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I have been fighting a losing battle for over 16 years and it involves my husband, agave and yucca.

Yucca whipplei


Okay, here is a yucca (above).  One of the many different species that occur throughout the Southwest.

And here is an agave….

Agave americana

Actually, there are also many different species of agave as well.

Here are a few different agaves that I have grown along with my husband in the 25 years that we have been married:

Agave vilmoriniana

Agave parryi
Agave desmettiana (getting ready to flower)


Agave victoria-reginae

So, what is the battle that I am dealing with?

Well, my husband always refers to agave as yuccas.  
No matter how often I tell him that we don’t have any yucca in our garden – only agave, he still calls them ‘yuccas’.


He has lived in the Desert Southwest his entire life and still cannot tell the difference.

Now, I really don’t have anything against yuccas….
Yucca baccata
Unlike agave, yuccas can grow very tall and large.
But, I must admit that I prefer agave.

Sometimes when my husband and I are driving down the street, he will point to a flowering agave and call it a ‘yucca’.  And every time, I correct him.  Now, I don’t want you to think that I am the type of person that is always correcting others, but this one thing is a particular sticking point with me.

I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I’m a horticulturist and I am passionate (crazy) about plants?

For awhile I was wondering if my husband just did it to tease me, (like he does about other things).

That is until last weekend, when my father-in-law asked me to prune some of the dead leaves from his yucca….

Agave americana variegata



The only thing is….it wasn’t a yucca.

Now, I know where my husband gets it from….. 

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I hope you all have a great weekend!

I will be hibernating indoors this weekend, enjoying the air-conditioning 🙂

Now, you may think that I am talking about soft, cuddly puppies finding a new home.  But, I am actually talking about my agave pups.  The word ‘pups’ refers to the small agave offsets that sometimes form from the adult agave.

 Agave americana surrounded by her ‘pups’.

Some agave species produce quite a few pups, while other species rarely do.  I do try to stay from agave species like Agave americana because they produce so many pups that it becomes quite a maintenance chore to constantly remove them all.  But that being said, I have many friends and clients who just love this particular agave.

Well, the day finally came in my garden for my agave pups to move away from their childhood home.
Can you see them?  There are 4 in the picture above.  Three are quite small still, but more then ready to leave their mother, my Agave parryi.  I am actually quite excited to be getting pups from this agave because in my experience, they do not produce many pups.  It may be that this one has because it does receive overspray from my lawn sprinklers.
Okay, this may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people just start digging in the middle of their gravel (granite) without clearing it away first.  Believe me…you want to clear it away first or else you will be left with a mixture of rock and soil mixed together.
 
Aren’t they cute in a prickly sort of way?  They really are quite tiny.
I carefully removed the soil around the pups, leading to the mother plant because the pups are still attached to her by a thick, fleshy root.  You can see that the pups are beginning to form their own roots, branching out to the side.
Just cut the root connecting the pup to the adult agave….that’s it.  It is really very easy.
Now, this same adult agave also has another pup, which has grown much closer to home then these tiny pups.
 
This one did not want to leave home, even though it was quite grown up.  When the pups are growing right up alongside the adult plant, just insert a shovel and push down firmly, cutting the connecting root.  **Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful in getting some pups to leave home  😉
I was able to harvest 5 pups.  I was so happy and had fun selecting where I wanted to put them in my garden.
Before you plant them, you need to put them in a dry, shady spot for 4 – 7 days so that the cuts have a chance to dry first.  This helps to prevent rot when they are planted.  Don’t worry about them surviving without water for a few days….they have plenty stored inside – they are succulents after all.
Once you have planted them, they will need supplemental water to help them establish and grow roots.  Agave do best when given supplemental water, even when mature.  Most are connected to my drip irrigation system.  The others receive overspray from my sprinklers, which is enough for them.
If you haven’t noticed this before, I am not a perfect gardener and am likely to tell people, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  But, I do not profess to be a perfectionist and so I will show you one of my larger agave, whose pups should have left home long ago…
smooth-edge-agave-pups
This is my Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana).  I love this type of agave.  It is medium size, and the sides of the leaves do not have thorns.  The thorns on the tips can easily be cut off if desired for a more pedestrian friendly agave.
As you can see from the photo above, the pups are quite large and should have been kicked out long ago.  So, I brought in the muscle (my husband) to help get them out.
Because the pups were growing close to the parent plant, a shovel had to be used to separate them.
 
