Tag Archive for: octopus agave

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

My favorite type of succulent are agave and while there are many different species, I’ll never forget the first one I ever grew. It was an octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) that planted years ago while in college studying for my horticulture degree. Even though that was long ago, I have a daily reminder of that first agave plant in the form of one of its descendants growing in my garden today.

This agave is the ‘grandbaby’ of the first one that I grew all those years ago and it was with a feeling of sadness when I noticed it sending up its flowering stalk late in winter, signalling that it was nearing the end of its life. At the same time, there was also a sense of excitement about new birth with the promise of a new generation of agave babies on their way.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

The age that an agave is when it flowers varies between the different species, with some living for decades before they send up their towering spikes. With octopus agave, they generally live less than ten years before this wondrous process begins to take place. 

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Watching the rate of growth of the flowering stalk of an agave never ceases to amaze me – they grow several inches a day.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Golden yellow flowers began to open along the length of the giant stem much to the delight of bees who happily pollinated the blooms.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Pollinated flowers soon gave way to tiny octopus agave along the stem.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

And a few weeks later, they were ready to be picked ready to create a new generation of octopus agave for my garden.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

There are probably over a thousand small agave growing along the stalk. However, I selected only nine to represent the next generation. I’m not likely to plant all of them in my garden once they are rooted, but it’s a good idea to select a few more than you are planning for in case some don’t make it, or if you want to give a few away.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Each baby agave are referred to as ‘bulbils’. They don’t have any roots yet, but will soon appear when planted.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

I filled three pots with a planting mix specially formulated for cactus and succulents, which means that it is well-drained, which is important when growing succulents. Three agave babies went into each pot, which I placed in the backyard in an area that receives morning sun and filtered shade in the afternoon – placing them in full sun all day would be too difficult for them at this stage as they still need to grow roots.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

My job now is to keep the soil moist, but not soggy until roots begin to form, which should take approximately 3-4 weeks. At that time, I can start to space out the watering to every five days or so. Eventually, I will move them out of the pot and transplant them into the garden or into a large container (2 1/2 feet tall and wide) where they can make their new home.

I’m not sure where I will plant each new octopus agave, but I will transplant one to where the parent plant used to be, continuing the cycle of life.

King Ferdinand agave

The baby boom isn’t over. Soon, I will be welcoming another set of baby agave into my garden as my King Ferdinand agave has also sent up its flowering stalk. This species is somewhat rare in the landscape and takes a very long time before it flowers, so I am very excited to welcome its babies next month.

octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Plants can do some spectacular things, and the dramatic process when agave send up their flowering stalk, definitely qualifies. Yesterday, I noticed that my octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) had begun to send up its fleshy shoot. 

I must confess that I had mixed feelings about it. My first reaction was excitement in getting to view the impressive growth of the fleshy stem and the flowers that will follow. But then, I felt sad that this signaled the beginning of the end for my octopus agave. 

You see, this agave is the ‘grandbaby’ of the first agave that I ever planted, back in the late 1990’s, making three generations of flowering agave in my Arizona garden.

 octopus agave

Eventually, that agave flowered, and I harvested one of the babies and planted it in a pot. Several years later, that octopus agave went through the same process, and I collected two babies.

Flowering Agave

The two siblings started out growing in a pot, and when they got large enough, I transplanted them out into the garden.

Flowering Agave

One was planted in a corner but had a short-lived stint in the garden as construction near the wall meant that it had to go.

Flowering Agave

Its sibling did great in its new spot in the front garden when it was planted in 2010, and now it is getting ready for babies.

Flowering Agave

The tiny baby agave are barely visible, and the stalk will grow several inches a day.

Octopus agave

Octopus agave don’t have a long lifespan and mine average eight years in the ground before they flower. 

octopus agave

In a few months, miniature octopus agave will cover the flowering stalk, which can be easily detached and replanted in the garden. It’s hard to believe that I will be planting the fourth generation of agave in my garden.

*I will keep you updated as it continues to grow and the arrival of baby agave.

Beautiful Agave: A Fourth Generation Begins