Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Agaves that don't get huge

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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
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Dutchlady1
Jan 15, 2016 3:57 PM CST
A friend has a low planter under her front windows the entire length of the house. I think some Agaves would be good in there but we don't want ones (like A. americana) that get huge. Something that stays within 18". I already can think of Foxtail Agave, any others that you can recommend?
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jan 15, 2016 6:58 PM CST
I grow a small Agave geminifolia....it may grow a tad bigger if planted inground maybe , but mine is just in this bonsai container, so I can control its growth.

Thumb of 2016-01-16/tarev/4499d9

Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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Dutchlady1
Jan 15, 2016 7:07 PM CST
Oh yes, I love that one, and it's slow growing so a great candidate! Thumbs up
The only problem is that it's not terribly easy to find.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Jan 15, 2016 8:10 PM CST
I also see an Agave geminiflora on various sites, don't know if that is the same as my Agave geminifolia.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jan 15, 2016 10:18 PM CST
Yes, that's the right name (the flowers appear in pairs). Should be relatively available, at least compared to some of the other smaller agaves. It's probably better than average at dealing with excess water as it comes from a relatively wet habitat, if I remember right.

Agave "Kissho Kan" and its variegated cousin are excellent candidates for a smaller space. They will offset but not out of control. Probably cold sensitive but no more so than attenuata, I would imagine. Not an issue here.

Agave "Cream Spike" will take a while to get big, especially when constrained in a container. You want to start with a solitary plant that's a gallon size or bigger (say 8" diameter or so) as the smaller ones go through a phase where they offset like crazy... this tends to abate once the plant transitions to its adult (erect) phase.

Agave "Bloodspot" is a very pretty smaller plant that's similar in shape to macroacantha, but tends not to get as big or offset as much. (A. macroacantha is a very nice smaller plant but it does tend to grow in clumps and the spines are serious enough to make that difficult to sort out if you let it go.)

Agave colorata comes in various sizes but the more common form around here is relatively small and might work for you. It's a nice chunky plant.

There are a few smaller agaves which I would not recommend (esp. in a wet situation). A. utahensis is a very pretty plant but can be a bit tricky in cultivation (water sensitive).

If you would like to see pictures of any of the above I can rummage around to see what I've got.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 16, 2016 4:28 AM CST
Thank You!
Name: Gary Simpson
Cannelton, IN (Zone 6b)
aka; smashedcactus
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simcactus
Jan 18, 2016 8:33 PM CST
Thumb of 2016-01-19/simcactus/408cb7

I've had this one for a few years A. "retro choke". Don't think it is going to get much bigger.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 19, 2016 5:41 AM CST
Beautiful! Thank You!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jan 19, 2016 1:05 PM CST
Nice looking agave, Gary. It will get bigger if you let it, but not in that pot. You don't want it ending up like your "Blue Glow" now, do you? Smiling What a beautiful plant.

It's probably a good idea to point out that agaves tend to be different sizes depending on how they are grown, so what may be a medium sized plant for me here in the ground (zero supplemental irrigation, months-long summer drought every year) could end up being quite large with more attention (ie. to water, exposure, nutrients). Agaves grown in the sun in poor soil with little water will grow to half the size they might under friendlier conditions.

Photos from the public garden here (most plants growing in day-long sun).

Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/c5ea91 Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/baaa55
A. parryi truncata, "Bloodspot"

Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/4de12c Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/8f5f0f
"Cream Spike", "Baja"

Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/10bb45 Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/7ee8e2
schidigera, titanota "FO76"

Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/8eb66b Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/2ac5e1
stricta, geminiflora

Thumb of 2016-01-19/Baja_Costero/a6e1a9
colorata, "Kissho Kan"
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jan 19, 2016 1:12 PM (+)]
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 19, 2016 1:14 PM CST
Thank You! and yes, that makes sense.
As I said, it is a long planter attached to the house; the eaves overhang it so they won't be watered too copiously (which would otherwise be an issue here in Southwest Florida). They will have Eastern exposure. Here is what it (sort of) looks like (not their house, but a similar setup)
Thumb of 2016-01-19/Dutchlady1/aff2d8

Name: Dee Moore
Arroyo Grande, CA (Zone 9a)
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DomehomeDee
Jan 19, 2016 5:00 PM CST
I have a lot of Agave parryi truncata pups if you would like some let me know, I'd send them for postage.
It was the first plant I bought when I moved here 30 years ago!
Here's another suggestion, these are lovely, Agave univittata 'Quadricolor'.
Name: Thijs van Soest
Mesa, AZ (Zone 9b)
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mcvansoest
Jan 19, 2016 5:11 PM CST
Dutchlady1 said:A friend has a low planter under her front windows the entire length of the house. I think some Agaves would be good in there but we don't want ones (like A. americana) that get huge. Something that stays within 18". I already can think of Foxtail Agave, any others that you can recommend?


