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Agave attenuata
Agave attenuata

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Agave

Agavaceae
Cacti and succulents, Perennials

Sculptural succulents with rosettes of fleshy leaves. Impressive, sometimes colorful, flower stalk emerges from the rosette’s center looking something like a giant asparagus; some kinds produce clusters of flowers on side branches, while others have flowers packed along the stalk. After flowering—which may not occur for years—the foliage clump dies, usually leaving behind suckers that make new plants.

These plants shrivel from serious drought but plump up again with watering or rainfall. Provide good drainage. Species listed here are native to Mexico, except as noted.

Agave americana

Blue-green leaves grow to 6 ft. long, and have hooked spines along margins with a wicked spine at the tip. Be sure you really want one before planting it: its bulk (to 10 ft. wide) and spines make it formidable to remove. After 10 years or more, a branched, 15–40-ft. flower stalk bearing yellowish green flowers appears. There are varieties available with yellow- or white-striped leaves.

Agave parryi

Attractive, compact, cold-hardy species native to Arizona and northern Mexico. Thick, blue-green or gray-green leaves are tipped with sharp black spines. Mature size about 2–3 ft. high and wide; spreads by offsets to form colonies.

Sometimes called “artichoke agave” because the rosettes on some forms resemble giant artichokes. When about 20 years old, plants push up a stout stalk with clusters of yellow flowers. Thrives in part shade.

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