Sunday, August 16, 2015

Harvesting bulbils from our Agave desmettiana

Two weeks ago we cut off the massive flower stalk from the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ next to the front door because it was leaning too precariously. We rested the severed stalk against one of the bay trees in the backyard in hopes the bulbils would continue to grow. This didn’t happen. With temperatures again climbing toward the 100°F mark, some of the bulbils have started to shrink, no doubt because there is no moisture left in the flower stalk.

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The flower stalk fell over the other day, crashing into the bamboo fence

This morning I decided to bite the bullet and harvest the bulbils.

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There was no way I was going to be able to plant all the bulbils—there were well over a thousand. I had to be ruthless, keeping only the most promising candidates. That encompassed the largest and most vigorous bulbils as well as the ones showing the best variegation.

I cut off each clump (technically a branch off the stalk) and inspected the bulbils for suitability. The keepers went it a tray, the others in the yard waste. Soon the stalk was stripped clean:

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The rejects:

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And the keepers:

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Some of the bulbils were quite large:

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Here are the keepers, planted in deep trays filled with potting soil. I will keep them in the shade until the current heat wave has moved on, then gradually expose them to more light. I’m not sure this is necessary, but I want them to have the best conditions possible as they develop roots. Once they’re rooted (or have died, whichever way they decide to go), I’ll transfer them to an unused vegetable bed where they’ll spend the winter. In the spring, I’ll pot up the nicest looking plants and get rid of the rest. I’ll be happy if I end up with a dozen strong growers with good form.

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I’ve set aside a couple of dozen bulbils that show interesting variegation. I don’t know if a strongly variegated leaf at this stage of growth is a good predictor of future variegation, but I have nothing to lose.

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I’m particularly interested in medial variegation (yellow in the middle, green on the outside) and albinos although the latter may prove to be too weak to grow on their own.

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Time will tell whether I’ll end up with anything interesting. I’ll keep you posted.

15 comments:

  1. Interesting. Look forward to seeing the results.

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    1. Joe, it's my first experience with bulbils too. I hope they'll root quickly. I'll post an update when there is something to report.

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  2. Ah the wealth! I look forward to future reports.

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  3. Very cool! I planted bulbils from an octopus agave, a. vilmoriniana. Have you considered guerrilla gardening your surplus around the neighborhood or city? I did a couple dozen.

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    1. I would in a normal year, but it's just too dry for anything to survive without irrigation.

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  4. Look forward to seeing how they develop in how much the variegation at this stages translates to later.

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  5. I think a thousand potted agaves would have been impressive indeed. Opportunity missed! ;)

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  6. The selection process you'll do later should be extra interesting Gerhard. It may turn up that you have some extra unique gems in that batch.

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    1. Keeping my fingers crossed. 'Joe Hoak' supposedly came from a batch of Agave desmettiana 'Variegata'.

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  7. I've planted pups but not bulbils - none of my agaves have matured to the point of producing a flower spike. It'll be interesting to see which of the variegated specimens make it.

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    1. To be honest, I'm flying blind here. I put the bulbils in dry soil and then lightly watered them in with a watering can. I'll lightly water once a week (keep in mind it's been above 100°F every day). I'm not sure much rooting would occur in completely dry soil.

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  8. Congratulations of your agave's impressive progeny! You must be a very proud grandpa. Keep us posted on their progress!

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