Succulents to Bring Structure to Your Yard
Planting succulents is an easy way to bring some structure and interest to your garden. They are so easy to take care of, needing very little attention year-round and very little water. It’s time to add some succulents to spruce up your low maintenance, drought tolerant, or Mediterranean garden.
We have three very different but equally interesting species of Agave to offer you – A. victoriae reginae, A. bovicornuta, and A. ocahui. They are all from similar areas in Western Mexico. A. victoriae reginae is found in the Chihuahuan desert and near Monterey, Mexico. A. bovicornuta is found in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Sinaloa, and A. ocahui is found in the Sonoran state and desert and was used by its indigenous people to make rope.
The most important garden site condition that succulents need is good drainage, and Agaves are no exception. If you’re interested in establishing a xeriscape, succulent, or cactus garden, it is well worth spending some time amending your soil. On the San Francisco Peninsula, the soil is already sandy, but gardeners in the East Bay and other areas will have to add more amendments. Adding gravel or sand will lighten up your soil. This enables water to better flow through the top 6″ of soil where most of the succulent roots are growing, thereby avoiding any roots sitting in water, which will quickly cause roots to rot and may kill the plant – especially succulents.
USDA Zones: 7-11.
Agave victoriae reginae – Queen Victoria Century Plant
This Agave is petite and slow growing, forming small clumps 1′ tall and 1.5′ wide. Agave victoriae reginae grows in tight rosettes of thick green leaves with attractive white edging. The margins of the leaves are smooth but end with a spine at the point of the leaf. This Agave was named by an English Botanist for Queen Victoria. Older plants will bloom, sending up a 15′ tall flower spike that forms a dense display of purple-red flowers. Agave victoriae reginae works well in coastal gardens with little irrigation and is deer resistant. Plant in full sun or light shade in hotter areas. Feature in pots for an interesting patio accent. Virtually disease-free.
Agave bovicornuta – Cow Horn Agave
This Agave is a solitary growing, small to medium-sized succulent reaching 2.5-3′ tall and 4-5′ wide. It forms an upright and open rosette of leaves, which are edged with bronze-colored coarse teeth and terminate in a long spike at the end. The leaves have interesting markings where buds have formed indentations on neighboring leaves. The new leaves have a soft, sleek appearance. The flower stalk sent up by older plants is 16-23′ tall and composed of a multitude of 2″ long yellowish-green flowers. Plant in full sun. Drought tolerant but will grow faster with more watering.
Agave ocahui – Ocahui Agave
Agave ocahui is a small succulent 1-2′ tall and 2-3′ wide. It forms a perfect sphere of dark green leaves that terminate in spikes. The margins are an attractive orange-brown color. Mature plants will bloom, sending up a 10′ stalk of sun-yellow flowers. New plant pups are called bulbils and are produced in the axils of old flowers after the plant blooms. Plant in full sun or part shade. Occasional irrigation is needed in the summer months to improve this Agave’s appearance. Tolerates reflected heat from patios or driveways. Perfect for succulent gardens or as a patio specimen.
Planting and Care for Agaves
- Plant in full sun or light shade.
- Plant in sandy soil with good drainage.
- Amend heavy soils with Greenall’s Firmulch and sand or gravel to improve drainage.
- Prefer slightly acidic soil pH of 5.5 – 6.5.
- Water needs are light, but some summer water will improve appearance.
- Mulch base with bark mulch, gravel, or decomposed granite to conserve soil moisture.
- Regularly apply Sluggo to prevent slug and snail damage.