Mr. D's Plant of the Week Series: Agave

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Are you planning a rock garden and need plant and shrub suggestions? If you want to make a striking statement, then the Agave gets right to the point. Literally! The tight rosette of stiff, sword-shaped leaves, each reaching up to 3 feet long and 2 inches wide, the effect will prove extremely dramatic. With its short trunk, the green toothed leaves have marginal bands of bright white and a sharp point on the tips.

The Agave angustifolia, (its scientific name; pronounced: uh-GAW-vee an-gus-tif-FOLE-ee-uh), from the family of Agavaceae, is a native to North America, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Other names it is known by are Century Plant and Variegated Caribbean Agave. It is, however, an invasive type shrub. But on the flip side, no dangerous pests or insects are found on or near the plant. The Agave will grow from 3 to 4 feet tall, have a spread from 3-4 feet across, and look round in shape overall.

How to care and manage the Agave

Agave angustifolia is a survivor! It tolerates heat, drought, and salty gulf or ocean surroundings. Once the shrub gets established, very little irrigation is needed, if any, for the plant to grow. It thrives best fully exposed to the sun. As for blooms, expect a flower spike after ten years or longer. What you will see is terminal panicles of pale white and possibly yellow blooms.

The Century Plant is used as a single free-standing shrub for residences, but not typically planted in a mass display for homes. That large-scale display you’ll usually find in front of commercial property settings. Due to its massive and roundish size along with its bright habit and color, most rock gardens should only need one Agave.

Mr. D’s Agave landscape design tip

The architectural form, coarse texture, and striking color of the Caribbean Agave do make it a perfect choice for highly visible spaces in your rock garden or landscape. Agaves, like Yuccas, are excellent plants for pots and containers. Their odd shapes will add interest when used as focal points.

As you sort through your rock garden design, consider plants that are softer as companion plants. To highlight and contrast the tight rosette of the leaves, use small foliage and mounding or spreading forms. By doing so, the large, smooth, stiff Agave leaves, paired with small foliage that has more texture will bring out the contrast you are looking to achieve.

Finally, if you want to highlight the white margins in the leaves, then use dark green foliage. That darker color permits the Century Plant to present a striking and dramatic effect. Still, there is another possibility; create a white theme design that runs through all of the plants. To do to this, select plants and shrubs, with small to medium white flowers or blooms. Large masses of low-growing companion plants around the base or in front of the Variegated Caribbean Agave will create a beautiful setting to display its form.

If you found the Variegated CaribbeanAgave interesting, then check out our Adam's Needle material and let us know your thoughts!