Agaves, the Perfect Indoor/Outdoor Plant

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Agaves, the Perfect Indoor/Outdoor Plant

A few years ago, a trip to Austin was garden changing.

I fell head over heels for agaves. I blame it on them being blue . . . many of them are anyway. Blue is my favorite color in the garden or out. Others are variegated, and I adore variegated plants. Agaves are sturdy looking and bring stability to garden design. However, until recently, agaves weren’t sold in my USDA Zone 6B climate, but now, even major companies are offering them. On plant tags, agaves are sometimes listed as annuals, but they are perennial, just further south.

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Still, I’ve found a way to keep them happy. They can be grown in containers and brought indoors during winter as long as your home maintains a moderate temperature.

I discovered this after a harsh winter reduced my Agave americana planted outdoors in a container to a mushy heap, I then vowed to bring any others indoors during winter, and they’ve faired very well in a sunny west window. When our outdoor temperatures went down to an unheard of negative 17F a few weeks ago, even indoors, the agaves shivered, but still held.

They make great houseplants especially for someone like me who doesn’t remember to water. I return them to my deck once summer comes and all possibility of frost has passed.

Agave parryi truncata, sold as Retro Choke™, is perennial and will live until it matures and flowers. Then, the mother plant will die, but I hope to have some pups by then. It grows in a rosette form and has wide, fleshy, blue gray leaves with very long red teeth and spines and is listed hardy in USDA Zones 7-11.

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So far, all of my agaves respond well to the indoors. I also grow A. Blue Glow™, a very blue selection with small soft, reddish spines edged in yellow. It is also hardy in Zones 7-11.

At a local nursery on the back table, I found a variegated yellow/green agave with long teeth and spines. I don’t know the cultivar, but it’s still a beautiful specimen. When searching out new ones, I try to choose those which mature on the smaller side so that they are easier to move. Cactus soil is very heavy. They are slow growing, but once they outgrow their containers, I can either transplant them to a larger container, or try planting them in a sheltered microclimate outdoors.

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Inspired by this agave (in the photo above) mulched with orange and yellow beach glass in a garden in Portland, Oregon, I found blue, green and white beach glass for decorative mulch. Gravel also looks very nice against the leaves.

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The smaller specimens sit as a group atop my grandmother’s old sewing machine. As people come up the walk, they see them in the large windows, and unlike some of my other houseplants which require more attention, they always look good.