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Cacti and Succulents: Should I Repot This Agave?

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DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 7, 2012
9:05 PM

Post #9233747

It is still living in the 6-8in pot it was in when I bought it some 3yrs ago. As you can see it has a 'baby'. I think there is another one on the other side, so it is getting crowded in there. Also I think the parent plant is about to send up a bloom stalk.

It has been living outside in my sunny, south facing front yard year round since I bought it (3+yrs). I've been considering planting one of the babies in the ground in the bed near where the pot is sitting. I know it can take our mild weather, but I'm concerned about our rainfall. We get 52in avg a year, so it can be wet here. My front yard, where I'm thinking of planting it is on an incline which drains excess water to the street, so I figure that will be helpful in keeping it from sitting in water. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether it would be advisable to plant either the parent or baby in the ground here.

Also, does anyone know the name of this agave?

Thanks very much for your help.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Click the image for an enlarged view.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 7, 2012
9:12 PM

Post #9233751

Looks like A. asperrima, and I agree, it won't like all that rain. You would have to make some accommodations before putting one in the ground.
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 7, 2012
9:21 PM

Post #9233755

With the baby agave for a back up, why don't you experiment with one in ground? I would think you could either have a bit of a raised bed with enhanced drainage or plant it near the foundation under the eaves. I did that with succulents a year or two back and it has work well. In addition to receiving less moisture, it provides a warmer microclimate for the succulents to overwinter. Kristi

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 8, 2012
7:54 AM

Post #9234113

Thank you, GermanStar,

I checked plantfiles, and your assessment as to the ID looks right.

As to the rain, I was afraid of that. We also have very severe humidity here, close to 100% for much of summer such that I have to remove my glasses for about 10min when I go outside and have to wait the same length of time before taking pictures as glasses and camera lens fog up completely. Also, my house looks like a frosty beer mug, esp in early morning, with every window 'frosted over'. The agave has been outside for 3yrs or so with all that humidity, but I'm thinking the humidity would increase the effects of wet soil if it were planted in the ground.

Thanks again.

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 8, 2012
8:07 AM

Post #9234136

Thanks podster,

You idea of planting against the foundation is a good one and one I hadn't considered. I have noticed that my roses which are on the SW side of the house and against the foundation do stay quite dry. I wanted to plant it in the front (SSE exposure) but may reconsider. I'll let that idea percolate a bit. It is dry on that side of the yard and very HOT over there against the cream colored house and in direct sun from about 10AM until sundown. That should be a plus.

Would you happen to know if deer eat this type plant? I'm backed up to a forest and have a small heard of deer coming through that small side yard morning and evening on their way to the pond across the street. They consider my roses along the foundation there as there personal buffet line. I would hate to find a giant mouth shape cut out of my agave - or worse.

You mentioned a raised bed. The entire front yard, which is very small - think city - is on a fairly steep incline (est 30-45deg). After a rain, I see streaks and rivers of water running from the front yard, across the sidewalk, and out to the street. I would think the slope would have the same effect as a raised bed. Also the front lawn and the bed where I had planned to plant it stay quite dry. My iris which also prefer dryer soil do extremely well in that front bed, better than anywhere else in my yard. It's hard to keep nutrients there on the slope with the constant runoff, but I figure succulents are accustomed to low nutrient soil.

Edited to fix a typo (not saying their won't be others though) and to add: Thanks again for your help!

This message was edited Aug 8, 2012 11:08 AM

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 8, 2012
8:16 AM

Post #9234149

There are some Agaves that like a little more wet, but most are quite tender. A. asperrima is hardy, but one of the more xeric species. I would suggest picking up a couple A. americana if you want to experiment outdoors. They get rather large, but they're very common and seem to tolerate all manner of abuse.
newtonsthirdlaw
Arlington, TX

August 8, 2012
9:51 AM

Post #9234245

Plant it into a nice larger pot. I suspect it will rot in ground in your area.
C

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
8:30 AM

Post #9242217

Thanks, C,

I still haven't gotten around to repotting it, but I need to do so soon, I think. I checked the pot this AM looking for the 2nd pup which I was sure had been there at one time. I found that it had dried up and was dead. I'm guessing there just wasn't adequate space, moisture, and nutrition in that small pot for 'mom' and both pups. Now I need to repot it before I loose the other pup, too.

