Beauty With Age….

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Artichoke Agave
beauty with age

 Artichoke Agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’)

Our society usually doesn’t equate beauty with age.  Instead, we celebrate youthful beauty and spend our money on trying to stay looking younger than our years.  Thankfully, in the world of plants, maturity is something to be celebrated.

In the case of the agave, age equals beauty.  A leaf of an agave plant can live for up to 15 years.  The leaves are etched with beautiful patterns called ‘bud imprints.’   These delicate patterns decorate the leaves in numerous different ways depending on the species, as you can see in the photo of my Artichoke Agave (Agave parryi var. truncata) above.

beauty with age

 Cow’s Horn Agave (Agave bovicornuta)

Along the sides of agave leaves are small thorns, called ‘teeth.’  Agave leaves stay in bud for 2 – 3 years.  The teeth from the leaves imprint on the other leaves while they are held tightly within the bud, which is how their delicate patterns are formed.

beauty with age

Depending on the species, some bud imprints are more obvious, while others are more subtle.

The fibers from the leaves of the agave are used for weaving items such as bags and mats.  The leaves are also used to feed cattle in areas of Mexico.

beauty with age

 Agave ‘Durango Delight’ (Agave schidigera ‘Durango Delight’)

Some agave leaves have filaments along the edges.  Most agave end with a sharp terminal spine, which should be taken into consideration when you decide where to plant them.  You do not want them in high traffic areas where people can be pricked, (believe me, it hurts). 

beauty with age

 Mescal Ceniza (Agave colorata)

Because agave store water inside their leaves –  their leaves are thick and succulent.  Some of my favorite agave species are Artichoke Agave, Mescal Ceniza, and Victoria Agave.

Agave salmiana

 Agave salmiana

I saw this agave (above) next to my gym, and I was very impressed by its teeth.  They remind me of ‘claws.’

Beauty With Age

There are between 200 – 250 different species of agave, in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  Some of my favorite features of agave are how beautiful they are with their leaf shapes and imprints.  Secondly, their low-maintenance and drought-tolerance also make them a favorite in my garden.

Victoria Agave

 Victoria Agave (Agave victoria-reginae)

Agave is amazing plants, and I am a huge fan.  There is much more information to cover, which I will address in a future post.  But, I will answer the most common question that I am asked about agave, “No, they do not live for 100 years.”  You may be surprised at the real answer…

But, that is for a later post…

Winter Flowers, Fragrance and a Funny Name

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
33 replies
  1. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Beautiful agave super lovely..they are so intriguing to look at and explore..fascinating shapes and textures!Nice to know there is one named after my full name "Victoria"..yay! I really enjoyed this post, you are a wonderful writer and loved the descriptions of them! Awesome!I use agave nectar as a natural sweetener..not sure what kind of agave plant it comes from.Fascinating post!! You rock!

  2. Amy
    Amy says:

    Interesting post. I am really starting to like agaves. I would like to put one in a container for our backyard. Beauty does come with age….:)

  3. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    Oh Noelle, how you have showcased these fascinating xeric plants! I love them all, even though we cannot grow any here, our rainfall is too high, believe me I have tried several times with different methods. Just not meant to be, but I can certainly admire them in the garden where they belong and thrive. Your have shown a nice assortment. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    Beautiful collection of agave photos. I never appreciated their beauty until we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I too, enjoyed the imprint on the leaves.

  5. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    Great post! Living in a northern clime, I almost find plants like these to be like extra terrestrals, since they are so different and unfamiliar. The etching on the leaves is beautiful, amazing that a leaf can live for 15 years.

  6. Mary Delle
    Mary Delle says:

    You have showcased the agave well. They have a beautiful symmetry in their growth that I love. the one called Victoria is especially symmetrical. My garden is too small to grow them, but I love seeing them in others'.

  7. tina
    tina says:

    You are so right about the beauty and age. I sure wish I could be a plant so I'd get more beautiful with age-instead of the opposite:(

  8. The Violet Fern
    The Violet Fern says:

    How I wish I could grow these. Ahh, to age so gracefully. What beautiful plants – so interesting to learn of the bud imprints. I am so curious now to learn their average age!

  9. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Gorgeous photos-I am a true agave addict (I have about 20 types and counting), around 50 agaves in total. Looking at your collection was delightful.I could not agree more on how easy they are in hot, dry climates.

  10. Kanak Hagjer
    Kanak Hagjer says:

    I'm learning so much about these amazing plants! They're really beautiful, especially the bluish- green ones. Loved going through the close-ups of the leaves. With the teeth and the bud imprints. Very interesting!

  11. Rosey Pollen
    Rosey Pollen says:

    I have just finished a book called Gardening with Succulents and it had a lot of Agave in it. I never knew there were so many varieties.
    Thanks for this post, your photos are just wonderful! Bye Noelle!

  12. danger garden
    danger garden says:

    My husband asked me last weekend how many different types of agaves we had. Notice he asked number of different ones…not the actual total (as that number would be MUCH higher). I counted 29. I have a feeling 30 is just around the corner. Oh and I live in Portland, Oregon. Not generally an agave friendly climate. Great post!!!

  13. Pam Kersting
    Pam Kersting says:

    Hello AZ Plant lady! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Agave are very beautiful plants and I bet you'd be surprised to hear that they are catching on even here in southeastern North Carolina! My favorite garden center Zone 8 Gardens, has a huge variety of them. They are suited very well for the coastal environment! I also planted a Desert Willow at Figure 8 Island and it is thriving!

  14. says:

    Wow! I love hearing how many of you have Agave growing in areas such as Oregon and North Carolina. That is great!

    Rothschild Orchid – I have a confession to make. The photo of Durango Delight was taken at our local Home Depot, which is a big box hardware store.

    Pam, I am glad you are growing a Desert Willow. I just love them and have 4 in my garden. Please let me know how yours continues to grow.

  15. says:

    Hello James,

    Agave are more likely to have problems if they are over-watered. I generally water mine at least twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter. But, I live in a dry climate as opposed to your humid climate, so your agave might not need as much water.

    A sign that they may need more water is if the leaves show signs of wrinkling or the tips may die. I hope this helps!

  16. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    Agaves are truly beautiful. There are agaves that thrive in this climate, surprisingly. Somehow they always look out of place to me, as if they should be returned to where they grow naturally. I've seen them bloom, the kind that has a 30-foot bloom stalk. Stunning, but they still looked out of place in a front yard with live oak trees laden with resurrection fern, and gingers in the back yard.

  17. Jeff Ross
    Jeff Ross says:


    Great Pics! Agave victoriae-reginae is one of my favorites along with the very grey-green Agave parryi v. truncata.

    It is nice to see some of the desert's best pictured here.

  18. VW
    VW says:

    Oh, those agaves make some great photos! They are definitely growing on me, though I didn't like them at first. I was surprised to find some types that are hardy to zone 5 in the high country gardens catalog, but I don't think they fit with my garden theme right now. Maybe someday I'll find a way to work them in, especially if I keep reading your blog and Pam's Digging in Austin.

  19. catmint
    catmint says:

    Hi Noelle, the photos and the agaves are very beautiful but in reality I usually steer clear of these plants because of their spikiness. I think there was one growing nearby when I was a child and it frightened me and I've never forgotten it.

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