Sizzling Agaves

Casa Grande, AZ

New to DG.
Any help for growing successful Agaves in 110 plus AZ heat? Moved into a home recently with a crowded front yard full of gorgeous S.W. plants. :D The back is pretty full also. The problem is I don't know what to do for my Agaves? They're looking fried. Of course I water them but that doesn't seem to help. They still look scorched a little or just shriveled up on some parts. Afraid to overwater because I know they don't like this and I don't want to give them root rot.
Also I am not sure about moving them. Most are in full sun or get very little shade. They are too big to be considered pups although I wouldn't call them fully mature adult plants. Would it be better for me to wait until next Spring to see if I could relocate them to better spots?

Reno, NV(Zone 6b)


Did you bring the Agaves with you from your former home? If so, where was that?

Were the Agaves already planted in your new yard?

Are you trying to add them to your new yard?

Were they in pots? Did you plant them and now what to re-plant them?

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi Agavegirl, right now just about anything is having a tough time. The spring was really mild and wet and then it went from mid-high 90s one day to 105 the next day and then a continuous run of 115s.... just about everything in my yard (including a lot of Agaves) is looking like a heat gun was held next to it.
Now the questions that Daisy is asking are valid, it is not quite clear from your message if you had those Agaves recently planted or if you brought them with you, or if they were already there - I think the latter - but I am not sure. Even if they were already there, they could still have been planted recently if they are relatively small - any idea as to what Agaves they are? If not post some pictures there are plenty of people who can help ID them and then we can also figure out if they are going to be OK with AZ Full Sun.

Turns out that most Agaves have a tough time in the low desert, there are some that will grow here in the full sun without much help, but not really that many, and they still need to be introduced to the full sun gradually.

If you are really concerned that they might not survive get a roll of shade cloth at a big box store and cover the plants with pieces of the cloth cut from the roll, do not forget to anchor them with a rock or something. My yard is full of little shade cloth tents at the moment, because I have a lot of newly planted stuff (Cacti, Agaves and Aloes) after two big Agaves bloomed and I lost two big trees last Fall. The lack shade from the trees is making even some well established plants look bad, but the new stuff clearly did not know what hit it. Hence the shade cloth tents.

Next establish a watering schedule. I am not sure if you are hand watering or if you have an irrigation system, if the latter, you can probably get it setup so that it provides the Agaves some water every few days. If the former you can probably hose things down once or twice a week in the heat of summer (I water at the end of the day when the scorching sun is mostly gone).
Normally I water just once a week (with a hose) in summer, and a lot less frequent or not at all in the rest of the year. Right now I am probably upping it to twice a week until this heatwave passes.
Once the monsoon actually hits you need to become a little more careful with watering as we might actually get some rain in July/August/September, things stay much wetter longer (somewhat higher humidity and the occasional rain) and then is when an extra load of water can cause root rot, but right now things dry out very very quickly...

Good luck!

Casa Grande, AZ

Hi gang!
Yes, I brought 2 of my Agaves from my former home. I live in Casa Grande, AZ presently. My house was in Florence previously. Only about a 20 mile difference but what a difference in soil. Not sure what you call it but the soil in Florence was...shall we say cement that you needed a jack hammer to get through. The stuff here in C.G. is wonderful. Sandy, rich, holds moisture 2 or 3 days but dries out a lot faster than the stuff in my former place.
The rest of the Agave's I bought and put in. They were in the basic generic black plastic pots but I planted them either that very day or the next. I used good cactus/succulent potting soil and even threw in a few handfuls of the native dirt so it wouldn't go into complete shock. I gently opened up the root ball too before planting. Husband helped me dig the holes so I knew they were deep enough and the plants are on a little mound so they're not submerged.
I hand water. I do it about 2-3 times a week. Just not sure what the "appropriate" amount is.
Read so much conflicting info. They don't like a lot of water, are tough plants, etc. But they look so pathetic and like they're crying out for tons of it. So instead of once a week I stepped it up to twice. They look a little better but still sad. They did get bombarded with rain when we had it...tons of it for almost a week. They looked mushy. Then they semi recovered and perked up. Now all of a sudden it got scorching hot and they're looking sad again. Sigh.
Maybe they're just getting fried? If so will they recover or just die.
I've been watering a.m. Is that bad?
I will post a few pictures a little later.
Gotta get read for the day.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi Agavegirl,

As with all plants the answer to some of your questions will depend which Agaves we are talking about.