I'm leaning towards repotting the large one and planting the pup in the ground as an experiment. I want to be sure to keep the larger one, so that one will be better off (safer) in the pot, I figure. That's in keeping with your suggestion. Then, as podster points out, I can afford to experiment with the pup to see how it does in the ground. If I loose the pup, it's not such a big deal, since I will still have the parent plant - plus I will have learned something.

Whatever happens, I'll report back to let everyone know how it goes.

Thanks for your suggestions.

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
8:55 AM

Post #9242275

GermanStar,

I'll keep an eye out for the one you suggested. Actually, I don't see a lot of agaves at nurseries and garden centers in my area - for obvious reasons, I'm guessing. Years ago I fell in love with cacti and succulents and kept a large and somewhat foreboding collection indoors - including 2 cacti that were w/in inches of the ceiling. Even back then when I was collecting succulents, I was never able to find an agave in local stores, even though I did occasionally see a large one growing outdoors in someone's yard.

After years of wanting an agave of almost any type, I quickly grabbed the A. asperrima (pictured above) the moment I saw it for sale at a local home center.

Now, I have acquired a new agave. I saw it earlier this morning at a local farmer's market. Remembering your suggestion about A. americana, I asked if the agave was for sale and if the lady knew its name. She had no idea the name but said that I could have it. How nice was that? I've attached a pic below. Any Idea as to the ID of this one? (anyone)

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring   Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Click an image for an enlarged view.

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
9:13 AM

Post #9242303

If anyone can ID the new agave I picked up the AM (pictured above), PLMK.

Also, when viewing the new agave (above), please note the dry soil around the pot. That's the are where I would like to plant the agave(s). It's on an incline of 40% or so. This causes rainwater to run off very quickly so that the soil there stays very dry. That soil is definitely not soggy. It's as hard as a stone, so hard that I once bent a stainless steel trowel while trying to chip away at the soil to dig a planting hole. The reason I pointed out how dry the top of the soil is in the picture (take a few minutes ago) is that we are currently in what I call the monsoon season. It has rained every day, mostly late afternoon and evening thunderstorms, for the past 3 weeks. The backyard which is not on an incline is soggy, but the front yard is bone dry. (The front yard incline is so steep that it's dangerous to try to climb a step ladder on the driveway, plus if you set a 6ft stepladder beside the house, the top of the ladder will be some 4-6ft away from the house - due to the incline.)

Lastly, I have some new info to add to the mix, because the lady at the farmer's market took me outside to show me her huge agave (parent of the new one pictured above) - and it's growing directly in the ground just a little over a mile down the road from my house. Hers is planted right out in her lawn, near the forest edge. It's planted on fairly level ground which would be more inclined to retain water than my inclined front yard. She says it has been there for 3yrs. It's lovely, large, and shows no signs of stress. It has peppered the ground around it (about 1ft away) with pups. This leads me to believe that I can, at least, plant this new agave directly in the ground. I'll start with a pup 1st to be safe. As you can see there are several pups in the new pot.

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
9:23 AM

Post #9242316

I have more pics and can easily take more still if those above are not sufficient to support an ID. I'm hoping it's not the same one I already have. I looks different to me: longer/narrower 'leaves', noticeably different/blue color even on the one growing in the ladies yard in full sun. It has the same prickly/jagged leaf edges as my other one, but this one seems much more lanky.

