Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Agave americana eating the world

I love agaves. All of them. Well, almost. There's one species I'm not fond of, and it happens to be the most common one in gardens around here: Agave americana. The reason for that is very simple: Agave americana is a baby-making machine. It pups so prolifically that you could supply your entire neighborhood with offsets and never run out. Just take a look at the photos below, and you'll see what I mean:

There are so many pups in the clump below, it's impossible to count them all. 


Invariably, they encroach on the sidewalk and have to be whacked back. The result is less than attractive:


In fact, I find this entire clump of Agave americana to be hideous.

Moving on to a different house on the same street. There are probably just as many invidual Agave americana here, but the overall look is significantly cleaner. Still, look at how big these agaves are compared to the car!


Moving in closer...


...you can see the tangle of offsets...


...and the size of the mommas. They're as big as the house! 


As before, the leaves closest to the sidewalk have been unceremoniously whacked back:


It takes regular maintenance to keep the agaves away from the walkway to the house:


I feel vaguely threatened by these massive clumps. They're like mythical creatures protecting the house. Like Cerberus, but with many more heads.


Speaking of the house, I love the vibrant colors. And large agaves and opuntias in the front yard go perfectly with the Mexican feel. But I would have picked anything but Agave americana.


A clump of Agave americana this dense is simply not attractive in my eyes, especially when so many leaves have to be cut off to prevent injury to passers-by.


Just look at the photo below: a solid wall of Agave americana along the driveway.


It looks like a hedge trimmer was used to keep the pack of giant hounds agaves in check:


In the bed next to the far side of the driveway, a smaller clump is growing happily. Since it's so close to the sidewalk (right) and driveway (left), constant whacking will be needed to keep the leaves away from pedestrians.


It's easy to see why Agave americana is such a common landscaping plant. Neighbor A gets a small offset from a friend. Three years later she has more pups than she wants and offers some to neighbor B and neighbor C. A few years later, neighbor B gives some to neighbor D and neighbor C gives some to neighbor E. And on and on.

Agave americana can be an attractive presence if the pups are diligently removed. But that's a job that never ends, and many homeowners can't be bothered. The result are the monstrous clumps you see above. But that's not even the worst. Just wait until these agaves flower and die. You can imagine the work involved in getting rid of the carcasses!

Not to be preachy, but there's a moral to this story: Know what you're getting into before you put that cute pup in the ground. Pretty soon it will be a voracious adult ready to devour the world!

12 comments:

  1. Oh to have such a problem. You're correct, people should think of the eventual size of plants before choosing them. Right plant/right spot saves a lot of time and keeps one from having a chainsaw relationship with his plants.

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    1. "Chainsaw relationship," that made me laugh! Yes, I bet a chainsaw is needed to remove one of these monsters.

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  2. Heck, I even got an A. americana pup, and I'm thousands of miles away! ;)
    Would it look better to remove the entire leaf than to just whack it like that? Weird choice.
    Can you hoe out the little offsets?

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    1. The pups are easy to pull off as long as they're small. Even a medium-sized pup is easy to pry out with a shovel.

      If these were my plants, I'd remove entire leaves to make them look a little better. Although people go overboard with that as well and end up with the infamous pineapple look.

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  3. No plant looks good when it's been hacked to keep it in check. My in-laws had a few A. americana in their yard, they did pup but nothing like this. I wonder if the harsh T or C, NM growing conditions kept them in check? That in order to go mad like this you need a cushy garden life?

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    1. Good point about the growing conditions. I bet these plants get regular irrigation, hence they grow faster and bigger.

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  4. oh I like agave americana despite being so prolific! I have several of them in pots, I find them beautiful and extremly elegant plants. I'm now trying to grow a giant one just like some people grow giant pumkins! :-)

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    1. I agree, Agave americana can be very elegant when grown as a solitary plant (or with just a few pups). If you want a giant, just give it plenty of water and fertilizer :-).

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  5. that's just no bueno ! They need to remove the lot (a job I would not hesitate to hire out, lol) and replace with A. ovatifolia.

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    1. You said it! Agave ovatifolia all the way. Or Agave salmiana if you want something really big. 'Mr Ripple' is a beauty, too! There *are* alternatives to Agave americana.

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  6. They are scary! I saw a large mass of them in a neighbor's garden, which were eventually cleared out to make room for an outdoor kitchen by new owners. I'd have enjoyed seeing how they approached that nightmare. Hoover Boo gave me pups of the smaller cultivar mediopicta 'Alba', which, thus far at least, seems much better behaved.

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  7. Agree 100%. A weed masquerading as an Agave. Surprise that it is well behaved in the PNW. Location, location, location?

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