* From my experience I would say the following about watering: most of the Agaves that will be able to thrive in the AZ low desert, will take water, but do not like wet feet, ie. as long as they can quickly dry out, they will take any water you give them. Unfortunately it is not always clear even from digging holes in your yard how well the water drains, because if you dug down 2 feet and the caliche layer (that rock hard almost impossible to get through soil layer that you encounter almost everywhere here) was at 2.5 feet, then you would think you were OK, and water may look to drain quickly from the surface but still pool down quite close to the Agave's 'feet'. So you still have to be careful.
* Also in my experience Agaves are much better able to deal with excessive amounts of rain water vs. hose water. Probably related to many things, but in many of the desert areas the tap water is slightly alkali (ie. pH >7) whereas rainwater is very slightly acidic (pH just a little less than 7).
* In well draining soil, watering 2-3 time/week is probably not a big deal, especially given the sudden weather change to the scorching temperatures we have been having, but normally most Agaves should not need water that often to be able to thrive.
* AM watering should not hurt, but is less efficient as a lot more evaporation will happen as you will be getting the full heat of a day in the sun, so less water will be effectively available to your plants. Some people will say that water drops on the plant can act as magnifying glasses and cause areas of sunburn, I have no experience with that, but on paper it is definitely possible given the extreme high UV levels out here.
* A good drenching less often is much better than small amounts more frequently.

Regarding the sun:
* Did you get the Agaves at home depot or any other big box store? Or from a nursery? If the former, those are likely all Agaves that were grown in California and they need a significant adjustment period before they can take any kind of full summer sun... some may never adjust and may indeed just fry and die if not covered with shade cloth or moved to a shady spot.
If the latter you should be able to talk to the nursery about their plant sources and what care they need, and if the nursery grew them under shade cloth or not. If they did the plants again will need an adjustment period.
* If you got locally grown Agaves you should be in much better shape than if they come from a big box store, even if they were under shade cloth at the nursery, as those plants are at least used to the temperatures here, they might just need to acclimatization to the sun, so for that I would suggest the shade cloth tents.
* If these are big box store plants I would suggest shade cloth as well, but in the long run, I'd suggest finding a way to give those plants a bunch of shade at least part of the day (including going as far as moving them).
* I buy a lot of Agaves on eBay and from online nurseries many of which come from southern California and even the plants that come from places that swear they grew them in full sun still need a little time to get acclimatized. As in addition to the sun in all likelihood they way I water and feed them is completely different from the nursery - almost all of those places are 'producing' plants more than growing them, so they will have specialized watering and feeding programs, etc. Things that the plants usually do not get when they are planted in your yard, so they need to acclimatize and get used to the new environment not just the sun, but also to the watering and feeding regime. Some will adjust quickly others can take a few years - depending on the type of Agave, the changed conditions, etc.

Well that took my lunch break and then some, have to get back to work. Good luck.

Reno, NV(Zone 6b)

You may have been too kind when you planted them. If your soil was already sandy but held the moisture for a couple days, I would have just planted them in the native soil, no extra soil. The problem might be that your soil is now holding the moisture too well.

Agaves are native to areas with rocky nutrient poor fast draining soil.

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

The big box stores will not hesitate to sell you plants that can't take the low desert heat. It would be worthwhile to figure out what specific agaves you have. They are not equally tolerant of extreme conditions.

We have very poor soil here (mostly sand and rocks) and I would not consider installing an agave without amending the soil in the hole first. It's not a concern with large, old plants ($$$) but with the more economical size I usually install (1-3 gallon) I think it matters. If you match whatever organic matter you put in with an good amount of light rock (eg. pumice), you will be improving nutrition and drainage. My approach has always been to leave the root ball intact, and backfill around it with a mixture of 50/50 native soil and compost/pumice. The mixture helps the agave roots navigate outward without imposing an artificial (hard) barrier.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

In my experience, I would say that mcvansoest is spot on with his advice. Follow his suggestions; it's your best shot at success.

