Common Name: Fox-tail Agave
Growth Habit: mounding stalks up to 3-4 feet tall
Cultural Requirements: Fox-tail agaves are not at all fussy. They can grow in anything from full sun to pretty dark shade. They need very little supplemental water and then only in the hottest driest spots while they are getting established, but they will grow faster with extra water. Foxtail agaves can’t tolerate much frost without suffering leaf damage so they really can only be grown fairly near the coast or on hilly sites inland where frost is not a problem.
Features/Uses: Fox-tail agaves like other agaves, yuccas, and many large aloes have rosette growth with leaves arranged radially around a stem. The main stem or trunk has many new rosettes that grow from the base or from the stem. They are unique in that they are unarmed and don’t have any spines or even sharp leaf margins. So they can be used along walkways, driveways, and swimming pools where those other agaves, yuccas, and aloes might cause injury.
They are also unique in having relatively softer and broader leaves that look more lush and tropical than other agaves, yuccas, and aloes. They can be added as visual drama to “spice up” tropical-looking plantings where they dramatically contrast with the forms and textures of palms, bird-of-paradise and other tropicals. They can also be used in a similar manner as a visual seasoning with drier Mediterranean-style or other low water landscapes.
Fox-tail agaves blooms, which are a greenish cream color, are quite dramatic with long arching spikes that can be 6-12 feet long.
As another bonus fox-tail agaves look stunning in large containers. They are easy to propagate just a terminal shoot with a foot or so of trunk can be dug into the ground and off they grow! So in a large pot you can easily place a large cutting and the result is an instant hit that looks like its been there for years.
Although fox-tail agaves have green leaves, especially when grown in shade many have a gray-green color, particularly on the new growth at the center of the rosette. Some wonderful varieties or cultivars have been introduced. ‘Boutin Blue,’ sometimes called ‘Nova,’ has blue-gray foliage. There are also a couple of attractive variegated varieties that are great specimen plants and are spectacular in containers.
Bloom Time: Fox-tail agaves bloom in mid-winter
Where In the Garden: Main Parking lot, Mexican Garden, New World Desert Garden, along Quail Gardens Drive
Photos: Rachel Cobb