Cactus and Tender Succulents forum: Agave survival in the Pacific Northwest

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Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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tcstoehr
Sep 17, 2016 12:16 PM CST
Today begins the cool, rainy season in my neck of the PNW. I've noticed that water tends to pool in the tops of my Agaves. I assume it will be there for the next six months. Is this a problem? I'm less worried about the bottoms as the soil is raised and drains well.

Thumb of 2016-09-17/tcstoehr/beeccc

This is Agave 'Ovatifolia'. I also have Parryi 'JC Raulston' and Parryi Truncata which seem to pool water as well. The first two are reputed to be cold and moisture tolerant, the Truncata maybe not so much.

I'd like to get by without building rain deflectors for these guys... but is that realistic?
Name: Thijs van Soest
Mesa, AZ (Zone 9b)
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mcvansoest
Sep 17, 2016 3:50 PM CST
That is not realistic, emphasis on NOT! Tolerance is not what they would require in your neck of the woods - full blown resistance is what they would require - imperviousness would probably better - not many Agaves (if any) fit that bill.

Many Agaves take cold just fine, but only very few will take cold and wet for 6 months or longer at a time. A. parryi truncata will definitely croak if left wet and cold.
Ovatifolia - you might be OK - it is more of a high mountain species so does see cold and wet - but then again not 6 months in a row. I know they survive on the east coast where they get months of snow in a row, but I would still worry about just rain, rain and more rain.

So my advice: Move the plants under rain protection or move rain protection to them. If you have multiple plants of each you could experiment, but I would mentally prepare myself to loose the one exposed to the moisture.

Here in Arizona we have the opposite problem - which Agaves will take the full sun and >100F for months at a time - again you'd be surprised at how few actually pass that test, most still want some protection from that sun at least a good portion of the day, as several dried up husks in my front and back yard will attest.




Name: Alisa
Gresham, Oregon (Zone 8a)
Region: Oregon
Purplebloomcactus
Sep 17, 2016 7:11 PM CST
I brought my cacti inside today! Because it was all day rain. The weather is going to better later this week. You can being outside. I would cover with plastic. So it will into get over watered. I like growing indoors so I can keep an eye on the cacti health. I live in Gresham, Oregon ( East of Portland) good luck Hurray!
Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
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gasrocks
Sep 17, 2016 7:23 PM CST
Yes, cold and wet is a no-no for succulents. I over winter my Agaves in a cold room. Extra bedrooms that have the heat turned off. They stay between 45-55 degrees, dormancy. Do not try to grow, do not need light nor water much. But I am in WI and perhaps you cannot attain such low temps there. Gene
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
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tcstoehr
Sep 18, 2016 11:21 AM CST
I hear alot of reservations here... and I pretty much agree. But I was mainly concerned with the water pooling on top of the plants around the central cone, I'm willing to risk the extended cold and wet soil conditions, although I'm sure it's a risk. I do not discount what is being said here.
I purchased these Agaves from a local nursery whose owner told me that his entire Agave stock in pots remains outdoors unprotected all winter. I find that a little difficult to believe but I don't know what he would have to gain by lying about that. He told me the cultivars he carries will be OK as long as I had adequate drainage, which I do. But the water sitting on top gave me additional concern.
My Truncata did fine last winter but I had it in a pot and kept it next to the house, dry under the eve. Now it's out in the rain.
Whatever happens, I will report the results here next Spring.

I chose JC Raulston because of this local person (below) who says it comes through winter for her unscathed. She grows tons of Agaves outdoors in Portland with mixed results.

http://www.thedangergarden.com/2013/04/agave-parryi-jc-rauls...
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Sep 18, 2016 2:54 PM CST
Can you plant them slightly tipped so the water has a better chance of draining away?
Name: Laurie Basler
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
Houseplants Region: Pacific Northwest Sedums Orchids
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lauriebasler
Oct 5, 2016 11:48 PM CST
This article should be interesting for you Tim. @tcstoehr.

http://www.desertnorthwest.com/articles/desert_garden_design...
As in the pictures throughout this article, I am seeing Desert plants in Washington yards more and more. I see the garden in Freemont, Washington, a few times a year. It looks great.