Casa Grande, AZ

Wow! You guys know so much and give good advice! O.K. here's my fried up agaves. The one is deceptive because my camera is good and adjusts color. But originally it is supposed to be a lovely super charged chartreuse green and the variegated parts a buttery cream. The whole think looks like it got a bleach job with peroxide. The others are staying a dark green but I can see them starting to fade a little especially the lighter part. I'm thinking I did o.k. with the soil because it is sand, I used the good cactus mix and threw in a few handfuls of our dirt just to help fill it up. I also tossed some of the landscaping rock in or it just fell in and I figured it wouldn't hurt because there's plenty of rock in the soil anyway.
The one that looks like petrified wood I completely removed from the ground put in a pot on my back patio in the shade and have watered it a little each day. It's needed it since the soil is 100% dry (stuck my whole index finger down) Once I can do this and it feels damp I'll taper off the watering. The inside of this thing appears to be alive/growing (?) but the outside is just a waste. Does anyone else have one that looks like this? Is this going to resurrect its self? I feel like a bad plant mommy. :[

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Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi Agavegirl,
I do not have a positive ID on all of those plants, some just look a little too sad to get a good sense of what they would normally look like.
Pic. 1: Agave guiengola creme brûlée - does not take full sun here in the low desert, just does not. Needs at least some shade in the afternoon. I have a regular guigengola that was unhappy until a bush it was planted near grew big enough to shade it from the afternoon sun. Since then it has been happy and growing away.
This plant is very very frost sensitive, I lost 4 pups when it got down to about 30F this winter - complete mush. Bigger plants in the ground probably do a little better, but these plants need to b protected not just from the sun but also from the cold.
Pic. 2: Not sure what that is pups from the guiengola? I'd need more of a close up if not pups from the plant in pic. 1. Do not actually look too bad, but it is somewhat hard to see.
Pic. 3: A. americana medio picta alba: should take full sun, but probably needs to be acclimatized - it is not looking too bad (mine that got planted out this spring and gets just a little more shade than yours is looking about the same, just a little less thirsty). I would suggest some shade cloth to get it through June-July and then when the monsoon hits, gradually uncover.
This plant is very sensitive to wet feet and has been known to get rot really quickly from being too wet. So watch the watering with this one. Once it establishes and starts putting on some size it is a beautiful plant!
Pics. 4 and 5: not sure what it is, but it will recover in time. Good shade and careful watering. From the looks it will likely never be a full sun plant here in the low desert.

I'd think about moving the guiengola and/or if you can provide it some permanent afternoon shade. Morning sun should be OK.


Casa Grande, AZ

Hi Thijs,
I believe you are right about the name of the first.
Yes the photo of number 2 are the pups. They had been off to a good start.
Glad my A. Americana medio picto alba isn't looking too bad. I'll give it another shot of H2O.
Last 2 photos I have no idea what that little guy is except exhausted. He's supposed to be a brilliant jade green with smooth and plump leaves and he's got no spines. I refuse to let him die; especially since he's so green inside and keeps producing new leaves. I just keep him in the pot in the shade on my porch and monitor the soil water daily. It seems to be helping.
Smack forehead...roll eyes. I have a tree a few feet behind all of these. Want to know what I did when I first planted my Agaves early spring?
PRUNED the tree!

My logic was.. "Oh, now I live in a desert, and have a big yard where I have room for more than 2 agaves. Look at all of them in the public places in subdivisions and out there just sitting in the medians in the middle of the road or growing in yucky dirt. Agaves must looooove all that sun! See, they're in it all year round. Just plant them and let them shake and bake. They'll be happy and grow big. I don't want the tree shading them so let's just prune the tree!"
(Einstein here didn't think to poke around on the internet to find you guys and learn something first about S.W gardening and Agaves!)

Going to store to get materials for plant shades and will make some today.. Will be putting them up tomorrow.
Thanks guys for all the advice. You've all been so helpful.
I don't have a whole lot more to add here but I will let you know their progress.
One good thing the temperatures will be lowering to 111-104 the next couple days and in 4 days we have a 10% chance of rain and on the 5th day a 60% chance which means we will most likely get it! :D

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Hi Agavegirl1,

We are all here to exchange ideas, experiences and ask questions that is what sites like this are great for. It'd be great to see the progress of your plants. You should be able to keep them all alive. The tree will grow back! And they do need pruning otherwise it might have a really rough time with the monsoon storms (with which I unfortunately have frequent experience).
There are a lot of Agaves out in the medians, but you will notice that they are usually only a very limited number of different species - those known to take the sun here. I am always pleasantly surprised when I come across something unexpected. They do however also get watered, depending on where you are some might even be on a drip system.

After looking at it some more I am going to go out on a limb and ID the last plant as an Aloe sp. iso an Agave. I was not really thinking of that, but a closer look at the leaves suggests that is what it is, which one, I am not able to tell you. With them it is the same story: there are some that will be OK here in the full sun, but really not that many, most like at least some afternoon shade, and they also need careful introduction to any kind of sun (and in many cases frost protection). I grow a bunch of them and got to the ones that I currently have mostly through trial and error, lost some to the sun and some to over watering.

