Tuesday 15 March 2011

Clumps or single plants?

When I brought home the pots of agave utahensis at the weekend my OH commented on one of the pots crammed full of plants and how good they looked as mass of leaf and spine. What struck me most was that when I look at the same pot I see a mess and that you can not see the true shape and structure of the indivual plants. This got me thinking about why most people seem to keep agaves as individual plants instead of clumps.

One of my obsessions is keeping my potted agaves as neat as possible, removing leaves, constantly looking at each plant checking for anything that may damage them and removing any offsets as soon as they are big enough (or in my impatience often before). I have always just removed the offsets out of habit, it never crosses my mind to leave them to form a clump.  I don't do this with any other succulents, I have some lovely clumps of aloes and echeverias.  In fact I often damage the roots of other succulents to try and force clumping.  So why not agaves?

For me I suspect it could be something to do with the strong structural form of agaves.  Looking at the plants I like,  they tend to be the more defined structured plants.  No doubt I have mentioned several times that I like the order and neatness they bring (no doubt followed by laughs from my OH as she looks around the mess inside the house).  I think you would loose this order in a clump and maybe that's what stops me.

Strangely in the ground I am more relaxed and the agave parryis in the front have several pups which while I have considered removing them, I have never bothered.  Dry beds, no matter how hard you try never seem to reach the level of neatness you get in pots and so I try not to replicate them, letting the plants grow a bit more naturally.

So are there plants that deserve to be in clumps? One is agave attenuata, there is a lovely clump at Kew and its softer form seems to lend itself to clumps.  But thinking about it imagine some of the other clumps you could have; a clump of agave kissho Kan variegates would look pretty good,  and don't tell her but maybe my OH is right. Imagine a perfectly formed clump of agave utahensis var eborispina. It would definitely be a talking point!


  1. Yeah clump clump!
    I like them displayed alone as prize specimens and also when allowed a bit more freedom as they would be in the wild. Same plant, two faces sort of thing
    Heavy frost this morning and everything that shot up last week now looks terrible. boo

  2. I like my Agaves solitary, both pot and landscape. 'Blue Glow' has been perfect for this. 'Joe Hoak' as well, though that might be because it is a very slow grower.

    I agree with you, attenuata looks best in a clump. It makes a beautiful one.

  3. HB: Blue glow is a lovely plant, and there are some amazing variegated versions available now. And they definitely look best as single plants.