Unearthing (and moving) a buried agave

When creating a new area in the garden, the temptation is great to overplant – especially if you start out with smaller specimens. I’m certainly guilty of that. In fact, it comes naturally to me, probably because I abhor empty spots. Knowing that, I’ve stopped trying to fight the urge to cram. I simply let myself plant whatever I want, knowing full well that I’ll have to do some culling before too long.

To illustrate, let’s look at the reclaimed “bamboo hill” along the sidewalk. After having a large Bambusa oldhamii removed in October 2022, we built up the area with 1 cubic yard of screened topsoil, 1 cubic yard of very coarse sand, and 700 pounds of rocks.

Take a look at the spot indicated by a red arrow (first photo) and orange square (second photo):

October 22, 2022

September 30, 2023

Look what I found there recently:

Hard to see, right? Moving in a little closer:

There's an Agave simplex buried under a Euphorbia misera, which itself had been half buried until I trimmed the large Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) next to it.

Even though this little Agave simplex had been starved of light for at least six months, it’s very much alive. It’s a survivor and deserves a better life elsewhere in the garden!

Moving it was a matter of minutes. The first step was to lift the root ball with my Root Slayer:

The root ball appears to be just a little bigger than last year – I originally planted it from a 1-gallon container

Here’s where I planted this Agave simplex for now:

It’s one of the sunniest spots in the winter.

I’ll leave it there until it’s put on some size and reevaluate then. Maybe it can stay there, especially if the Agave ‘Burned Burgundy’ to the right of it flowers and dies.

I wonder what other buried treasures I might find in the garden if I look closely enough?

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. This is a fun discovery and rescue story.
    Had you not been wearing gloves while trimming the Euphorbia and Jerusalem sage, Agave simplex would have properly stabbed you, to remind you it's still there...
    Is A. ‘Burned Burgundy’ showing signs it's getting ready to bloom?

  2. Oh, I bet that agave thrives with more sun. I'm an over planter as well. :)

    1. Definitely! Agave simplex (and the closely related Agave deserti) are real desert species.

  3. If you factor in the agaves that produce pups at a distance from their parents, I bet there are a lot of surprises to be found in your garden, Gerhard. I've pledged to become a little more strategic about my cramming, using annuals and small easily removable succulents between the plants that are going to demand more time as they mature. How diligent I'll be about sticking to that approach remains to be seen.

  4. If you think about it this is how Mother Nature does her landscapes: cram lots of plants in and then over time some make it some don't. You are just a much more benevolent caretaker in that those who are struggling get a reprieve and a new home,

    1. For sure! Humans try to bring too much order to their gardens :-)

  5. It happens to most of us gardeners. There are (or were) two A. victoriae-reginaes under the Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird' on the front slope...I imagine they are mulch by now. My very bad.

    At least you saved the A. simplex!

    1. Oh, you should you look for those victoriae-reginae! I wouldn't be surprised if they were still alive.


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