Agave - Hardy Drought-Tolerant Perennial Century Plants for the Garden

Agave - Hardy Drought-Tolerant Perennial Century Plants for the Garden

  Published September 15, 2016 Updated June 15, 2022

Century plants are wonderful architectural elements for the garden or container. Century Plants produce fascinating foliage in a variety of colors that can compliment any plant in the sun garden. There are blue agaves, green agaves, and variegated agaves with blue/white, green/yellow, or even more complex color combinations. The thick succulent leaves are deer-resistant and also make Century Plants very drought tolerant. The flowers, although produced only after 10 years or more of good garden conditions, are fascinating due to their extremely large size and their ability to attract hummingbirds. In our garden in the southeast U.S., our summer heat and humidity does not bother Century Plants, but our moist winter soils can prove problematic unless the plants are planted above grade or on a slope in well-drained soil.

Agaves are native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. We seek out Agave specimens that grow on the high altitude plains and mountains of this region where the local populations have evolved a tolerance for colder weather. We also collect rare and expensive variegated specimens and mass produce them for you. No longer do you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a cool white striped agave on Ebay. We have plenty of variegated agaves with stripes in white, cream, yellow, or light green to choose from. Now you can get them for much less at Plant Delights Nursery. One of our most popular agaves is Agave Parryi JC Raulston, an amazing specimen named after the late founder of the arboretum which bears his name.
Image of Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston'
Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston'

Some agaves are smaller then a softball at maturity. These little guys prefer some space so they do not get over-run by bigger plants. Small agaves are great in rock gardens, fairy gardens, and in small containers. On the opposite end are truly monstrously proportioned agaves with leaves that reach out 6 to 8 feet from the central core of the plant. If you have room for a large agave, we highly recommend them. They are real rock stars in the garden and always stop people in their tracks. The large agaves can be planted alongside flowering perennials, ornamental grasses and small vines for additional color. Some combinations we like are Agave 'Silver Surfer' with purple or white echinacea, yellow coreopsis, pink or purple oxalis or any of the small or medium lantanas and verbenas. The airy seed heads of Muhlenbergia meld well with the large agaves too. In between the big fellas and the little guys are a wide range of volleyball to beachball sized agaves in a wide variety of colors and shapes. One favorite of ours is Agave 'JC Raulston' that is the size of a beachball and nearly as round. This highly structural selection looks great in the garden or in a large container with a low growing sedum spilling around it.

One caveat to be aware of are the thorns that most agaves are armed with. Most agave leaves are tipped with cactus-like needles and additionally, some species have spines along the edge of the leaf. Agaves make great barrier plants, but will poke pets and kids without mercy. In short, don't plant an agave next to a slip-n-slide or a sandbox.

Welcome to Plant Delights Nursery at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens. We are a private research and display botanic garden located near Raleigh, North Carolina (USDA Hardiness Zone 7b). Our retail mail order division allows us to make the best perennials from our trials available to gardeners around the world, some of which were developed here, some from our plant explorations, and others from breeders around the world. Between 1988 and 2010, Plant Delights Nursery introduced over 500 new perennial plants to US horticulture. In 2002, we were honored to be recognized by the American Horticulture Society for our lifetime of work in commercial horticulture. This image gallery is but a sampling of the great perennial plants available for gardeners around the world. We do not carry all plants pictured at any one time, but since our mission is to educate and inspire, we hope these images and the linked articles below will expand your garden horizons and interest. You will find an array of other interesting information and fascinating perennials throughout our website...thank you for taking time to visit.

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