In gardens with restricted space or where conditions are especially difficult for agaves, try growing them in containers. Agaves tolerate the hot soils and crowded root zones of containers extremely well. Containers offer flexibility in finding the right amount of sun or shade for your agave, and make it simpler to shelter plants from too much rain or cold.
While any agave can be grown in a container, smaller species are much in demand for container culture. Agave colorata is less than 12 inches tall with widely spaced, gray-blue leaves whose delicate shadows, known as bud imprints, make it an impressive choice. Agave bracteosa is a small plant that multiplies slowly. The thin, pale green leaves lack teeth or spines and curve gracefully from the base. Cold-tender plants like A. attenuata, with its large, smooth-edged, celadon-green leaves, or A. guiengola, an unusual plant with only a few, wide, light gray-green leaves, make stunning container plants for larger areas. Both grow three to four feet tall and as wide.
Agaves grown in pots need a soil that will dry out slowly but offer good drainage. Use a potting mix of equal parts compost, good potting mix or garden soil, and either gravel, pumice, or sharp sand. Do not use peat moss; its acidity and its water-holding properties are not desirable for growing agaves.
Plant agaves so that the crown is well above the soil line and will stay that way as the soil subsides after watering. Feed with liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season, or add a light layer of a dry formulation once at the beginning of the growing season. Provide plenty of light. Many agaves will tolerate full sun in containers, even in the desert, if kept sufficiently watered. Always water completely, and test to be sure the container is at least half dry before watering again.
Image attribution: Stan Shebs. Image rights.
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