midwinter agave rescue

Possibly not an actual rescue, just a move. I mentioned these agaves in a previous post and hoped that they didn’t have any genetic material from Agave scabra in them; it looks like they do. Two out of three planted seem beyond any attempt at rescue. This species must rank very low in its ability to form sugar solutes which lower the freezing temperature of water in its leaves, since it turns to mush any time the temperature goes below about 5 degrees F, which, unfortunately, it does here. All the time. These plants are from such a high elevation that another millimeter higher and they’d be on the moon, so elevation has nothing to do with it. A. scabra is a wimp, plain and simple, even when it sits on top of a mountain.

Now, technically, the accepted name for Agave scabra is A. asperrima. Most people still say scabra, but the specimen used by Salm-Dyck (to give his full name, Joseph Franz Maria Anton Hubert Ignatz Fürst und Altgraf zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck) to describe the species was actually a specimen of A. parryi, and the name scabra was already taken for a taxon now known as Manfreda scabra, so……

So, without really hugely caring one way or the other about its name (they never come when they’re called anyway), I dug the thing up, as quick as you could say Joseph Franz etc. etc., examined it for signs of impending death, noted them, and replanted it in dry soil. What I should have done to begin with, but, whatever.


pup, all mushy with water damage


wrinkled leaves, water damage


cuticle damage

Dry soil. Not “well-drained soil”, dry soil. I made a very short video (after I read the instructions…..what humiliation…..) to illustrate what I mean when I say “dry soil”. View with caution. This isn’t the type of soil usually recommended for drought-tolerant plants, and most people totally freak out when they see this sort of thing, but, again, whatever. It’s the kind of soil such plants really grow in, which is something I do care about.

The agave needs a microclimate. That is to say, a place warmer than the rest of the garden. The sort of thing people mean when they say “survives zone 6 in a microclimate”, when what’s really meant is “will not survive in zone 6, needs a warmer microclimate”. There’s a difference, and not a subtle one, especially if you’re a wimpy agave from a mountain in Texas where it never gets all that cold and you have issues with your fructans.

Hopefully, being smack up against the house, in this lovely soil that prevents any water uptake during winter, under a slight overhang, too, and with the massive amounts of hot air leaking from all the windows, the poor agave might be here at this time next year.


the poor agave, behind Dasylirion texanum, a zone 8 plant that knows a thing or two about making solutes.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to midwinter agave rescue

  1. Loree says:

    There are so many things to love about this post but most of all I love that you rescued/moved the agave! It looks good in it’s new home!

  2. January: The whole month was just full of excellent posts!

  3. (And Chess only wrote a few!)

Comments are closed.