Fingers crossed for the rain!


This message was edited Jun 24, 2015 12:08 PM

Casa Grande, AZ

Does anyone do Century Plants? My neighbor's is doing it's Swan Song and has produced an amazing flowering stalk that peeks above the tree next to it and over the roof! Amazing to see. Know it is a beast but also just amazing when you think of the years, time, effort and energy that it puts into engineering this marvel. Every time I walk my dog I just stop and stare. I never tire of it.
I did battle with it (and have the wounds to prove it) in collecting some pups. These I know you can just shove in dirt and they grow. The pups are large and hardy and look quite happy. Unlike my other Agaves I'm not worried. I did shove those under the tree in my yard where there's dappled sun. I have about 4 of them. I figured I have PLENTY of time before they become worrisome enough for me to even think about having to move them.
My neighbor is going to be cutting down the plant soon and removing "mom". The amount of pups it has just from the peek that I could get was ridiculous! I could only imagine what's under it and closer to it.
I can't bear to see them all just get thrown out. Neighbor is not a gardener/lover of plants. I thought about taking as many as I could tossing them in pots for the winter and keeping them in a sunny room in my house. In spring I would take them out to the actual desert close to the mountains and just give each one plenty of space and just plant them.
I'll post some pictures of the plant later.
Also not related but just for fun I'll post on the area that deals with Prickly Pears the "Prickly Pear vs. Mini Van". Another neighbor has a P.P. at the end of his drive. He also owns a mini van that was parked out in the drive next to it. They're the exact same size!

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Agave flowers are really something to see. We have a couple of the big monsters flowering right by the highway and they are 15-20 feet already. Here are a couple of photos of a dwarf agave about to flower in the local park. It doesn't get more than about 8 inches across, but makes up for it by offsetting like crazy (all the offsets have been removed here).

Your experience with agaves in the desert will be very different from our experience in the cool coastal Californias, where most agaves can easily take day-long sun. I don't water the big ones at all, meaning they go for months without water every summer. It's great that you can get some useful advice from Thijs and the other desert dwellers.

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Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Here is A. weberi in my front yard about two weeks ago. Stalk is about 35 foot or tall. It has since started to lean as the flowers are trying to develop (the heat here is likely going to fry them before they open - this plant has bad timing for its flowering). It is looking for a touchdown in my neighbor's yard so I have the chainsaw ready when it does so.
Got two more left of that size, but more pups than I know what to do with.
I know the feeling of not wanting to throw plants away, but I have just about saturated my friends with those pups and more just keep coming... so with those and with prickly pear pads I have managed to overcome the reluctance.

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Casa Grande, AZ

Wow guys, such beautiful plants! Really like the dwarf agave. It's sweet and petite. Good option for people that don't want something that spreads but doesn't mind the height. Mcvansoest your beast is beautiful! Just make sure you've got on long sleeves, long pants, leather gloves (duh) and protective goggles. Don't need to tell you about the sap and 1-7 day itch and rash factor. I got it for 1 day from just digging up pups.Thorns and spines already a given.
I'm going to see if I can save and successfully nurse over winter some of the offsets. Hopefully I won't kill them (eyeroll). If I'm successful I'll set them free in the desert in Spring. Hey if they live I'll be happy. The rest maybe I'll just give away to a nursery. Friends kind of look at me like I'm nuts or in horror and disgust when I suggest they take one, or two, or three....
Gotta go for the day but enjoy. Will post pics soon.

Casa Grande, AZ

Pictures of Century Plant and the monster Prickly Pear versus red mini van and car! Now that's a beast! Don't know which one I'd rather have in my yard.

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Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

No kidding about agave-induced injury. I bear many scars from my prickly friends.

That weberi is looking tall and proud (I like the wiggles at the end of the stalk).

Agavegirl, that looks like the kind of agave that may produce bulbils (plantlets on the inflorescence).... you may end up with hundreds of them. It will be fun to see where that goes.

Quote from Agavegirl1 :
Good option for people that don't want something that spreads but doesn't mind the height.

That original photo was misleading... the agave offsets like crazy actually. I could even imagine using it as a sort of prickly groundcover, with the right spacing.

