Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

October 11, 2014

Caring for an Agave Parryi in the desert garden

Agaves, like is Agave Parryi, are virtually zero-maintenance plants. That is, they require about as much care in the desert garden as a piece of sculpture. But there are a few tricks that you can do to keep them looking their best. If you like the look of agaves, like I do, here are some things that I've learned

• Do your homework before you plant them. Some agaves get gigantic, not what I want. And some agaves send a lot of offshoots, also not what I want. Not all agaves are the same. Get some expert advice, read the labels. Select with care. By the way, if you want an easy way to know which agaves stay small and don't send so many offshoots, just look at the price tag, they're the most expensive.

• Leave them alone. That is, don't overwater. No need to fertilize. Hopefully you planted them in well-draining soil, on a slope. Oh yeah, and keep them well away from where people might be walking. They are as deadly as they look. That's not an illusion, they are razor-sharp!

• Clean out the brown bottom leaves. I did this yesterday by digging a little around the perimeter and then forcing a heavy-duty trowel on top of the brownish leaves on the bottom, and pulling them out. This one has been in the garden for a little over five years, and it's the first maintenance I've done on it.

• Wash away the debris. A little bit of leaf litter is OK, but this agave had accumulated a lot. I filled up my watering can, took off the rose, and gave it two good sloshes.

Even a plant like this that doesn't send offshoots often, still sends offshoots. I cut them off as I see them, as I really don't like the look of a clump, as opposed to a specimen, and besides, it saps strength from the mother plant. And she is the star of the show!

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