Agave desmettiana is known for producing offsets (pups), but in my experience, there are not too many.
Actually, the adult agave below was grown from a pup.
A proud parent and her 8 offspring.  I planted a few and gave some to my mother, Pastor Farmer, of Double S Farms.
There were times when I worked on golf courses that my budget was tight, so I would ask residents to bring their agave pups to me so that we could use them in landscape areas around the courses.  The residents were very generous and after a while, we had more then we knew what to do with.  So, if you have some agave pups, plant one in a pretty container and give to a friend or donate them to your city, church or other organization.
**My son continues to do better each day.  We did have a little bit of a setback on Saturday, but yesterday and today, he is feeling much better.  Thank you again for your support and prayers!

The temperatures are warming and my garden is absolutely coming to life.  Well, it really wasn’t dead or brown because I do live in the Arizona desert, but many plants that were dormant during the winter, are starting to produce new leaves AND flower buds…I can hardly wait!

For the first time, I have decided to enter Gardening Gone Wild’s photo contest.  The theme for March is “Awakening”.  

Flowers of an Agave desmettiana
My entry is a photo of the flowers of an Agave desmettiana which are just beginning to open up in March.  These flowers are the crowning glory of the mature Agave plant, which pours all of it’s energy to producing these beautiful flowers.  Afterward, the Agave will die, but will live on through it’s offspring. 
Imagine a plant that lives for years, never flowering, and then towards the end of it’s life, expends all of it’s energy to produce flowers on a giant stem and then dies….
Agave colorata getting ready to flower.
 
The story begins with an agave starting to grow it’s flowering stalk, or inflourescence.  The growth is incredibly fast, growing up to 1 ft. each day.  Depending on the species, the flowering stalk can reach heights up to 40 ft. 
Agave murpheyi sending up it’s flower stalk.
 *I took the picture, above, at a client’s house and she referred to the flowering stalk as an ‘asparagus stalk’ because that is what it looks like.
When most people think of Agave, they think of the Century Plant, (Agave americana), and believe that it will flower once it reaches 100 years old.  This is actually a myth.  Although the timeline can vary, Agave americana does not live that long and flower much sooner.  There are over 250 agave species and most flower towards the end of their life and then die.
Actually, the length of time an agave lives is largely dependent on the species.  In my experience in the managed landscapes, most agave live approximately 5 – 15 years, once planted from a 5-gallon container.
  
I am not completely sure what species this particular agave was.
Note the ‘pup’ growing from the side of the agave.
 
There are two different styles of the flowering stalk (inflourescence).  The paniculate, above, and the spiculate, below.
Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
I planted this agave (as a 5-gallon) in 1999 and it flowered in 2005. 
Agave reproduce both by flowering (seeds) and vegetatively (bulbils & offsets). 
You can read more about how agave produce offsets (pups) and how to plant them from a previous post – Pups In The Garden…Not The Soft Cuddly Kind.

The flower of an Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana)
This is an agave from my garden, which was planted in 1998 and flowered in 2007.

You can see the small bulbils (baby agave) forming among the flowers above.  The bulbils will continue to grow and will receive nourishment from the stalk.  If left alone, the bulbils will eventually fall to the ground and root under ideal conditions.  They can be removed from the flowering stalk and planted, but do best if left until they have formed at least four leaves.
An agave in the desert that has died after flowering.

