Monday, March 23, 2015

Agave attenuata on every street corner

Agave attenuata drives me crazy. In Davis, it requires constant pampering. In the winter it needs to be protected when temperatures get close to freezing, otherwise it will turn into a brown mush. In the summer it needs to be kept out of the hot sun, otherwise it will scorch.

And yet in Southern California, Agave attenuata is everywhere. It seems to pop up on its own, much like a weed. Do gardeners here appreciate it at all, considering how effortlessly it grows? Or do they not even notice it anymore?

And would I be as obsessed with it if it were this ridiculously easy to cultivate in Davis?

And is the meaning of life still 42?


Santa Barbara


Agave attenuata packed tight…


…so tight, the rosettes are hanging over the edge


Look how perfect they are


This one reminded me of a hog mama with her piglets



Little baby agaves emerging from the stem of the mother plant


Across the street from the first building


And a little further up the street


A clump in a hell strip


Heck, it’s not even a hell strip…


…it’s a hell hole!


How does it even get watered? It’s not like Santa Barbara is blessed with abundant rainfall (the average is 15” annually).


A few miles down the road from Santa Barbara, in the lovely beach town of Carpinteria, a clump of Agave attentuata contrasting nicely against a flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum)


Another clump nearby under the same tree


Even in a climate this mild, Agave attenuata clearly enjoys a bit of shade


Looking at the flower spike, it’s easy to see why its common name is “foxtail agave”


Two more flowering rosettes


I was wondering whether Agave attenuata is so common in Southern California that nurseries might not even carry it. I was able to answer my own question when I saw these at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria.


They carried both the common apple green form…


…and the even more stunning blue form sold as ‘Boutin Blue’

This is only day 2 of our Southern California trip so I may eventually tire of seeing so many Agave attenuata, but for now I still crane my neck when I spot one from the car.

Related posts

2015 Spring break trip to San Diego


  1. I get so jealous of Californians. The stuff that grows like weeds there...

  2. Wow, just like in Madeira they're so common. But then again they're so beautiful, lucky them!

  3. All it takes is about a day in SoCal and Andrew is sick of them "common as tulips and just as boring" he says. I rather love them and don't ever stop being amazed.

    Wait until you get to Balboa Park. The Agave attenuata there seem to be the preferred canvas for carving vandals.

  4. in Southern California those grow like be weeds. but I think they are absolutely beautiful. great photos and sounds like a super time.

  5. Yep, totally taken for granted here. I always check nurseries for the yellow varieg one that Hoov has and never find it. And last I checked, the meaning of life is still 42, Mr. Dent ;)

  6. I'd say A. attenuata are the succulent equivalent of Agapanthus here - so common that most people don't notice how wonderful they are. I inherited quite a few with the house and have added some to my slope where it's hard to get anything to grow.

  7. If planted in some shade within about 20 miles of the coast, they do fine without any more irrigation than winter rain, even the 4" we got last year. In full sun some irrigation keeps them pretty. I like them, as common as they are. They have a simple elegance--like a tulip (apologies to Andrew). Happy you got to Seaside Gardens!

  8. Nope nope nope -- the sight of my brown, melted, post-freeze attenuata is still too fresh in my mind [shudders]. Inland valley sun + winter weather = I'ma buy another utahensis.

  9. If you're not excited by something "common" that you see in your vacation spot, then you're not doing vacation right! :)

    Beautiful photos!