Cacti and succulents are the hallmark of landscapes out west. They embody a toughness against the elements and offer bold, architectural shapes for the landscape. Premier among those suitable for gardening are the agaves. These long-lived perennial plants can be used just as effectively in south Louisiana gardens. Remember, though, these are plants from very arid climates; they will need well-drained soil and full sun!
This is the classic landscape succulent for Louisiana! The Agave Americana, or Century Plant, is a Southwest US native that does very well in our climate! Planted in the ground, they can live for years through our heat, cold, rain and drought. They are cold hardy well down into the low teens and endure heavy rains, so long as the planting site drains well.
Named century plant for the false notion that the plant only blooms every 100 years, it is a slow grower that can take up to 30 years to bloom. When a blossom finally does develop, they are spectacular, sometimes standing over 25 feet! The flowering rosette does die after the blossom fades, but adventitious side shoots always provide fresh plants to replace the parent, meaning the agave can live indefinitely in the garden.
Agave Americana is extremely spiky and the spines can cause major injury, so this is not a plant to put next to a sidewalk or a driveway. They are used to best effect in long, deep front yards far from the road, where its bold form makes a statement at a distance!
Agave Americana Marginata
This is a variegated form of the classic blue-green century plant. Growth and care are much the same, but this variety boasts a bold yellow stripe down each side of the succulent leaves. They stay somewhat smaller than the regular century plant, but are still very large and bold.
Agave Desemettiana Variegata
This plant is known as smooth agave. The leaf margins lack the sharp shark-tooth spines of the century plant, though the tip of each 3-foot long leaf still has a dangerous terminal spike. These plants are hardy to the mid to low 20’s, so winter protection might be necessary sometimes, but not often. This is as easy as burying the succulent under a bale of pine straw for extended cold periods. The smooth leaves make this plant much easier to work and weed around, so it might be worth a little less cold hardiness!
Fox Tail Agave is the least cold hardy of our offerings (hardy to about 25 degrees), but it has a form that is truly unique. It is completely smooth on leaf margins and tips, so handling it is easy! The bloom on a fox tail agave is where it gets its name, and it is spectacular. Imagine the frond of a foxtail fern, only 8-10 feet tall, sometimes curving over like a question mark. These plants could be grown in a pot, to be moved in winter, a feat made much simpler by its smooth leaves that will not poke you when you try to move it!