This little clump started as a pair of medium-sized (for this agave) plants a couple of years ago. The only reason the "big" plant above is alone is because I de-pupped it at an advanced age. Flower closeup here (they're at eye level)... not quite there yet. And a photo showing where another solo agave flowered and died last spring (look for the round exposed rootball in the center), only to leave three offspring in the aftermath.

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Casa Grande, AZ

Now I understand why people looked at me like I was a whackadoodle that needed a one way trip to the nut hut when I suggested they take SEVERAL pups.
Uhm....maybe I need to rethink my winter Century Plant in home pot nusery-Spring desert release idea.
Hey, can't blame a plant loving gal with good intentions. Do they have some kind of "family planning" for these things you can put in their water? Still hate the idea of seeing all those beautiful plants just "trashed".
Aside from donating them to a nursery so they can sell them or maybe a botanical garden I can't think of a more useful or "kind" thing to do with them. Any ideas anyone?

Oh, what did you guys think of the P.P. vs. automobile?

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Quote from Baja_Costero :
(I like the wiggles at the end of the stalk).

Interestingly another weberi that flowered last year did exactly the same thing, almost as if it is an actual feature.

I think the flowering Agave that Agavegirl is showing is A. murpheyi.

If you want that P.P. just ask for a pad in a few years you will have a giant like that as well.
I have one that is aiming for the skies (about 12 feet tall or so at the moment).

Regarding the pups: If it is two or three keep them, if it is more, unless it is something special no one will take them - at least in my experience. So you have to get yourself accustomed to the fact that they go in the bin. However hard that may be (and I know how hard it is), I still have two big pots with about 30 weberi pups from last year's plant... and 3 big ones in individual pots, no clue what to do with them. Put them on Craig's list maybe...

Casa Grande, AZ

Adore the weberi. Still think it's quite cute and petite in comparison to the beast I photographed. Love the wiggles too. I can see the baby problem here also though. Didn't realize these things reproduced like this! Do these plants come with a "warning" about that before you buy them?
You're probably right mcvansoest about the plant I photographed. I had assumed it was A. Americanus.
I'm going to take about 12 pups and see if they'll live in pots during the winter indoors. If they thrive I'll put a couple more out doors in some empty spots I have in the Spring. I figure I have plenty of time to enjoy them before they become a nuisance and I need to move them. I guess I'll take the rest to a nursery and see if they want them. Still can't bear the thought of the garbage bin. :{

Will have to see if I can make my P.P. owning neighbor's acquaintance. We moved here about 2 months ago. They're on the other side of the loop from me. I don't think they saw me dancing around their plant and car like a loon with my camera. I kind of like to get to know them before taking a hunk of their plant. :D I don't know the cops out here like I did in the last place I lived.

Got some shade on my Agaves up front. The "petrified" one is still growing inside. Let's see if it becomes the come back kid.
So what is everyone else's favorite Agave? Got pictures?
Since we all live relatively close has anyone thought about getting together and just kind of going on little neighborhood walking tours or having "pup and clipping" exchanges?

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Prickly pears (we call them nopales here in Mexico) are generally tree-like in dimensions after a few years. I aggressively prune the ones in the ground here so they don't get too huge.

Speaking from experience, the only gift agaves that anybody around here wants are big ones or uncommon ones. The more a plant offsets, the less people tend to want it. I have a big box of offsets that somebody donated to the local park, and most of them are going into the compost (I took the biggest 3 to grow on).

The best agave around here (and it's not common in gardens) is the native Agave shawii. It does offset (not out of hand) but there's a huge amount of variation out there so it's fun to grow from seed. Here's one that's maybe 8 years old (2 pups hidden behind).

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Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Quote from Agavegirl1 :
Adore the weberi. Still think it's quite cute and petite in comparison to the beast I photographed. Love the wiggles too.

I think you must be mixing the plants up. The weberi's stalk probably has at least 5-10 feet of height on the monster you photographed. Plant was a good 6-7 feet tall when the leaves were upright and not dying, with a width of at least 10, but more like 12 feet across. The plant that Baja posted could be described as cute and petite, but is not A. weberi. Not sure about its ID, but would guess some kind of miniature A. potatorum, or maybe A. isthmensis, and there are other options as well.