I totally understand wanting to try this, and we are not alone. There are a lot of articles to be found on succulents in the landscape in the Northwest, lately.

How fun would it be to chop down the Rhodies, and azaleas and replace them with Huge Agave!!!
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
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tcstoehr
Oct 6, 2016 4:44 PM CST
That's an interesting link. I found this one very informative. The UK climate and Western Oregon are comparable.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/publications/magazines/...
Name: Ken
East S.F. Bay Area (Zone 9a)
Region: California
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CaliFlowers
Oct 9, 2016 9:38 AM CST
I think your biggest problem will be wet from below, not water sitting on the plants. It doesn't appear so, but their leaves are arranged in such a manner that water will efficiently drain from them through tiny channels. Even if some water might somehow lodge there for a while, Agave leaves have a waxy cuticle which will protect them from pooling water.

Orienting the plants to help water drain away will only work for one wet season, as they will slowly turn to face the light as they grow.

Your best bet is to select species which you've seen growing in your region. Some catalogs will address winter hardiness with respect to wet and cold. Plant Delights Nursery of Raleigh NC offers a good selection of Agave with valuable comments regarding hardiness in their climate. They say that they have trialed all of their landscape plants outdoors. The owner, Tony Avent, says that he considers every plant hardy until he had killed it at least three times, and if you read his extensive writings on the nursery site, you can tell he means business.
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
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tcstoehr
Oct 9, 2016 11:29 AM CST
Yes... water from below. My Agaves are raised up about 10-12 inches and the soil is a well draining silty loam. A layer of gravel on top of that which promotes drainage by keeping the soil from crusting. I'm confident water will drain away nicely but it will undoubtedly still be moist down there.
I did notice that the water pooling in two of my Agaves is now gone even though it's raining daily. Almost as if the Agaves purposely flexed their leaves in reaction to cool, wet conditions. Blinking
I did pick cultivars recommended by local nurserymen who grow and/or and recommend these varieties. With the exception of 'Truncata' which was my first (and most uninformed) acquisition chosen only for its reasonable cold hardiness and knockout good looks. I know, I know... wrong reasons. On the other hand Agave Ovatifolia is recommended by local nurseries Cistus, Rare Plant Research and Blooming Junction.
It will surely be an interesting winter although quite possibly disappointing. Crossing Fingers!
[Last edited by tcstoehr - Oct 9, 2016 11:30 AM (+)]
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Nov 11, 2016 10:54 AM CST
You got em setup right and recomended by experts. I wouldn't worry about them !
The Turncata i would research. Since you really like it !
😎😎😎
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Nov 11, 2016 11:20 AM CST
I do agree with the potential cold and wet damage. Both from water remaining too moist at the root zone level and in the crown. Have seen it time and again with my succulents, for the initial salvo of rain, it will try to manage, but in the end, that very wet and cold combination is not its preference. Good when it is wet and warm during summer and warm months, when it is really actively growing. But not during the colder months when it slows down in growth.

Reading the link shown above with Agaves growing in the UK, there is always that line at the end of each agave type, whichever one it is..surviving the low temps of this and that, IF DRY.
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Nov 11, 2016 12:08 PM CST
Yes, indeed. Only time will tell. I will post results next April or May.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
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RoseBlush1
Nov 11, 2016 1:17 PM CST
gasrocks said:Yes, cold and wet is a no-no for succulents. I over winter my Agaves in a cold room. Extra bedrooms that have the heat turned off. They stay between 45-55 degrees, dormancy. Do not try to grow, do not need light nor water much. But I am in WI and perhaps you cannot attain such low temps there. Gene


Gene ...

Can they handle colder temps indoors ?

Tim ...

I have a friend that keeps her succulents under a gazebo during the winter months so that they do not get rain or snow on them. Seems to work fine for her.

I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums Bee Lover
Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter Apples
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tcstoehr
Nov 11, 2016 1:57 PM CST
I have no doubt that my Agaves would be fine if given rain protection. My Truncata did fine last Winter in a pot kept next to the house where the eve kept the rainfall off.
I had thought of building a simple, temporary plastic shelter for them but decided to roll the dice.

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