Arizona star agave

Agaves – which ones were hardy enough to survive the surprise winter?

Have you been adding xeric agaves to your garden in an effort to be more water-wise in light of our extreme heat and drought?
Adding native and adapted xeric plants to the garden is the perfect solution to reducing your lawn and your water bill.
But, as with all plants, it’s important to do  your research and know what you’re getting.
This cold and early winter weather had been hard on some agaves that can take the heat, but can’t handle the cold.  
I’m always pushing the edge of the envelope (and not just in gardening, but we won’t talk about that here).  So, that means I trial many plants in my garden that might not be a perfect match for our climate.  And, sometimes it kicks me in the …trowel.
Here’s what did and didn’t make it at this winter’s current low in my garden:
The squid agave, pictured above, is always a tough cookie.  They have survived for me down to 17 degrees in the icebox winter of 3 years ago.  

The giant franzosini agave handled the cold with aplomb.  It’s big and bold and still making way too many pups!  Let me know if you want one!  I’ll even ship!  Seriously!

This was an experiment.  This octopus agave is stunning when it’s alive.  Trust me.  However, I knew that experts report it hardy only to between 26 and 28 degrees.  And that’s in the ground.  Plants in a pot are much more tender because their roots get colder above ground faster.  Sometimes it doesn’t even freeze here in the winter, so I was taking a calculated risk, knowing I might simply have to replace it when it warms up next spring.  And I will replace it.  I love the look and the sculptural shape so I will just take my chances and treat it like an annual in cold years.

This Arizona star agave looks pretty ugly now, but I think it will come back from the crown — it will just take a while to be big and beautiful again.

This standard weberii agave seems to be tolerating the cold just fine.  It’s been scraped up by the deer, roaming around looking for places to rub their antlers, but that’s just a cosmetic problem for this agave.

I’m very surprised that this variegated agave Americana made it through.  I’ve lost some in previous years’ freezes and I fully expected to lose this one at 24 degrees.  There are a few ugly spots on the back side, but it’s doing great.  Those that died in previous years were much younger, so I think this one did well because it’s well-established now.

This wicked sharkskin agave in the back xeric bed is hanging on just fine.

I think this sweet little quadricolor agave has struggle with some deer munching and the cold, but a little pruning will help it shine again in the spring.

You can see that the green goblet agave has some freeze damage on the lower leaves, but the rest of it looks healty.  Another haircut and it will be pretty as a picture again.

 And, finally, my whale’s tongue agave is hanging tough and looking good in the cold.

Just to set the record straight, I have learned some lessons from previous freezes.  I have several desmettiana agaves in pots in my greenhouse – staying toasty warm for the winter.  I use to have a nice one along the front walk and it died in a slight freeze.  They are so pretty that I reserve those for pots now.

As long as this is as cold as it gets this winter, most of my agaves are safe.  Hint, hint….  How are your agaves faring in the winter vortex this year?

Next post I’ll talk about how and when to prune out the rotting stuff.