At the moment my favorite Agave is A. xylonacantha. Photo will follow.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Here is the picture. It does not like Phoenix full sun - I got this one big and it was originally under the shade of a tree, but the tree is gone after the big storms we got last September (2014). I almost dug it up to move it, but after the relatively wet winter and spring it looked so good that I decided to keep it in the ground, but now for the summer it lives in a shade tent.
I have a smaller one in the ground in a different part of the yard that is taking the sun just fine, but I got that from a local nursery. Took a year to acclimatize. So there is hope for the big one, but for now I am content to give it shade for the summer months.

The teeth on this plant are absolutely amazing. I have no close ups here on my computer, will have to be home for that.

Baja, I love the A. shawii, hard to grow here in the low desert I hear, have been meaning to try but the only source I have found so far is eBay - nurseries I visited do not have them here or only fairly bland versions - and stuff on eBay has not been spectacular either. That is a gorgeous plant!

Other favorites: A. parrasana, A. parryi (any variety), A. bovicornuta, A. cupreata, A. margaritae, and A. zebra, but some of the local AZ varieties when grown correctly (ie. not babied) are spectacular too, but really hard to make happen in your yard, easier to go drive around in the wild to observe them. Then there are the giants: A. salmiana, A. americana, A. sisalana, A. weberi, A. mapisaga, A. atrovirens, and A. tecta (though those last 3 ones, which are the real giants are not supposed to grow to full size here in the desert), and soon the list gets very long!

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Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

If you want to try A. shawii in the desert you would benefit from seeking out ssp. goldmanniana, the larger southern form which grows in hotter and drier areas. The version from here (ssp. shawii) only grows in extremely mild coastal locations. Presumably the Arizona growers have this sorted out.

A. xylonacantha, the chainsaw agave. What a fierce plant it is.

Casa Grande, AZ

Mcvansoest most likely right in me mixing up names. Still learning. Envy everyone's ability to know the real names so easily. I have tendency to use the generics (eye roll) for fear of sounding like an idiot. Am spending time looking at identification list and trying to learn one a day. Would it be a safe assumption to say anything "century plant" with a stalk is BIG....really big? There's no such thing as "petite" with them?
Really looking forward to seeing the A. xylonacantha. Curiosity is definitely peaked.

Baja, since I've seen the size of the Prickly Pears/Nopales here I can understand why you manicure yours so well. Also beautiful A. shawii. Quite a beauty. You're lucky to live in Mexico which is home to so many plants that we don't have here. Have you ever been to Isla Santa Catalina to see the "forests" of towering cacti? It's always been a dream vacation of mine; not just to see the cacti but the wild life, marine life and beaches.

So far my top favorites have to be A. Americana; A. guiengola crème brule; and A. Salimana and not sure of correct name but common name would be "Octopus Agave".
Not exactly the most exotic or unusual but the ones I first laid eyes on when I came to the S.W. 8 years ago and that I always thought "personified" what these plants were in my minds eye. Also am just awed by the sheer scale of them. I think of the Century Plant as the "Red Wood" of the desert. As for Agaves I can't help it. Something about plants this crazy looking and about as big as me (I'm 5'3") I find amusing and fascinating. Also the variegation of color is just so surprising and striking. Your eyes are just drawn to them. For some reason they make me laugh.
I can't wait to learn about and see pictures of more types. I definitely want to fill up my yard with more, more, more...Oh wait...there's that space thing.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

We are witnessing the emergence of a true Plant Nut! Agavegirl your enthusiasm is fun to witness. I am learning just by lurking here.

Casa Grande, AZ

Pistil, what are you growing good in Washington? Common name usage a.o.k. with me. :D

I'll have to post pic but I have a very narrow long spot that borders my walkway. It goes from my driveway to my front door and is probably about 1"6"-2' wide and in shade all but 4 hours of the day.
Since I'm running out of room to indulge my cactus and Agave and Aloe obsession (thank you neighbors and dog that needs some where to walk in the back yard) I was thinking come Spring doing low profile succulents there; kind of like a "carpet" but in all types of shapes, colors, textures and varieties. Chicks and hens, etc.
Problem I had this year was they did great in the light and moderate-high temps. Once it got over 105 they turned to black goo. I'm wondering if they'll be o.k. here because of the extreme 4 hours of light they will get beating on them. There is absolutely NO shade and it is up against concrete.

Also was wondering what grows well in 100% shade but doesn't get too big or spread ridiculously in terms of succulents. Have spot on side of wall that needs to be filled (well, I think so.) Can't go nuts though because my neighbor's gate to their back yard is there and we can't have my stuff spreading and spilling onto their property or blocking their gate.

