December 18, 2013

Plant of the month: Agave utahensis 'kaibabensis'

OK, OK, this plant obviously is not native in my state. In fact, Agave utahensis is only native in two U.S. states: Arizona and Utah. I'm highlighting it this month because it seems to be surviving the harsh elements of my climate quite well, planted in a pot with a grouping of other cold-hardy succulents. To read more about how my microclimate experiment started, click here.

agave2

Time will tell if this Agave, and it's companion succulents, will survive a USDA zone 5 winter--on a covered screened porch, out of the direct wind, away from the ice and snow and rain. I'm planning to neglect these plants until about March. That's what most sources tell me to do--put them in a protected place and don't water them until spring.

The three Cactuses in the pots have shriveled to a fraction of their size during the summer, which I've read is entirely normal for cold-hardy Cactuses in winter. The Sempervivums seem just fine. And this Agave looks pretty much like it did in August. (The photos here were taken during the summer, but believe me, it looks the same. Well, maybe slightly larger because it grew some additional leaves). This is amazing to me, since we've had several days and nights below 0F (-18C).

I hadn't even planned to try an Agave, but I was intrigued by the description at coldhardycactus.com, where I purchased it. According to the vendor, this particular Agave is an excellent addition to a rock garden. It likely will only grow to 8 inches tall and wide, and it's hardy to zone 5. Perfect for my little potted rock garden.

I adore the size, the color, the form, and just about everything about this Agave, which in my garden will remain a potted, outdoor plant. Frankly, I'm smitten.

agave

Coming soon: The Garden Lessons Learned wrap-up. Please share a post or your thoughts about lessons you've learned during the past few months. To join in, click here to leave a comment with a link to your post. Thanks!

20 comments:

  1. I can see why you are smitten with the pretty leaf ghosting. Small agaves are so cute. I recently added a tiny Toumeyana var. bella which is also cold hardy.

    Cactus is supposed to look a bit shriveled over the winter, ours don't drop to a fraction of their size but that might have to do with the cold as well.

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    1. I'm not sure the Escobaria is going to make it--it may have been attacked by something before the fall. The Echinocerus shrank, as did the Opuntias, but they look OK. The Agave, however, still looks very healthy--amazing. So much to looks forward to in the spring!

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  2. Wow, I was surprised that that cactus would survive. Your zone is the same as mine. I might try planting one here on the shores next summer. Thanks for the encouragement. JC

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    1. I saw a show on The Wisconsin Gardener about Cactuses that grow well here. Here's the link: http://video.wpt.org/video/2045453274/. Enjoy!

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  3. cold-hardy succulents. Interesting thought. I wonder, some of our Karoo succulents must sometimes be caught in snow?

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    1. Amazing plants. My garden here, generally, is not the best for succulents because of the shade. But I do have a few difficult microclimates, and these potted succulents are perfect for that purpose.

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  4. Isn't it amazing that we gardeners always want to grow everything, even plants that don't naturally like our conditions (maybe we especially want those!)
    I am trying some succulents, too. In my case, the problem isn't so much the cold as the soil. I can't grow them in the ground, but I have a few in pots and I want to plant out a big trough. I like your Agave very much. I thought they were all really big, so I didn't consider them. Hopefully, I can get one like yours.

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    1. I like a challenge! And for that particular spot, the succulents seem to work well. It's a place in the garden that gets very little rain and it's hard for me to reach. Plus, it gets plenty of afternoon sun. I like the idea of a large trough of succulents--I'll look forward to reading about that on your blog! I still don't know much about Agaves, but I like them--especially the ones that have blue-green foliage. I hope you can find one, too.

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  5. He's a cute little guy. Kind of sharp-looking, though.

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    1. Ha! Yes, he's not cuddly, but he is cute. A fascinating plant, though, and if he makes it through the winter unscathed, I'll be thrilled!

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  6. That is a very stylish addition to your rock garden, I hope it thrives for you.

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    1. Me, too. It's such a cute little plant. I know that sounds nerdy, but what can I say. ;-)

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  7. Definitely a good plant for those of us who forget to water....they are lovely.

    Jen

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    1. Yes, and for those of us to have hard-to-reach places in our landscapes that just scream for experiments. ;-)

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  8. I never thought of an Agave in our climate. Good luck with it.

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    1. Thanks. Me neither, until I read about it and realized some Agaves grow in cold climates. It's just a little potted experiment--kind of like a houseplant...outside.

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  9. Oh I do hope it works. It's adorable. I just adore agaves too, although they aren't crazy about the humidity and wet winters here and I seem to kill whatever I bring home.

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    1. I know, I think if I didn't have the microclimate for it, it wouldn't work here either. Our summers tend to be quite humid. But our winters are very dry--so maybe that will help. In effect, this is an outdoor "house plant"--I don't plan to plant it directly in the soil. But we'll see...

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  10. Beth I have always loved agave since I saw them in the botanical desert gardens in the SW. I have a native cactus that is not technically native to my area of the state and I am always in awe of how it looks so shriveled all winter and emerges in spring robust and full of life.

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    1. Yes, it will be fun to see which new plants survive the winter--especially the succulents. I've never grown Cactuses outdoors before.

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