The Suave and Debonair Tuxedo Agave

My journey into the world of succulents began five years ago. After first removing all the front lawn and replacing it with mostly evergreens, I focused on the rear of the property. I wanted a thriving, hardy, drought-tolerant, and relatively easy-to-maintain garden. The area had slopes and irregular levels that posed challenges and limitations to my gardening pursuits.

During my research, my attention turned to succulents, especially agave. There are over 200 species of agave with varying sizes, colors, rosette shapes, spines and teeth. Most varieties thrive in the USDA 9B zone. After much thought and research, I concluded that my fairly rugged terrain lends itself well to terraces and bedrock. We ended up creating what we call the ‘Agave Mound’, which is home to several different agave cultivars. The first agave planted on our mound was the ubiquitous Americana he agave, also known as Century Plant. This is probably the most widely recognized species. It is towering, lonely and majestic. However, if left unattended, it will produce a colony of offspring, offset from the mother plant. Interestingly, this is not the largest agave. However, the honor probably goes to its cousin Agave atrovirens, Maguey verde grande. This agave can occupy a significant portion of the landscape, reaching monsters as tall as 40 feet and weighing as much as 2 tons.

I chose Agave americana, Mediopicta alba (Tuxedo Agave) as one of my garden agaves. It is known for its grey-green leaves with a creamy white stripe in the middle. This is probably where its name comes from. The leaves have long terminal spines characteristic of most agaves. For this reason, Tuxedo Agave should not be placed near paths, aisles, or trails. To alleviate this concern, he does a 1/4 inch pruning from the tip of the spine.

It has a gentle impact so it won’t affect your garden planning. Tuxedo agave is a cousin of Century Plant Agave, but is a medium-sized agave that is 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Native to Mexico, this agave thrives in USDA zones 8b-11 and can tolerate temperatures up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like all succulents, Mediopicta alba needs well-drained soil. I have tried different soil compositions for my succulents. Currently, I blend pumice, decomposed granite, sand, and small, fine rocks with potting soil and natural soil. It may be a bridge too far for me to cross, as it seems unnatural to eliminate the remnants of organic life. For succulents to thrive in this medium , seems to require a large amount of liquid fertilizer. An interesting idea that we might experiment with in the future.

Mediopicta Alba can become one of the focal points of your garden. It can be a single specimen or group three or more for Hillside designs. They can be mixed in mixed succulent beds to provide contrasting colors and architectural structures.

“To forget how to dig and care for the soil is to forget yourself.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The next meeting of the Red Bluff Garden Club will be on Tuesday, January 31st at 1:00 pm at the Methodist Church, 525 David Street, Red Bluff. Make gardening a New Year’s resolution and join us. I have some free succulents for my visitors. It’s probably even Tuxedo Agave if it can be separated from its mother.

Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Garden Clubs, Inc., and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

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