Baja_Costero

Baja_Costero
Baja California
Mexico
(Zone 11)

August 15, 2012
10:45 AM

Post #9242376

It would be easiest to ID the plant if you can take a picture of the large established mother down the road. It could be an americana. The lanky look is just as likely due to growing conditions (primarily light) as species.

I planted most of the agaves here on a slope like the one you're describing (30-40 degrees in many places). We get 1/5 of the rain that you do, so the situation is not all that similar, but there are advantages to an incline, not least the fact that excess water runs off and plants are nicely displayed for passers by. For most plants, summer rain is less likely to cause problems than winter rain (especially persistent wet when it's cold), but if you've seen this plant growing happily in the ground where you are, then it should do fine.

It's probably best if you include a lot of rock or grit when you backfill around the plant so the drainage is super fast. And make sure that water doesn't pool around the plant. When you install it, place it a little high in the hole. Then when the soil subsides and everything settles down, it won't be sitting in a depression.

Plan ahead for a large, spiny plant when you do the installation, in order to avoid having to prune and disfigure the plant down the road. Probably 6 feet across minimum. For that reason I would not recommend placing it under the eaves close to the house. You've seen the mother plant so you know the dimensions. Also be aware that some regular maintenance is going to be required to remove extra pups if the plant is prolific like you describe. You can leave them in there, but I like to leave large agaves to grow as solitary plants. Plus then you get to play with pups in pots (and they make great gifts too).

Good luck!

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
11:16 AM

Post #9242400

Thanks, Baja,

The lady who gave me the 2nd agave invited me to come back anytime, and I could tell that she was sincere. We talked 'plants' and seemed to hit it off well. I had planned to go back next week (busy this week). I'll take my camera along to get pics of the parent plant. Thanks for that idea.

While I was planning to amend the soil in preparation for planting and appreciate the info you provided on this, it is interesting to note that the lady, when asked, said she did nothing but dig a hole, plop the agave in it, and backfill with the same soil - right there in the lawn. I was more than a little shocked. We are on the Atlantic ocean. I live just a few miles (a short bike ride) from the ocean. Unless amended most soil around here has a very thin layer of top soil over layers of sand and clay (limestone, a grey-white clay, which I think is largely the result of hundreds of years of oyster and other sea shells breaking down).

I poked around PF a bit in an effort to ID the new plant. I also though A. americana a possible match. It also seems a good match in that the plant is doing so well in conditions so different from its origins. Unfortunately, there were others which, to my eye, also looked like possible matches, and I quickly learned that there are a LOT of agaves. The lady did not know the plant's ID; however, she said the person from whom she obtained it called it 'The Century Plant'. I didn't mention this earlier or give it much credence, since common names mean little if anything at all. That said, I did notice that A. americana is one of a number of agaves commonly labeled 'Century Plant'.

Thanks for your help and all the info.

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 15, 2012
11:21 AM

Post #9242405

My memory of the parent plant was that it seemed to have something of an urn shape. Unlike the smaller plant, it's leaves seemed to be fairly vertical, forming the sides of the urn, up to about 4-5ft at which point they (or some of them) 'broke' back, forming the rim of the urn. I will endeavor to get a picture of it, but thought I would add this from memory in the mean time.

Baja_Costero

Baja_Costero
Baja California
Mexico
(Zone 11)

August 15, 2012
11:35 AM

Post #9242421

DreamOfSpring wrote:she did nothing but dig a hole, plop the agave in it, and backfill with the same soil - right there in the lawn.


That's what most people do with agaves here (minus the lawn). Lots of extra TLC is generally not needed, especially with americanas, which tend to grow like weeds. We are close to the ocean here. They don't do well right by the water (probably because of salt spray)... but a block away there's no problem, even with the prevailing west winds. Some agaves like limestone (it depends on where they come from), but few like clay (esp. with lots of rain). Break up heavy soil with gravel or whatever you have on hand. You don't need to dig a deep hole. That can actually work against you when the soil subsides.

