Caution….Beware of Sharp Things in the Garden

sharp thorns
The sharp spines of Agave desmettiana begin to emerge

The sharp spines of Agave desmettiana begin to emerge.

In honor of Foliage Follow-up, which was created by Pam of Digging, I decided to focus on a part of the foliage of Agave – the thorns.

sharp thorns

Now, I am the first to admit, that is my least favorite part of the Agave, having pricked myself countless times.

Thorns surround each leaf of this Agave colorata

Thorns surround each leaf of this Agave colorata.

But, despite the fact that I have been pierced by their thorns, I do find beauty in them just the same.

The leaves of the Victoria Agave (Agave victoria-reginae)

The leaves of the Victoria Agave (Agave victoria-reginae)

I love that the colors of the thorns contrast so beautifully with the color of the leaves.

sharp thorns

Close-up view of the leaves of my Artichoke Agave (Agave parryi var. truncata).

The thorns themselves, often have interesting shapes as well.

sharp thorns

 The thorns of the Agave salmiana surround the entire leaf.

So, what do you do if you like the beauty of the many different types of agave, but do not want to risk getting hurt by their thorns?

sharp thorns

Well, there are three different solutions….

First, you can plant agave species, such as Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana), which does not have sharp thorns.

Secondly, you can plant your agave away from walkways and the patio, and placing them farther out in the landscape, where you can enjoy their beauty, without accidentally getting hurt.

Thirdly, you can just cut off the tips of the thorns.  This is what I do for the two Agave I have growing by my front entry.  The thorns do not grow back and I can continue to enjoy the beauty of my agave, close-up. 

So, enjoy the beauty of the entire agave….even those sharp thorns ;^)

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."
26 replies
  1. danger garden
    danger garden says:

    Beautiful! My husband has threatened to cut the tips of my agaves but I won't let him. They are so fabulous and it would take away from the plant. Not that I haven't hurt myself a few times, and the swelling when you really prick yourself, ouch!

    Thank you for the wonderful photos!

  2. gardeningAngel
    gardeningAngel says:

    Beautiful agaves Noelle. I didn't know that you could cut off the thorns, that would make life easier when working with them! I do so love your agave pictures. I wish I could have them outside year round like you do. The side thorns always remind me of shark's teeth. Kathy

  3. Christine B.
    Christine B. says:

    When I read the title, beware of sharp things in the garden, I automatically pictured rakes, pruners, and the like. I got a good laugh when I realized it was about agaves. Sometimes the only sharp thing in the garden is me: when I'm telling my kids to get out of the planting beds or stop tromping the seedlings, etc.

    Christine in Alaska

  4. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    I love the agave, but didn't realize they came in so many various shapes! I have the Americana and cut the tips off since I'm ridiculously allergic. I posted last year about my agave that bloomed when it was only 3 years old. It's still alive but doesn't look as pretty as it used to. I really like your photos! Very nice!

  5. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I was actually going to do a foliage Friday post on agaves! However work deadlines kept me inside. The bluish thorns on the green salmiana leaves look cool.

  6. Pam/Digging
    Pam/Digging says:

    I love the thorns of agave—not when they're piercing my skin, but they are menacingly beautiful, can glow red in the light, and make good photo subjects, all of which you illustrate beautifully! Thanks for joining in Foliage Follow-Up with a creative focus, Noelle.

  7. Muhammad khabbab
    Muhammad khabbab says:

    Though i do not grow it because of little children in home but it is a superb plant. I agree that thorns have their own shape too. Your lilac vine in previous post is very pretty as well.

  8. bloominrs
    bloominrs says:

    I didn't realize you could cut the tips off. I've avoided cacti and agave because my xeric area is by the b-ball hoop. Thanks for the tip. Now I will consider some hardy agave. I think I also need to dig up more lawn!

  9. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Stunning, Noelle. That first shot, with the fire-red tips of the emerging spines fading in a sunset wash to the soft blue-green of the leaves, had my mouth falling open at its beauty. And not much later in the post, I fell in love with Agave colorata and those lovely shadow-like markings on the leaves.

    I'm so glad to be able to experience your love of your native landscape and get to know it through your knowledgeable and enthusiastic eyes. 🙂

  10. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    I don't think I knew how pointy those leaves were, but from the pictures you can really see how sharp they look.
    They kind of remind me of the thorns on roses, I try to plant them far in from walkways like you suggest the agaves be, since my kids are always chasing after balls that roll into flower beds.

  11. says:

    Who knew that thorns can look pretty? I never did, until I decided to get a close-up of the thorns on my Agave desmettiana (the first photo). When I saw how pretty they were, I went searching around my garden and others for more 'thorny' photos. I am glad you enjoyed them.

  12. Lisa smith
    Lisa smith says:

    My child fell on a neighbors agave plant that was next to the sidewalk, while riding his bike. It almost killed him.

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