Agaves in the rain
After seeing my post on my temporary rain shelter for cacti, a reader asked what I do to protect my agaves. The short answer is: nothing. However, things are never as simple as they seem, so here is some background information.
About half of our agaves are planted in the ground in mounded beds. This ensures that the crown and most of root system are above grade so water can drain freely. The soil in our mounded beds is heavily amended with pea gravel, sharp sand and crushed pumice. Even if these beds get a good soaking, there is never any standing water that might lead to rot.
|Agave filifera subsp. schidigera (left), Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ (center top), and Aloe striata (right). The highest parts of this mounded bed are close to 2 ft above grade.|
|Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (left) and Agave victoriae-reginae (right) hiding under the leaves of a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)|
|Same two agaves from a lower perspective. |
Even though it may not look like much, the overhanging leaves do provide shelter from the rain, cold and sun.
|Agave vilmoriniana in the driveway-side succulent bed. While not planted on top of the mound, it’s still sufficiently raised to ensure good drainage.|
Some of our potted agaves are out in the open year round. The key to preventing rot caused by too much water is to make sure they are in the right container size. As you can see in the photo below, both the Aloe marlothii on the left and the Agave americana 'Mediopicta Aurea’ on the right fill their pots so there is no excess of soil that would get saturated in a downpour and stay wet for an extended period of time.
| Potted Aloe marlothii (left) and |
Agave americana 'Mediopicta Aurea’ (right )
Other potted agaves are on the edge of our front porch where they are protected by the roof overhead. If rain is accompanied by strong winds—as was the case this morning—they do get a bit wet but since the potting soil is loose and free draining, that doesn’t really matter.
I have yet to loose an agave to rot caused by excess water, which leads me to believe that they are far more water-tolerant than other succulents, especially cacti and some aloes. If I lived in a climate that gets more than 30 inches of rain a year I would be more concerned, but here in the Central Valley where we get a mere 20 inches, there’s no reason to be excessively worried.
Note: For a post on protecting tender succulents from frost, click here.