Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flowering agave update (May 2015)

Time for an update on the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ next to the front door. I first noticed at the beginning of September 2014 that it was getting ready to flower. By mid-October the flower stalk was already 8 ft. tall. In February 2015 the first flowers opened up. Now, in May 2015, most flowers are gone and the plant’s decline is accelerating. (This agave, like most, is monocarpic, meaning it dies after flowering.)

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Eventually the dead carcass will have to be removed. My plan is to leave it until fall and tackle this task when the weather starts to cool down.

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I may use this opportunity to redo the entire bed. While I love the Yucca ‘Margaritaville’ behind the agave, it’s large enough to flower—and when it flowers, it splits, which to me ruins the look. My tentative plans are to replace the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ with the Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ I bought earlier this year at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. I would plant it further back, close to where the yucca is now. But I have all summer to mull this over.

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Like some agaves, Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ produces bulbils instead of seeds. These are tiny plantlets growing right on the flower stalk. In nature, they eventually fall off and root. In cultivation, you can pluck them and root them yourself.

Never having had an agave that produces bulbils, I’m wondering if these are the first ones to emerge?

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Agaves are flashy plants that don’t go out with a whimper. Instead, they put on quite a show. The flower stalk, usually quite massive, is just one part of it. Another are the striking color changes happening in the leaves. As the chlorophyll breaks down, other colors become visible—oranges, reds and browns. Take a look at the photos below, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

9 comments:

  1. Agaves do like to go out in full drama isn't it? Even on the process of withering away they look good :)

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  2. The color change is impressive. I have yet to have any of my own agaves flower and I didn't know they did that.

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    1. Some agaves show fantastic colors as they're dying (esp. Agave montana). Others simply dry up. I'm glad this one has at least some color.

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  3. Oh so glad you've posted an update, I've been wondering what it's up to. Beautiful leaves, and odd bulbils. If indeed that's what they are.

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    1. I hope somebody who has experience with agave bulbils will chime in. I honestly can't tell at this stage what these thingies are. For all I know, they could be left over flower structures.

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  4. The colors changes are beautiful...like rainbows. I hope you get some babies that you can pot up till they are big enough to go in the ground.

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    1. This agave has already produced countless pups. I have given away a dozen (literally) and I have two growing in the backyard and two more potted up. Plus there are at least three or four more under the momma plant. No shortage of babies, and that's not even counting the bulbils I might get!

      The problem is that as a landscape plant, A. desmettiana is a bit iffy here since its leaves show damage below 28°F (and it would die outright south of 25°F).

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  5. "While I love the Yucca ‘Margaritaville’ behind the agave, it’s large enough to flower—and when it flowers, it splits, which to me ruins the look." I'm having this debate with myself over my post-flowerwing Margaritaville. It was absolute perfection before flowering. Now its shagginess reminds me of a dragon tree -- different, possibly interesting, still unsure. And a dasylirion has split after flowering too. Funny, but I don't remember the bulbils on my desmettiana after it bloomed...

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