Close-up of the, now dead, stalk (inflourescence)

 
Bulbils on the flowering stalk of an Octopus Agave (Agave vilmorniana)
They are ready to be picked off and can be planted in well-drained soil.
Early on as a horticulture student, I fell in love with Octopus Agave and I bought my first one at a plant sale.  I planted it in a large pot and it thrived.  Years later, the flowering stalk started to grow.  I was both excited and a little sad.  I was happy because it was finally achieving it’s crowning glory….and sad because I knew it would eventually die at the end after finishing it’s life’s work.


However, that is not the end of the story….my original Agave lives on.  I took two bulbils from it’s stalk and planted them (above) and they are ready to be planted out in my garden. (Actually, I could have planted them much sooner).
**Note the little seedling coming up on the left side of the pot.  My son planted the seed, but we aren’t sure what it is.  I think he might have planted an apple seed.  We shall see….

I am talking about Agave babies, which are known as ‘pups’.

Parry’s Agave with small pup.
I knew that my Parry’s Agave, above, had a little pup growing.  I have been keeping my eye on it, letting it grow a little bit more before I take it and place it somewhere to grow on it’s own.   
Now, I don’t meant to rub it in to my northern neighbors, but it was a beautiful day to be out in the garden so while I was taking pictures, I soaked up all of the warmth from the sun that I could.  It has been rather cold lately (for us desert dwellers anyway) and today was a beautiful 68 degrees.
*I promise I will be envying your weather come August….
 
Yesterday, on the other side of the same Agave, I had noticed the beginning of a little pup breaking through (in the far left corner of the photo).  Well, as I was uploading the photo, I was in for another surprise.  I noticed another pup growing right next to the Agave.  I now have 3 Agave parryi pups to figure out where to place in my garden (what a wonderful problem to have).  They are expensive Agave and do not produce a lot of pups as opposed to some other species of Agave.
Victoria Agave (Agave victoria-reginae) parent plant and pups.
This is another of my favorite Agaves.  How many pups can you see coming up from the larger parent plant?  I count 3 pups, but there is actually another that is not in the photo.  This Agave is also highly prized and expensive.  Victoria Agave do not often produce pups, so I am very thankful that mine has been nice enough to give me 4.
Agave lophantha with two pups.
Agave reproduce in two ways.  One is by flowering at the end of their lifetime.  The other way happens earlier in the Agave’s life span and that is by producing offsets called ‘pups’.  The Agave sends out runners underground that produce the pups.  The pups can be located right up next to the parent Agave or a few feet away.
Agave macroacantha with many pups growing around it.
To remove, carefully expose the runner and cut with pruning shears or a sharp knife works well too.  Before planting, the Agave pup needs to form a callus on the bottom, so place in a shady, dry spot for at least a week before planting.  Agave pups can be planted out in the garden or placed in a container.  Even better, you can give some to your friends.
Personally, I would do this in the spring or fall and avoid the hot summer months as this can add more stress as the Agave pup is struggling to grow roots to absorb water.  But, that being said, Agave pups can be planted year-round.
Agave americana with pups.
When most people think of Agave, they think of Agave americana (above).  I do love the blue-gray leaves, but I stay away from using this particular Agave because they produce large amounts of pups.  This leads to a lot of maintenance as the pups need to be removed frequently or they quickly become an overgrown mess.  I have worked with many clients who have ended up pulling out their Agave americana for this very reason. 
Agave desmettiana with two large pups.
This Agave started life as a pup and was transplanted 4 years ago. 
It’s parent Agave flowered 3 years ago and died.
 Okay, I admit, I am not the most organized gardener.  I should have taken these large pups (on the right) and transplanted them last year.  But, I promise I will as soon as it warms up.  So, please do not wait to do this as long as I did.  Agave pups do best when planted when they are small.
Agave desmettiana, (above), is a nice alternative to Agave americana as it grows large, but does not produce too many pups.  It also has smoother edges in contrast to Agave americana. 
Now, this photo does not have anything to do with this post, but my dog, Missy, loves to take advantage of any photo opportunities. 

As does my son…