Consider Adding Blue Agave Plants to Your Garden

Consider Adding Blue Agave Plants to Your Garden

By Published May 22, 2014 Updated November 29, 2022

When people who don’t live in the Southwest US where agave plants are native first see an agave, they either fall in love, are frightened to death, or don’t know what to think. Agave plants/century plants are actually very common North American native plants that range from Utah south to southern Mexico. Agave plants are members of the Lily family that are most closely related to another popular garden plant genus, Hosta. The common name, century plant, is often used for agaves because many agave species require 100 years to grow large enough to produce a flower stalk in the wild. There are several agave plants that only take a few years to produce a flower stalk, but the common name of century plant has stuck for the entire group.

Some gardeners immediately fall in love with agave plants because of their highly architectural and symmetrical forms, and amazing leaf patterns. Agave plants range from 8’ tall to only 8” tall, depending on the species of agave plant you grow. Unfortunately, some gardeners are frightened of agave plants because of the presence of leaf spines. These same folks often have gardens full of equally spiny roses, but are able to rationalize that one spine is better than another. Like cats, agave plants will not usually attack you , but may vigorously defend themselves when you attack them. Mariachi music, a good dose of Prozac, and a subsequent calm demeanor usually help to prevent agave plant attacks.

Agave plants come in array of shapes, sizes, and colors. The most popular are the large blue agave plants, which seem to fascinate gardeners the most. If you live in an area which rarely freezes, the most common large blue agave plant is Agave americana. As you move into colder zones, Agave americana isn’t reliably winter hardy, but can be replaced with the equally as large Agave americana var. protoamericana. Here at Plant Delights Nursery we are testing some new large blue agave plants that will have even better winter hardiness than the ones mentioned above.

One of our favorite medium-sized agave is a Plant Delights introduction that we've named Agave parryi J.C. Raulston after the late J.C. Raulston who started the arboretum that now bears his name. This particular clone is incredibly well-suited for the wet, humid winters here in North Carolina and can reach up to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide so plan accordingly when placing in the garden.

Another great blue agave is the ovatifolia or whale's tongue. Our Agave ovatoflia are grown individually from seed, rather than cloned, so our supply is always limited. These large agave form spiky rosettes of symmetrical silver-blue leaves and can grow to 6 feet wide and 3 feet high. This is another great blue agave that does particularly well in wet and humid winter conditions as far north as Zone 7a.

Variegated agave plants have also become quite popular in the 2000s, but they are unfortunately much less winter hardy than their blue agave plant counterparts. We recommend that, unless you live in a mild winter climate, variegated agave plants are best grown as container plants that are brought indoors for the winter months. We hope you are as excited about growing agave plants as we are. If so, when you’re ready to buy agave plants/century plants for your garden, we hope you will check out our amazing on-line selection at

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