When consulting with my clients on Tempe xeriscape design, I often recommend the Agave plant. Agaves are considered succulents, which means that they have a high moisture content…perfect our Tempe desert climate! As there are over 200 known species of Agave, you are sure to find one to meet your landscaping needs! Below I will highlight two of my favorite agave varieties, as well as some common problems you might encounter when using them in your Tempe xeriscape design.
This agave is also known as a Century Plant or American Aloe, although not really part of the Aloe Family. The Century Plant grows best when exposed to full sun. This Agave has wide grey-green leaves that can measure up to 2 meters long. The plant grows up to 6 feet tall and about 9 feet wide.
The Century Plant can be very dangerous. Its leaves are sharp, pointed, and curved like fishhooks. Extreme caution should be taken when handling, and it is important to place this plant out of the way of foot traffic. The Century Plant produces a gigantic blooming stalk. The stalk reaches 14 feet high, and has many offset non-flowering rosettes. The plant will eventually flower when 8 to 20 years old, in late spring/ early summer. The bright yellow blooming spike contains flowers about 3 to 4 inches long. The stalk grows so quickly and so large, that it uses all of its energy to flower, and thus dies afterward, leaving a tall wooden stock. The Century Plant produces offsets, called pups, at its base that can be transplanted. The remaining pups will eventually help continue the lineage of the dead agave.
The Agave Attenuata is also known more commonly as the Fox Tail, Lion’s Tail, or Swan Neck Agave. The Fox Tail Agave has large soft green leaves that can grow to over 2 feet long and 8 inches wide. This Agave does not have any teeth or spines, and therefore is suitable for planting near pathways and other well-traveled areas. The Fox Tail grows best in light shade or part sun. It takes about 10 years to bloom, and produces yellow-green drooping flowers and a curved creamy-yellow flowering stalk. The Fox Tail also produces pups, just like the Century Plant, that take its place after flowering.
Although very hearty and great options for Tempe xeriscape, agaves can become victim to a few common bacterial and fungal infections. These infections usually occur when the weather becomes cool and wet, when they are grown in the shade, or when they are overly watered overhead. Such infections are usually not terminal and can be helped by simply removing the infected leaves or by applying fungicides. These infections do however produce irreversible cosmetic damage.
If the damage becomes so widespread, the agave should simply be removed, placed in a plastic bag, and thrown away to prevent the spores from spreading to the remaining healthy plants within your Tempe xeriscape. Many times these infections can enter through openings produced by the Agave Snout Weevil, a brownish-black beetle-like insect that measures about 1.5 inches long. The Agave Snout Weevil will lay eggs at the base of the plant and tends to prey on larger varieties.
Tempe Xeriscape – AZ Landscape Creations
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AZ Landscape Creations is full service xeriscape design and installation company that specializes in landscaping in Tempe, landscaping in Gilbert and landscaping in Phoenix. We also serve the East Valley communities of Queen Creek, Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills, Chandler, and Ahwatukee.