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

June 3, 2015

Agaves as companion plants for cycads

Even though my cycads are the stars of the show, I like to give them a good supporting cast. A couple of years ago I started adding agaves, and I am very pleased at how they look with cycads.

Here you are looking at an Agave potatorum cv Kichijokan (Syn Agave verschaffletii) in front of a dioon edule cycad. I like how the shape of the agave makes a nice compliment to the tropical look of the cycad. Here are a few stray thoughts about agaves:

• Agaves are beautiful, but deadly. Plant them well away from where anyone might bump into them. The tips are sharp as needles!

• Choose your agaves carefully. Do your homework, don't just go to your garden center and pick up something that might look good in a pot. Some grow to be ridiculously enormous while others stay small (like this one).  Yeah, be prepared to pay a premium for that kind of plant. Small plant + slow growth + beauty = an expensive plant!

• Give them some water. Agaves can live out in the hot sun, but they appreciate some water. This one is downhill from the water that sprays the cycad, plus I give it a drink of water every once in a while from my watering can, especially in the summer. Yes, you can plant them in full afternoon sun. The photo above is of morning sun, but by afternoon, it will really be heating up!

So there you go. When you go to the garden center, be sure to refer back to the Latin name. All plants are labelled like that. Don't just look at one and think, *yeah, maybe that's it?* I wish I'd followed that advice years ago, but live and learn!

Brad draws custom cartoon illustrations for publications, blogs, presentations, anything you want. You can contact him at his website

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