There are indeed a whole lot of different agaves out there, and GermanStar is a better person to ask for a proper ID. The term "Century Plant" is common but not useful for identification (not to mention inaccurate).

This message was edited Aug 15, 2012 10:35 AM

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 15, 2012
12:06 PM

Post #9242462

DreamOfSpring wrote:GermanStar,

I'll keep an eye out for the one you suggested. Actually, I don't see a lot of agaves at nurseries and garden centers in my area - for obvious reasons, I'm guessing. Years ago I fell in love with cacti and succulents and kept a large and somewhat foreboding collection indoors - including 2 cacti that were w/in inches of the ceiling. Even back then when I was collecting succulents, I was never able to find an agave in local stores, even though I did occasionally see a large one growing outdoors in someone's yard.

After years of wanting an agave of almost any type, I quickly grabbed the A. asperrima (pictured above) the moment I saw it for sale at a local home center.

Now, I have acquired a new agave. I saw it earlier this morning at a local farmer's market. Remembering your suggestion about A. americana, I asked if the agave was for sale and if the lady knew its name. She had no idea the name but said that I could have it. How nice was that? I've attached a pic below. Any Idea as to the ID of this one? (anyone)


That is almost certainly A. americana. Pot it up and get it as nice and healthy as you can, then try it on a slope outside. If it won't make it, I wouldn't bother trying any others.
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 15, 2012
5:04 PM

Post #9242814

Good information. I hadn't given thought to it becoming massive in size when I suggested planting under the eaves.

If I can suggest before you place it in ground, I would dig the hole and fill it with water, timing the perking (how long it will take it to drain). That will give you a better idea if the soil is suited for a succulent or not.

Very pretty Agave DreamOfSpring. How nice of that lady to share. I love the pattern on the leaves also.

Does anyone know if the first agave pictured will grow equally large? Kristi

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 15, 2012
5:33 PM

Post #9242853

It will not, but being a more xeric species, it isn't likely to tolerate the amount of moisture A. americana will.
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 15, 2012
5:40 PM

Post #9242865

Thanks for that information. I hope to never be too old to learn. Kristi

DreamOfSpring

DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC
(Zone 9a)

August 16, 2012
2:39 AM

Post #9243171

Thanks, Baja,

Thanks for all the much needed planting tips.

Baja_Costero

Baja_Costero
Baja California
Mexico
(Zone 11)

August 16, 2012
2:50 PM

Post #9243880

Just sharing my experience, hope it helps. The size thing can really sneak up on you. I had to remove the first americana I installed here because it was too close to the house and starting to get out of hand. Meanwhile I started a pup along the road... but way too close to traffic, and so I had to dig that one up too. Third time's the charm. The sole survivor from that line is a pup of that pup which I placed on a steep slope far away from people or traffic, where it can grow as gnarly as it likes, and so far so good.

It would be fun to see a picture of how this all ends up, when the time is right.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 16, 2012
3:02 PM

Post #9243891

Yeah, and it isn't something that you may have to deal with at some point in the unimaginably distant future. I planted a small A. americana pup (12") two years ago last May. Sucker is now better than 4'.

GermanStar

GermanStar
Fountain Hills, AZ
(Zone 9b)

August 16, 2012
3:03 PM

Post #9243895

^Oh , and generated at least 30 pups.

Baja_Costero

Baja_Costero
Baja California
Mexico
(Zone 11)

August 16, 2012
3:22 PM

Post #9243911

This is the plant I was talking about (variegated americana in first picture). Second picture shows a regular blue americana like yours. If you look closely you can see some of the leaves on the blue plant are all wrinkly (like at the center). That's drought stress because it's been four months since it rained, and I've been withholding water. I guess you don't have to worry about drought stress in Charleston. I'll probably break down and water it, but the wrinkly look will go away when the rain comes back in the fall, and the plant will be just fine.

Thumbnail by Baja_Costero   Thumbnail by Baja_Costero
Click an image for an enlarged view.

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