So, let's see what you got growing in your yard. Pics or names (I'll look them up on plant identifier). Who also has some creative ideas for me come Spring? I'm getting bored just watering, watching, and waiting.

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Regarding common names, the agave goes by various names here, like "cactus" (hehe) which I have heard before to describe aloes and Euphorbias too. Obviously those people aren't paying attention to anything but the spines. The generic word for an agave here is "maguey". Several kinds are used to make mescal (agave liquor) and one specific type of blue tequilana is used to make tequila (the better known agave liquor). There's also a fermented beverage called pulque made from the heart of mature plants that have stored up all the energy they need to flower.

There are all kinds of interesting succulent endemics on the islands offshore of BC. I have not left the mainland. A striking relative of shawii called sebastiana grows on Cedros Island to the south of here, sometimes a brilliant silvery white in color.

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Just saw your post. Skip the Sempervivums and Echeverias and Aeoniums, they're going to wilt out there. Look into some tough aloes for your space, maybe. I'm not going to recommend anything specific because I have no experience dealing with heat.

As for shade plants, I remember Nancy here has quite a few plants that do well in the shade in Arizona. I would recommend starting a new thread if you have a specific question like that, it will probably bring you the best feedback.

Casa Grande, AZ

Yeah, I think if my only concern in regards to plants was spines and avoiding them I'd call it "cactus" too and not be too discriminating about what type.
I've seen a lot of the different agaves and know of the one's used for tequila. (Margaritas...yum!) I've heard of pulque also but have not seen it. Is it common or pretty much a regional or indigenous drink?
I'll be checking out the website. I knew of the larger islands off of BC (Los Cruces, Los Islotes, San Marcos etc.) I did not know of Cedros. I'm sure theres a whole bunch more I haven't heard of. I saw a National Geographic special.
Regardless of you having left the mainland or not I think you are very lucky to live in such a special place with so many interesting things to see and do and wonderful and unusual plants to learn all about! :D (Plus you got a beach. I'm jealous).
I'm definitely going to check out the website.

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Pulque is a specialty/regional item at this point. Not something one sees much around here. There are videos on Youtube showing how they make it. Pretty crazy stuff.

Yes, we are most fortunate to live in this place, with all these awesome plants around, and without the environmental pressures that complicate a garden in the desert. I suppose you can still grow the heat-sensitive types as house plants if you are dead set on having them. :)

Casa Grande, AZ

Cool will watch the video. We don't have pulque but we do have tequila. You can see some videos also what happens here when our locals ingest too much. A few of them had the pleasure of being on old episodes of "Cops". (LOL) Talk about your environmental pressures of living in the desert!
I think I'll stick to seeing what I can get to survive outside. I have enough problems with my regular houseplants and a dog that likes to treat them as her personal salad bar. The light also isn't the best either except in one room. I think my husband would object to sleeping in the living room and my converting the bedroom into a sun room/plant area.

Do you have photos of more amazing or unusual agaves, aloes and succulents in your garden or around your area for us? You had mentioned people there like the unusual ones. I'd love to see more if you have the time to share them with us.

Mcvansoest still looking forward to seeing the A. xyloncantha. You got me all excited about that. I may want to go get one!

Pistil, what do you have going on in Washington? Join in and tell us.

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Photo of A. xylonacantha already posted above. It's quite a memorable plant.

Photos here of baby shawii (~1 year old seedling) plus another local native (Hesperoyucca), and 3 others from the patio and the garden.

Thumbnail by Baja_Costero Thumbnail by Baja_Costero Thumbnail by Baja_Costero Thumbnail by Baja_Costero Thumbnail by Baja_Costero
Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Here are a couple of better pictures of A. xylonacantha.

Thumbnail by mcvansoest Thumbnail by mcvansoest
Casa Grande, AZ

Wow...oohhh, ahhh...I WANT those! The Hesperoyuccas are beautiful. :} Showed my husband and even he likes those.
I HAVE TO get some of those now! Husband is fine with plant obsession (at least it isn't jewelry) and dog is getting better at tip toing through the yard.

mcvansoest those are great pictures of A. xylanocantha. that is a fierce plant! Beautiful and grisly. Definite attitude there. Have you replanted pups yet?

By the way saw this beauty in a public parking lot in a plaza. It was by a grocery store/gas station, etc. Do you guys recognize it and where I can get one?

Thumbnail by Agavegirl1 Thumbnail by Agavegirl1 Thumbnail by Agavegirl1
Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

Was that a winter photo? If so, it looks like Aloe ferox. It grows into a tree with advanced age. Should be relatively available where you are (as much as any tree aloe I suppose).

