Repotting a passel of agave pups

The northwest corner of the backyard has become a makeshift nursery of sorts where I grow on smaller plants until they're ready to go in the ground. But instead of simply gaining size, some succulents produce offsets as well. And before you know it, the 3- or 4-inch nursery pots start bursting at the seams. That's when it's time to separate the clump. Agave 'Blue Ember' is a case in point:

Agave 'Blue Ember'

The exact parentage of Agave 'Blue Ember' is unknown, but visually it appears to be similar to 'Blue Emperor' and 'Burnt Burgundy'. No matter what it is, it's an attractive hybrid with good landscaping potential. I bought a 4-inch plants from a UC Davis Arboretum plant sale a couple of years ago and promptly neglected it. 

Look what I found when I took the clump out of the nursery pot:

Agave 'Blue Ember'

Healthy roots, some root mealies (easily washed off), but most of all lots of offsets:

Agave 'Blue Ember'

And here's another one, a pretty agave that lost its label. I was hoping it had simply fallen out of the pot, but I haven't been able to find it.

Agave 'Lost Label'

↴ Here are these two agaves after separating and repotting: 6 pots of Agave 'Blue Ember' (one pot has four tiny offsets in it), and 4 pots of the mystery agave.

Agave 'Blue Ember' (6 pots) and lost label agave (4 pots)

↴ When you're having this much fun, you don't want it to end. Fortunately, in my makeshift nursery there's no shortage of plants in need of repotting:

3 Dyckia hybrids (4 pots) and Agave ×ovatispina 'Sea Star'

Agave ×ovatispina 'Sea Star' is a beautiful hybrid between Agave ovatifolia and Agave parrasana with creamy margins. It's available from several sources now, including Plant Delights and San Marcos Growers. It was originally selected by Dutch agave collector Stef van Dort from a batch of seedlings grown from seed collected in Northern Mexico where the two species supposedly coexist. My main plant is in the ground in the front yard; I removed some offsets from it  last year, and these have produced a generous crop of pups of their own. 

↴ I now have ten plants in pots, and the mother plant is still busy making more babies.

Agave ×ovatispina 'Sea Star' (10! pots)

↴ As for the dyckias, I decided not to separate them because they looked good as clumps. But I did clean them up and moved them to larger pots:

Dyckia 'Sawtooth' and Dyckia rariflora (bottom)

↴ And finally a tray of Hechtia argentea seedlings and ×Puckia 'Sparkle' offsets (an intergeneric hybrid between Puya laxa and Dyckia fosteriana × Dyckia platyphylla):

Hechtia argentea and ×Puckia 'Sparkle'

I know it's hard to believe (NOT!), but this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more agaves and other succulents waiting to be declumped and/or repotted. 

The logical question is, what am I going to do with all these plants? I have a feeling I may have to finally have that plant sale I've been talking about for years. Maybe in the spring...

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  1. So much fun to keep expanding your own private nursery. Always extra plants available when you need one. Wish I lived closer so could take advantage of your upcoming plant sale. We had a plant exchange this weekend so took in 34 pots of various succulent pups. However, many more to separate and repot. Unfortunately, I have to bring everything indoors where space is at a premium.

    1. I'd totally be up for a plant exchange. Unfortunately, COVID has put a stop to a lot of activities...

  2. Definitely a pop-up stand in spring.

  3. Wow, 'Sea Star,' what a prolific beauty!' Yes to plant sales -- but will you also ship these amazing plants?!

  4. "Blue Ember' and 'Sea Star' are wonderful. I thought I'd accumulated a lot of pups in pots but I think your supply beats mine by orders of magnitude. I think you DO have a nursery in the making ;) I just did another neighborhood giveaway to offload most of my pups but none of my plants were as unusual as yours and I was happy just to free up space.

  5. You're a brave man to repot those dyckias, they are absolutely vicious. I need to thin my clump but quail at the thought of trying to pull pups off, even with leather gloves on. Not to mention how to pot up the offsets when the leaves curve so sharply downward, that it would be almost impossible to pour soil around the roots without getting it into the crown of the plant. How did you manage it? Also did you start the Hechtia seedlings yourself from seed? Was any special treatment needed? Sue

    1. Gauntlet gloves (often sold for rose gardeners) are great for handling spiky plants, including dyckias.

      You're right, the decurving leaves of dyckias are a pain. I prefer pots that are wide and shallow (I think they call them "azalea pots," for some reason), and I raise up the plant so the leaves barely touch the soil. Then it's fairly easy to add soil all the way around. If the soil level ends up being a bit low, simply add some gravel or pumice as top dressing.

      The Hechtia argentea came from Greg Starr in Tucson. I've grown several hechtia species from seed, including H. michoacana and sphaeroblasta, and they're verrrrrrry slow. No special treatment of the seeds, though. I use the baggy method: scatter seeds on top of wet seedling mix, add a thin layer of fine gravel, put the pot in a Zip Lock bag and leave sealed until the seeds germinate. Not additional watering needed as long as the baggy is sealed.

  6. Solitary growers for me these days--less work!

    Have a plant sale--you may meet some interesting fellow Agave enthusiasts.

    1. Can't blame you there. I'm thinking long and hard about which agaves to let loose in the ground. I don't want to go hunting for stray pups all the time.


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