Friday, January 10, 2014

Agaves - which ones were hardy enough to survive the surprise winter?

Have you been adding xeric agaves to your garden in an effort to be more water-wise in light of our extreme heat and drought?

Adding native and adapted xeric plants to the garden is the perfect solution to reducing your lawn and your water bill.
But, as with all plants, it's important to do  your research and know what you're getting.

This cold and early winter weather had been hard on some agaves that can take the heat, but can't handle the cold.  

I'm always pushing the edge of the envelope (and not just in gardening, but we won't talk about that here).  So, that means I trial many plants in my garden that might not be a perfect match for our climate.  And, sometimes it kicks me in the ...trowel.

Here's what did and didn't make it at this winter's current low in my garden:

The squid agave, pictured above, is always a tough cookie.  They have survived for me down to 17 degrees in the icebox winter of 3 years ago.  
The giant franzosini agave handled the cold with aplomb.  It's big and bold and still making way too many pups!  Let me know if you want one!  I'll even ship!  Seriously!
This was an experiment.  This octopus agave is stunning when it's alive.  Trust me.  However, I knew that experts report it hardy only to between 26 and 28 degrees.  And that's in the ground.  Plants in a pot are much more tender because their roots get colder above ground faster.  Sometimes it doesn't even freeze here in the winter, so I was taking a calculated risk, knowing I might simply have to replace it when it warms up next spring.  And I will replace it.  I love the look and the sculptural shape so I will just take my chances and treat it like an annual in cold years.

This Arizona star agave looks pretty ugly now, but I think it will come back from the crown -- it will just take a while to be big and beautiful again.
This standard weberii agave seems to be tolerating the cold just fine.  It's been scraped up by the deer, roaming around looking for places to rub their antlers, but that's just a cosmetic problem for this agave.
I'm very surprised that this variegated agave Americana made it through.  I've lost some in previous years' freezes and I fully expected to lose this one at 24 degrees.  There are a few ugly spots on the back side, but it's doing great.  Those that died in previous years were much younger, so I think this one did well because it's well-established now.
This wicked sharkskin agave in the back xeric bed is hanging on just fine.
I think this sweet little quadricolor agave has struggle with some deer munching and the cold, but a little pruning will help it shine again in the spring.
You can see that the green goblet agave has some freeze damage on the lower leaves, but the rest of it looks healty.  Another haircut and it will be pretty as a picture again.

 And, finally, my whale's tongue agave is hanging tough and looking good in the cold.

Just to set the record straight, I have learned some lessons from previous freezes.  I have several desmettiana agaves in pots in my greenhouse - staying toasty warm for the winter.  I use to have a nice one along the front walk and it died in a slight freeze.  They are so pretty that I reserve those for pots now.

As long as this is as cold as it gets this winter, most of my agaves are safe.  Hint, hint....  How are your agaves faring in the winter vortex this year?

Next post I'll talk about how and when to prune out the rotting stuff.


Anonymous said...

Great article Diana!

katina said...

I've found that the lophantha quadricolor does not like being in a shadier location, elevated in a pot and having a freeze. it can handle two of the three, but not the third (I've got one in a sunny location also elevated and it did fine in the freeze - as did the one in the ground in a shady location). I think whatever the variegated agave was in my front bed is also a goner (it wasn't an Americana though, so I don't know what it was). I'll leave it for now just to make sure.

I haven't seen my tiny, itty-bitty Queen Victoria since the freezes (but that's not surprising - it's in the rock bed and gets covered with leaves pretty easily).

Alison said...

I only have two Agaves in the ground up here in the PNW -- A. ovatifolia and A. parryi 'J.C. Raulston.' They both did just fine in our recent week of temps in the teens. I had two A. americana in pots on my front porch that are mush. But a squid Agave also in a pot right beside them also sailed through.

Pam/Digging said...

Good post topic, Diana. In my garden, Queen Victoria agave, 'Whale's Tongue' agave, Agave lophantha, squid agave, 'Jaws' agave, 'Green Goblet' agave, 'Quadricolor' agave, Agave parryi truncata, Agave colorata, 'Sharkskin' agave, and a pup from your A. franzosini all came through the deep freeze with flying colors. And of course yuccas and sotols are even more cold-tolerant.

Speaking of pups, I'd love to have a couple of your variegated Agave americana at the next Go-Go, if you have any to spare. The one I brought with me from my old garden is looking sad after the freeze, and I want to replace it and add another one somewhere. It's such a pretty agave, even if it is freeze tender. Let me know if you need any pups from any of mine, and I'll save you something.

danger garden said...

Love this post! It's nice to see which agaves have done well through other areas "cold" (it's all relative) snaps. Our week below freezing (day and night) and low of 12F did a number on my younger unprotected Agave americanas, they're all mush now. The older more established ones (they were protected) look to be fine. Like Alison my A. ovatifolia and A. parryi 'J.C. Raulston' are all good. As are my squids and 'Jaws'. All the variegated agaves (I have a few different types) are a gooey mush. I'm very impressed with yours! I've also got a couple of Agave americana var. protoamericana and a few Agave neomexicana which all look good.

So about your offer of an Agave franzosini pup...I would LOVE one if you don't manage to give them all away locally. If you're willing to ship just let me know how much it cost and I'll send you a check! (spiky plants at gmail dot com)

Linda/patchwork said...

Most of the few agaves I have did fine....even with our low of 12F.

The Lophanthas (pots & ground) did well. And, I have two Squids in pots. They're good.

I have one I rescued from my neighbor, when she did one of her re-dos. Not sure what it is. It's in a pot, and has a lot of pups. I'm thinking it may get too big for the pot. Right now it's living in a cage, because of the deer. But, it looks fine.

The only one that is questionable, is the Arizona Star that I got at Ally's Go-Go. It's in a pot, and I forgot to check on it. The center looks a bit solid, so maybe it'll make it.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I always have agave envy when I read the Austin blogs. I see that you can have damage too what with a severe winter. Still, they are lovely plants. Cheers.