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Crown Your Container Garden with Desert Diamond Agave

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Virtues: Beautiful variegation marks this stunning agave that's perfect for a container in any climate or for the frost-free garden. A study in symmetry, this drought-happy succulent bears gorgeous green-and-white leaves edged with warm brown teeth. 


Common name: 'Desert Diamond' agave

Botanical name: Agave 'Desert Diamond'

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Flowers: Like others, this agave is grown for its foliage. When it reaches around 15 to 20 years old, it might put forth a tall flower stalk. After the bloom finishes, the plant's main rosette will die. Offsets that have developed around the rosette will carry on. 

Foliage: Spade-shaped succulent leaves arise from a central point to form a perfect rosette. Each leaf has a broad medium-green central stripe bordered by a creamy white margin. The edge of the leaves bear rusty brown teeth and they terminate in one rich brown spine.

Habit: It is slow to grow, but the rosette can reach 12 to 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

Origin: This hybrid agave was discovered by breeder Hans Hansen as a sport of the Japanese selection named 'Kissho Kan'. Comparing the two, 'Desert Diamond' has leaf margins that are wider and brighter.

How to grow it: Provide 'Desert Diamond' agave full sun in cooler climates or part shade in Southern regions where the sun is hot and strong. Afternoon shade is preferable. Watch for sunburn and move the plant if necessary. When grown as a houseplant, agave needs a sunny window. A succulent, this agave is highly drought tolerant, but it will develop best with some regular moisture while it is in active growth in the warm season. Provide a cool, dry winter dormancy. 

This is a wonderful plant to grow in a container that can showcase its handsome foliage and shape and facilitate moving it into and out of the garden by season. The pot should not be too roomy; choose a vessel only slightly wider than the rosette, and of a proportionate or slightly shallow depth. Larger containers will make it hard to avoid root rot in overly moist conditions, or soil compaction in dry conditions. Use a potting mix that offers good drainage, such as one with added coarse sand. 

Hardy in USDA Zones 9–10; elsewhere kept as a houseplant in winter.

Image credit: Walters Gardens

Recommended reading:

Grow your agave collection with the recommended species, cultivars and hybrids in Agaves by Southwest nurseryman and explorer Greg Starr. In addition to profiling the plants in words and photos, the book offers care advice for growing these architectural beauties indoors or out.

Learn to create and care for containers of mixed succulents with Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin. The additional plant lists are a good jumping off point for both creativity and collecting.

For a study in succulent success, explore California's incredible Ruth Bancroft Garden through the pages of The Bold Dry Garden by Johanna Silver. Plants and design techniques are covered in detail and illustrated with beautiful photos by Marion Brenner.