Torrey Pines Landscape Company

Torrey Pines Landscape Company
As featured in Ranch & Coast Magazine ( design by )

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Agaves...easy-care with dramatic flair

Agaves are an easy-care succulent that can tolerate less than ideal conditions while providing a dramatic silhouette in your San Diego garden. They predominantely are native to Mexico. They range in size from 6" across to 10' wide and 4' high. With the exception of Agave attenuata,which eventually forms a trunk, most agave's are stemless rosettes. They all have tapered leaves that spiral outward and upward. The leaf shape, size and margin features vary with species. Most are monocarpic meaning they flower once then die, but it takes years for an agave to mature to bloom and the flower stalk is magnificent. During flowering, a tall stem (bloom spike) grows from the center of the rosette and bears a large number of tubular flowers. They usually reproduce from seeds, bublis (plants that form along the bloom stalk) or pups (new plants from lateral roots). Their shallow root system and dramatic shapes make the smaller varieties an excellent choice for containers. Maintenance requirements are low. The leaves may shrivel a bit with serious drought, but plump up again with watering or rainfall. Most are truly hardy, doing well in our full sun and weathering our winters. Grooming an agave is easy: snip the sharp tips, remove any dirt or debris that may have fallen into the crown and when cutting, trim flush with the stem. Designing a garden with agaves may not be for everyone. Most species have rigid spikes at the tips and sharp teeth along the margins as well as toxic sap. The juice from many species can cause acute contact dermatitis, a reddening and blistering than can continue to itch even after the rash has disappeared. The dried parts of the plant can be handled without risk. It's not the go-to plant for a garden that will host rambunctious children or curious pets. Don't despair if those are your circumstances because Agave attenuata is just the ticket for you. It is "user-friendly" meaning the smooth leaves have no vicious barbs or points.

Agave americana - Century Plant (so named for the time one must wait before it blooms...poetic license here...depending on the conditions and plant, it usually can bloom after 10 years) They are large (10' wide), with blue-green leaves and formidable hooked spines along the margins. The flower stalk (15 - 40' tall) bears yellow to green flowers. The 'Medio Alba' variety is smaller (3-4' high/wide) has bold stripes and a more graceful undulating leaf.

Agave villmoriniana - Octopus agave has blue green leaves that undulate, as though swept by an ocean current and curl inward creating a tubular look. This is another soft or user-friendly agave

Agave parryi - has a silver blue-gray wide leaf with reddish black serrated edges and tips. Growing to about 2' high and wide, this tight rosette is frost tolerant.

Agave victoriae-reginae - has dark green rigid and blunt leaves with thin white stripes that end in black points. Because of its natural symmetry, this is gorgeous when grown in a container

Agave geminiflora has thin, narrow flexible leaves that grow out from the center like a perennial fire-work exploding.

Agaves are surging in popularity for San Diego's landscapes, let us at Torrey Pines Landscape Co., help you to incorporate these dramatic, easy-care gems into your garden.

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