Cowabunga: cow horn agave starting to flower

The biggest event happening in the front yard right now, aside from the removal of our clumping timber bamboo and the ensuing restoration and replanting, is our cow horn agave (Agave bovicornuta) beginning to flower.

Sporting apple-green leaves armed with cinnamon-colored marginal teeth and terminal spines, this medium-sized agave is one of the most recognizable species—and one of the most beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s only hardy to about 25°F, which restricts its use as a landscaping plant to zone 9 and up.

I bought my specimen in January 2015 in a 5-gallon container, so it must have been 2-3 years old at the time. I planted it in the ground in February 2015 as part of a small makeover project (see here), and it’s been in the same spot ever since.

Fast-forward to September 2022. On September 4, I noticed the first signs of an emerging flower stalk:

Agave bovicornuta, September 4, 2022

A week later, the flower stalk was beginning to take shape:

Agave bovicornuta, September 10, 2022

Agave bovicornuta, September 10, 2022

Two weeks in:

Agave bovicornuta, September 17, 2022

Three weeks in:

Agave bovicornuta, September 24, 2022

Almost five weeks in:

Agave bovicornuta, October 5, 2022

Agave bovicornuta, October 10, 2022

The inflorescence is now 4 ft. tall, measured from the top of the leaves, or 8 ft. from the ground. The speed of emergence has slowed somewhat in recent weeks, and I really have no idea when it will actually flower. If it’s like Agave parrasana, it may take a break for the winter and resume its ascent in the spring. I’ll keep you posted.

My beloved Agave bovicornuta will die after flowering. Since it’s a solitary species, it will most likely not produce any pups. But its replacement is already waiting in the wings: another Agave bovicornuta, but variegated!

Agave bovicornuta ‘Holstein’

This particular clone goes by the name ‘Holstein’. The original plant was found at San Marcos Growers in a batch of seed-grown Agave bovicornuta. San Marcos Growers released a limited number of plants a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to score one.

As of last week, Agave bovicornuta isn’t the only agave flowering in our garden. An Agave potatorum growing in the sidewalk bed has decided to join the party:

Agave potatorum, October 5, 2022

This agave seems determined to beat Agave bovicornuta to the finish line. As of this morning (October 10, 2022), the flower stalk measures 2½ ft. above the top of the leaves.

Agave potatorum, October 10, 2022

With Agave bovicornuta and Agave potatorum possibly producing pollen at the same time, I’m planning on hybridizing the two. Fingers crossed.

© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. It's an interesting but bittersweet experience to watch an agave bloom. I've seen signs that the largest of my 'Blue Glow's' is getting ready to bloom (pups sprouting from the agave's side, lower leaves flattening) but it's taking its time, not that I'm complaining. Thus far, I've had only 2 agaves bloom and they did it in unison. Both were Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' planted at roughly the same time. As I recall, they also took a winter break between putting up their bloom spikes and flowering.

    1. I once saw a mass planting of Agave desmetiana 'Variegata'. It was a beautiful sight.

      Agave potatorum is continuing its ascent, bovicornuta seems to be taking a break.

  2. Agave bloom spike watching is like a spectator sport! I love the giant asparagus-like stalks - if only they were edible!

    1. A spectactor sport, I like it! So far, none of the neighbors have asked me what they are. Maybe they know by now, although nobody else on our street is growing agaves.

  3. Sad to see them go but what a spectacular process before fading away. Had a over chuckle re: it's replacement is waiting in the wings. Would be very cool if some cross pollination occurred and you were able to plant out the seeds. Look forward to watching their progress.

    1. I plan on collecting pollen from the agave blooming first and freezing it, so I'll definitely be able to pollinate the agave blooming second.

  4. Bonus bloom! Thanks for the photos of your Agave bovicornuta, it's such a beauty. The replacement though, WOW! Gorgeous.

    1. I rarely plant the same plant twice in the same spot, but bovicornuta is simply too beautiful not to.

  5. Both of the "Cow Horn" Agave in my yard also started to put up flower stalks... though by the look of your pics our agave are ~ 4 - 5 weeks behind. Spectacular plants.


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