The leaves are thicker and instead of white curly hairs, there’s a papery white edge. This is a recent addition from UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.
Agave dasyliroides also has narrow strappy leaves but these are a bit stiffer than the other two species. The apple green color is beautiful and reminds me of Agave mitis seen in the next to last photo of this post. Agave dasyliroides is a relatively uncommon species in cultivation; mine originally came from the Ruth Bancroft Garden.
The next specimen is a particular favorite. Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ is a variegated sport of the squid agave. This spring I finally found one for sale at a reasonable price at the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sale. It’s even slower growing than the all-green form, so I don’t expect it will outgrow this 6-inch container any time soon.
|Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’|
This is the regular form of Agave bracteosa. It’s now planted in a hollow-up pumice rock, a project I described here. ‘Calamar’ is a selection that doesn’t offset, otherwise it’s identical to the species. I bought it in June of 2009 and it’s only produced two or three leaves since then.
|Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’|
Sited in the backyard right next to Agave bracteosa ‘Calamar’ is Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’. I’ve talked about my frustrating experiences with Agave attenuata before. It’s the most common landscaping agave in the Bay Area and in Southern California, but it just can’t tolerate temperatures much below 32°F and it also doesn’t like temperatures much above 90°F. In our climate that frequently makes for an unhappy camper.
‘Ray of Light’ is a new introduction with white leaf margins. I bought this one at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show in March, and so far it’s done great.
|Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’|
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ is my favorite of all the Agave americana cultivars. The almost pure-white stripe down the middle of relatively slender blue-gray leaves makes for a very elegant look. Mine is in a large glazed pot and has gone into a reproductive frenzy as seen by the many pups popping up along the perimeter of the pot. The leaf color of the babies is a steely blue.
|Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’|
|Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’|
Some people say Agave ‘Cornelius’ is an Agave americana sport, but nobody knows for sure. The wave leaf margins certainly are unique; only Agave gypsophila has a similar look.
|TOP: Agave ‘Blue Flame’|
BOTTOM: Agave ‘Cornelius’
The next agave used to be sold as Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’ but it’s actually a variegated form of Agave applanata. “Applanata” means flattened, and you can definitely see why this name is so apt. This is a glacially slow-growing small plant that may never outgrow the 6-inch pot it’s currently in.
|Agave applanata ‘Variegata’|
Similarly small is Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’. The cultivar name means “queen of white thread-leaf” in Japanese, an allusion to the curling hairs along the leaf margins. In terms of pure elegance, this agave is hard to beat.
|Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’|
Somewhat similar looking but larger is ‘Hammertime’, a variegated variant of Agave × leopoldii (a hybrid between closely related Agave filifera and Agave schidigera). I know it’s difficult keeping all these species names straight, but once you’ve read them a few times, you’ll end up committing them to memory. Think of it as an anti-aging exercise for your brain!
|Agave × leopoldii ‘Hammertime’|
Continuing with small hairy agaves, this is Agave polianthiflora. It’s planted in another rock planter I made; this one is golden tufa rock. I’m very fond of these miniature agaves (this one is only about 5 inches across) because they will always remain small and I can own a whole bunch of them without needing much space.
From Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’ above you might have gathered that Japanese gardeners love agaves, too. Here’s another Japanese introduction, Agave ‘Kissho Kan’. There is a lot of guessing as to what species it might be (Agave potatorum is mentioned frequently) but nobody knows for sure. This is the perfect agave for pot culture; it forms a beautiful living sculpture of gray-green leaves with creamy margins and cinnamon-colored teeth and spines.
|Agave ‘Kissho Kan’|
|Agave ‘Kissho Kan’|
Agave isthmensis is another small species great for pots. The steely blue leaves have very visible bud imprints created by the teeth of newly emerging leaves. Agave isthmensis is on the wimpy side, needing protection below 32°F.
Agave titanota has perhaps the most intriguing teeth of all agaves. They truly look menacing but fortunately aren’t quite as sharp as you might think. The leaves are thick and substantial.
The agave seen in the middle of the next photo is Agave ‘Felipe Otero’ (sometimes also called ‘FO-76’). Seeds were first collected by, you guessed it, Felipe Otero in 1976. Some experts say it’s just a form of Agave titanota, others say it’s a different species. It, too, has very thick leaves but the teeth along the leaf margins are somewhat less pronounced.
|Agave ‘Felipe Otero’ (FO-76)|
The plants to the left and right of Agave ‘Felipe Otero’ in the photo above are Mangave ‘Bloodspot’, an intergeneric hybrid between Agave macroacantha and Manfreda maculosa. The spots are more pronounced on the new leaves in the center and fade as the leaves age, but the overall look is much more elegant than the Manfreda ‘Spot’ I recently evicted from our backyard.
My potted agaves live in different places in the front and backyard. I particularly like this corner of the front porch since there are five potted agaves right next to each other (not to mention the fishhook barrel cactus on the right).
|Agaves on our front porch (left to right):|
Agave mitis, Agave attenuata ‘Nova’, Agave bovicornuta, Agave ‘Blue Flame’, Agave chrysoglossa
The last photo is a close-up of Agave bovicornuta, the cow-horn agave. The rich green leaf color is offset beautifully by the cinnamon-colored spines. This is one of my all-time favorite agaves.
Click here to see a list of all agaves in my collection.