Saturday, August 11, 2007

Agave "Litter" Saves The Day

Agave desmettiana

Agave desmettiana is a beautiful, urn shaped Agave that does very well in the Phoenix area, except during a rare hard freeze, such as the one we had here last winter. This Agave suffered some damage to its lower leaves, which left it a little unattractive as a focal plant in my garden. The A. desmettiana freely produces offsets, so I decided to let the pups remain and grow in order to cover up the damaged areas. The photo shows the result of that decision. I like the look, but I will have to thin the pups because they will soon distort from overcrowding. Under normal circumstances, I would remove the pups when small and pot them, or perhaps move a few to other areas of my garden. The graceful A. desmettiana should really stand alone.

The A. desmettiana is probably native to Sinaloa, Mexico, and is popular because it has smooth leaves. However, the terminal spine is just as sharp and dangerous as the other Agaves, so it needs to be located accordingly. Known as the Smooth-leafed Agave or the Regal Agave, it is often used as a container plant because of its elegant shape.

There is a variegated version that has a yellow stripe on the margins, as well as one with minor teeth along the margins. Its leaves are usually a dark green, but there are specimens available with paler leaves that won’t take as much sun. The yellow striped variant, usually grown in containers, is more popular in other parts of the country.

Some shade protection is recommended for the A. desmettiana in Phoenix, but my plant receives full sun all day without any damage. It requires little, but regular watering every couple of weeks in summer. The average size is three feet by three feet, but mine has already reached four feet high.

In the animal world, a litter of pups may bring unexpected problems. In the plant world, a "litter" of pups can sometimes save the day, as they did for my frost damaged A. desmettiana.

1 comment:

MrBrownThumb said...

You're so lucky to have such beauties growing in your garden.