The Hesperoyucca is a pretty cool plant when it gets big (they grow wild all around here). It is sort of mixed up because it makes flowers like a yucca but lives the life cycle of an agave. It looks relatively friendly (no marginal spines) but the terminal spine is pretty deadly. Thus the profusion of weeds around the edge of the plant. :)

Casa Grande, AZ

Cant remember when I took it. It was about 5 years ago! I had just saved it hoping that someday when I moved from our condo that we were renting to a house and was able to have a garden AND the time for one...tah-dah, that I would find it again. (Looked later and the plant was gone. :[ )
I'll have to confirm exact name on our "What is it?" plant species identification area of the website but I have no reason to doubt you. You seem to know so much and the names it's mind boggling!

Question, since the local Hesperoyucca is wild do you guys "collect" species for yourselves and your gardens or is that a "no-no"?

Kind of would like everyone to weigh in on this debate my husband and I have been having.
He says if it is out in the desert, abandoned parking lot, side of the road, etc. it is a "no-no" to collect.

I say it is o.k. as long as it is not part of desert that is part of an Indian reservation, parking lots of open businesses, housing subdivisions, your neighbors, or public park or area that the city takes care of. Abandoned buildings and property that have obviously been this way for years are o.k. as long as there aren't any "No Trespassing" signs. You basically have to have decorum and boundaries.
I know others here in this area that "collect" also since we don't have a good nursery near by and the prices of the ones who do mail order are eye popping.

How does everyone else feel on this plant debate?

Baja California, Mexico(Zone 11)

If it's not a rescue (plant would die otherwise) I would not collect anything. Except seeds of course any time (there are hundreds of them for every one that germinates and grows up) and with some plants like prickly pears you can grab a pad without causing much harm.

The Hesperoyucca above was a rescue. Friends of ours found it lying upside down and rootless on their land (dug up for construction?) so I took up the challenge. It looked awful when I got it.

Above and beyond the question of whether it's good to dig up plants, you have to ask if it's really necessary. There is an insane variety of plants available in the southwestern US from people who have dedicated themselves to figuring out how to get them to thrive. Consider the price they charge as a way to compensate them for their expertise, and if it's out of hand then you can be sure there will be competition elsewhere.

I quickly lose patience with the people here who go out into the desert and dig up a cirio (the Boojum tree, endemic to BC) instead of taking the time to learn who might be growing them in a nursery or even starting their own plant from seed. The experience is so much richer when you invest some of yourself into the process.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)


Arizona actually has very strict laws against collecting plants in the desert (or just about anywhere in the state), without a permit it is forbidden by law to touch just about any native cactus you would want to have (hedgehogs, saguaros, barrels, little mammillarias, beehives, etc.), I think if you take a section of cholla or a prickly pear pad it is in the gray zone.

Saguaros are no touch anywhere, I think that you have to find a way to move it if you wanted to get rid of one in your yard (not sure why you would, but some people do), there are organizations like the Tucson Cactus and Succulent society that will come rescue plants from yards, building sites, mining areas, but they have an official license and still have to tag every cactus they more. The resell those plants at really decent prices for the size of them. You should check them out.

I have moved a Saguaro from someone's yard and had to get a permit and tag for the plant from the AZ department of agriculture, that tag will have to stay with the plant forever - I was moving it for a friend. I got a 5 foot compass barrel cactus as payment and we had to tag that one too.

So, no, it is not OK to go and collect in the desert. On private land the rules are somewhat less strict, but you'd still have to deal with he owner, and again there are several species that might still require permits.

Now enforcement might not be very strict, but if you really care about the plants you should want to keep them in their natural environment (and believe me, I have been out in the desert with itching hands, but unless I find it uprooted in the middle of a dirt road I have managed to leave things alone - and even if you found it uprooted in the middle of the dirt road if you get stopped and a cop or forest ranger sees it you could still get fined and more). There are plenty of nurseries that ship to you or deliver. I realize that Casa Grande is a little bit stuck in the middle but there are very many great nurseries in Tucson (there are some great ones on the north side of Tucson - should not be too far away) that have better selections of plants than just about anything I have seen in the Phoenix area. It is worth checking out.

Baja, I am working on two little seed grown Boojums (one from the Huntington ISI release, and one from the Desert Botanical Garden), it takes a lot of patience but is also rewarding to see them grow.

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