The one thing to remember with Agave attenuata is that it will grow a trunk - so while it may not get too big in circumference, it will get taller than its normal circumference might imply. And by trunk I do not mean the eventual flower stalk.

Another Agave that does that is Agave decipiens, which also would fall within the 18" or so category, but again grows a trunk.

Other smaller sized agaves in addition to those mentioned here already are: Agave filifera, multifilifera, victoriae reginae, nickelsiae, xDianita, xleopoldi, and quite a few more...
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jan 19, 2016 6:06 PM CST
Agave decipiens is an extra large species (several feet wide and tall) that I would not recommend long term in a window planter.

Just a quick ID note fyi, since some names may be confusing. At one point schidigera and multifilfera were lumped with filifera, but the latter is different from the other two (among other ways) in that it offsets regularly. However you find them labeled, this is an important practical distinction.

You can expect agaves to grow on the large side under the conditions you describe (afternoon shade, lots of water). So choose plants that are smaller to start with. Agave attenuata is pretty common around here in larger planters (it's the go-to agave in these situations because it is spineless) and it seems to handle constrained space pretty well, growing as a sort of dwarf version of the plants in the ground.

You might want to consider mixing in some aloes between the agaves. They would be compatible culturally and lend some seasonal color & hummingbird interest when they flower.
Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 19, 2016 7:41 PM CST
Dee, that is so kind! I will send you a treemail.
Thijs, thank you, I am aware of the trunk on the A. attenuata and we decided it would not be a problem. I had forgotten about the stunning A. victoria-reginae, though! I have one that is INCREDIBLY slow growing, is this normal?
Baja , due to the overhang of the eaves the plants will actually NOT get lots of water; it is why we chose succulents for this bed. Good idea about the Aloes, I had suggested these to my friend since they are currently all in bloom in our area and do indeed provide some wonderful color.
Thank you all for the helpful hints and suggestions.
Name: Thijs van Soest
Mesa, AZ (Zone 9b)
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mcvansoest
Jan 19, 2016 9:19 PM CST
Baja_Costero said:Agave decipiens is an extra large species (several feet wide and tall) that I would not recommend long term in a window planter.

Just a quick ID note fyi, since some names may be confusing. At one point schidigera and multifilfera were lumped with filifera, but the latter is different from the other two (among other ways) in that it offsets regularly. However you find them labeled, this is an important practical distinction.

You can expect agaves to grow on the large side under the conditions you describe (afternoon shade, lots of water). So choose plants that are smaller to start with. Agave attenuata is pretty common around here in larger planters (it's the go-to agave in these situations because it is spineless) and it seems to handle constrained space pretty well, growing as a sort of dwarf version of the plants in the ground.

You might want to consider mixing in some aloes between the agaves. They would be compatible culturally and lend some seasonal color & hummingbird interest when they flower.


Hi Baja,

It must be the conditions here then, because all A. decipiens I have seen here are on the order of a foot and a half wide, some have impressive trunks.... so I would not expect the rosettes to grow much bigger.

Thanks for the ID note, the Agave guys I talk to a lot have them all separate, hence my keeping them separate - I can distinguish them relatively well.

I think the Aloes are a really good idea, if you get the right ones they will fill those planters up really nicely and they reward you with a yearly flower display.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jan 20, 2016 10:49 AM CST
It could have to do with conditions. For the record, the Irish book describes the leaves of decipiens as 29-39 in. long and says "it is best to consider placement carefully to allow for the full massive size of a mature individual". Gentry agrees about the size and says "in the fertile soil of the Florida peninsula the plants are said to reach 4m in height with leaves exceeding 2m in length." Around here the plants pretty quickly become large, and with enough offsets at the base they can turn into a impenetrable thicket.

Regarding the speed of the Queen Victoria agave (and its ally, nickelsiae).... these are supposed to be very slow growers, like some other agaves (eg. "Cream Spike"). They certainly are, at least in comparison to americanas and the like. But in my experience that's only relative. Maybe that's because our growing season is year round. One plant here went from a 6" pot to a 12" pot (stepwise) over the course of 3 years, to give you some idea of the pace. There are a few different varieties of the QV agave, the main two in cultivation being a larger, solitary form (grown from seed) and a smaller, offsetting form, which will never reach the same mature size.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jan 20, 2016 11:14 AM (+)]
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Name: Hetty
Sunny Naples, Florida (Zone 10a)
Plumerias Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator Region: Florida Cat Lover Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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Dutchlady1
Jan 20, 2016 12:28 PM CST
Thank You!
Name: Gary Simpson
Cannelton, IN (Zone 6b)
aka; smashedcactus
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simcactus
Jan 31, 2016 8:34 PM CST
Baja_Costero said:Nice looking agave, Gary. It will get bigger if you let it, but not in that pot. You don't want it ending up like your "Blue Glow" now, do you? Smiling What a beautiful plant.


Thank You! I've been keeping it in a pot for the last few years. It is now starting to have pups.

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