Visiting Tony Krock, agave grower extraordinaire

In October 2013, I wrote a post titled “Coring agaves for propagation.” It recapped a demonstration agave expert Tony Krock gave at the 2013 Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens Nursery in Castroville, CA. Using a snake-tongue hand weeder (something like this), he removed the core of an Agave desmetiana to induce the production of offsets. Tony’s demonstration was accompanied by audible gasps from the audience; this procedure does seem brutal, but it works.

9+ years later, I finally had the opportunity to visit Tony in Santa Barbara, and he brought up my original post. Apparently, people still contact him with questions about coring – amazing that one of my posts has such longevity! In the meantime, Tony has switched from coring to cutting, a different technique that produces similar results. I’ll come back to that at the end of this post.

Tony and his wife Holly live on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood. Even without looking at my GPS, I knew I had arrived at the right address when I saw this:

Gardeners live here!

Tony and Holly’s front yard is an eclectic collection of succulents ranging from aloes and agaves to cacti and cactus-like euphorbias to yuccas. Plus a plumeria or two to make things even more interesting.

Aloe rubroviolacea

Tony and Holly’s business, Krock Nursery, specializes in growing agaves for the collector market, mostly overseas. This includes variegated plants as well as specimens with unusual morphological features (teeth, spines, etc.) – basically anything that’s weird, wonderful and rare. What blew me away was seeing quite a few sought-after agaves in the ground in their front yard. For an agave nerd like me, that was an extra special treat.

Holly Krock next to a massive variegated Agave attenuata

In addition to all those cool agaves, there’s also a pretty fantastic specimen of Aloidendron ramosissimum...

...and a massive euphorbia of tree-like proportions, which dwarfs the multi-headed Yucca rostrata next to it:

Let’s take a closer look at some of the special agaves in the ground:

Variegated Agave parrasana ‘Globe’

Agave bracteosa ‘Moroccan Queen’

Variegated sport of Agave titanota 'White Ice' (photo by Tony)

Variegated Agave macroacantha

Agave ‘Krocky’, a variegated hybrid of Agave filifera × isthmensis created in the Netherlands and named after Tony (photo by Tony)

The biggest Agave albopilosa I’ve ever seen

Seven Agave victoriae-reginae

Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Sun King’, currently one of the most sought-after forms

After we were done at their house, Tony gave me a tour of his propagation greenhouse elsewhere in Santa Barbara. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of agaves – both stock plants and offsets which will eventually be sold. I could have spent several hours looking at all the plants, but I was pressed for time. Still, I did take photos of some agaves that jumped out at me (not literally, of course – that would have been painful).

Agave titanota ‘Snaggle Tooth’

Agave ‘Bareback Rider’, a variegated form of Agave ‘Crazy Horse’ (thought to be a hybrid between Agave cupreata and Agave asperrima)

Variegated sport of Agave ‘Blue Emperor’

A striking sport of ×Mangave ‘Lavender Lady’ found in a batch of tissue-cultured plants. It’s produced a few offsets, but only ±20% of them are variegated like the mother.

Agave utahensis var. nevadensis, a seed-grown selection from 2014 (these plants are sloooow)

Agave utahensis var. eborispina, also 10 years old

6-year old Agave utahensis var. eborispina seedling

One of the many forms of Agave oteroi, this one grown from seed started in 2019

One of the many forms of Agave oteroi

As I mentioned earlier, Tony no longer cores agaves for propagation. Instead, he cuts them in half – one simple cut down the middle. Within months (the exact time varies by species, time of year and environmental conditions like temperature), offsets start to form along the cut growth point. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s an example of two offsets emerging from the center of a cut Agave oteroi:

I looked online but wasn’t able to find a video demonstrating this technique. Maybe Tony will let me film a demonstration on my next visit.

Here's another example of Tony's cutting technique. The photo below shows the variegated sport of Agave ‘Blue Emperor’ you saw earlier (left) and the plant it came from (right). Tony cut the original plant in half to isolate the variegated segment in hopes of getting a fully variegated offset. He was in luck; the stunning offset on the left is the result. In the meantime, the original plant that had been cut in half completely recovered (on the right), giving Tony an opportunity to cut it again this summer.

Variegated sport of Agave ‘Blue Emperor’ and the partially variegated plant it came from (photo by Tony)

The plants produced by Krock Nursery are primarily sold to collectors overseas. Occasionally, Tony posts a few special plants on eBay under the seller name KrockNursery. The main retail channel for customers in the US is a new Etsy store, which will be expanded in the weeks and months to come.

You can also follow Tony on Instagram under @agavekrock. He regularly posts photos of his cultivated plants as well as from his travels to see agaves in habitat.

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. That first utahensis is a var. nevadensis! Gorgeous specimens, but not for the impatient gardener.

  2. Utterly remarkable! I sighed over one photo after another in this post but I momentarily stopped breathing when I came to that incredible variegated sport of Mangave 'Lavender Lady'. That Euphorbia was almost frightening, though.

    1. If only Tony were able to propagate that sport of 'Lavender Lady'.

      Yes, that tree euphorbia is a hulking presence :-)

  3. I'm always a sucker for variegation. Tony has some amazing agaves but I think the variegated Mangave is my favourite. Wow! what a special plant. You didn't mention whether you came home with anything. The sheer glory around you must have been irresistable. His method of encouraging pupping is interesting though not sure I would have the courage to cut apart a special plant.

    1. I did get a few things from Tony:
      Agave albopilosa
      Agave pintilla
      Dudleya pachyphytum
      Mangave 'Praying Hands'

  4. Wow! I repeated that many times while I was reading. The mangave is truly magnificent. I really like 'snaggle tooth' and "Krocky' named after him as well. He is braver than I to be slicing these beauties in half, incredible.

    1. Tony is a professional grower, so he does things I would have a hard time doing. He also knows that it works, so that helps.

  5. The Krocks are my agave inspiration. Tony is someone I reach out to talk to whether it be about Agave, Aloe, Dudleya, Cactus or just Life. Has become a long term friend even tho I've never met him in person. Can't ask for better people in this world.

    1. I agree! Tony and Holly not only produce fantastic plants, they're also the nicest people.

  6. Great plants and a beautiful front garden.

    Trying to comprehend what you mean by "cut in half", though. He slices through the growing area of the plant but leaves the root system undisturbed? Or slices all the way though the stem and has two separate plants as a result?

    1. I hope to film a video in April. From what I understand, he cuts the plants in half, roots and all.

  7. Superlatives fail me. All of those variegated agaves..., and especially that sport off of Lavender Lady...

    1. Overwhelming, isn't it, especially when you're not used to seeing such rare plants.

  8. Sweet! Lots of agave eye-candy. So many gorgeous plants. That last series of photos is really messing with my head though. The agave completely recovered from being cut in half!?! My god but plants are amazing.


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