Gardens Bits and Briefs February 2003
OOPS!!! We’ve been duly chastised for last month’s newsletter that said that January was our coldest month! Well, now we know how the weather people feel. Anyway, it can still freeze even into March. In fact, several years ago it actually snowed on April 1st.
Several people have indicated that they have trouble telling an Agave form an Aloe. For your landscape, both are accent plants “par excellence.” Both occur in rosette form and can vary from a few inches to many feet in diameter and height. Agaves, known as Century Plants because it takes many years for them to bloom, generally have hard leaves that are sharp and pointy. Many have nasty spines along the edges (exceptions include A. attenuata etc.). Aloes usually have very thick, fleshy, juicy leaves with less nasty leaf protuberances. Since there are “zillions” of different Agaves and Aloes and too much information to discuss in detail, here are a few highlights and lowlights of each group.
AGAVES: When the plant is ready to flower it sends up a stalk much like an asparagus spear which later branches out,
often attaining great heights and becoming a striking sight. The rosette shrivels and dies as the stalk grows. Some species produce plantlets along the stalk or branches and these can be planted in the ground or in pots. The “artichoke-looking” plant that everybody seems to want is Agave parryi. It exists in many forms and is a beautiful plant for the desert garden as it doesn’t get huge and forms clusters with age. The Queen Victoria Agave
and its forms are elegant and very slow growing. One unfortunate problem with Agaves (other than their general unfriendliness) is that someone likes them even
more than people. It’s that sneaky little bugger known as the Agave Snout Weevil. It’s especially fond of the large growing, bluish leaved types. At first the plant starts looking a little peaked like it’s coming down with the
flu or something. The middle of the rosette becomes shrunken and if far enough along will easily pull out of the plant to reveal lots of pulsating grubs noshing away in the rotten flesh. Not a pretty sight! An advanced case will reveal the black adult beetles ready to strike out for your neighbor’s plants. Its too late now. Suggested controls involve sprinkling a granular insecticide like Diazinon in the rosettes of the plants during April and through the hot months when Mother Weevil is looking to lay eggs.
ALOES: All from Africa and Madagascar, these plants flower every year in spring thru summer in many shades of orange and yellow. One of the most well known is Aloe vera also called Medicinal Aloe or Burn Plant. The slimy sap has been used for centuries for various internal and
external problems. You’ll notice these plants, usually in large clumps, starting to bloom now. They have poker like stalks with yellow or salmon to coral colored flowers. We don’t know of anything tougher than these plants. If you can kill one you’ve missed your calling. You should be a hit man!! Although they won’t be a thing of beauty they can survive without supplemental water. We have seen them lying around naked in full sun for months (what a thought!) with roots exposed and leaves shrunken, only to spring to life when replanted and watered. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them erupting from landfills that have seen truckloads of them over the years!
In general most Aloes and Agaves are good landscape plants for desert conditions but some are tougher than others. A few require protection from the full afternoon sun and from frost. To look their best most require supplemental water in the summer months, although some Aloes (especially Aloe dichotoma) may rot with too
much water. For excellent coverage and photos of Agaves the book AGAVES, YUCCAS AND RELATED PLANTS A Gardener’s Guide by Mary and Gary Irish is a must.
Web Comments firstname.lastname@example.org September 13, 2004 © Shady Way Nursery 2004