Agave plants have become popular among gardeners because the plants adapt well to extreme climate changes, require little water, can tolerate poor and shallow soils and are usually free from insects and diseases. Sometimes mistaken for a cactus, the agave is a succulent that is usually associated with hot, arid weather, but you will find agave varieties that will tolerate and thrive in almost any climate zone in the United States.
Known for its thick, massive, pointed leaves that are blueish in color, the Agave americana, better known as the Century plant, can grow to be 5 to 7 feet tall. They often sprout a large asparagus-like stalk from the center of the plant that may reach heights of 15 to 30 feet and sport yellow flowers at the end of each branch. These plants usually do not flower until they are over 10 years old. The Agave americana does well in fun sun to partial shade and will grow in shallow soils as long as drainage is good. Water monthly during the summer.
This agave plant is one of the few that do not die after blooming. The Squid agave (Agave bracteosa) has soft tipped leaves and produces a creamy yellow flower that blooms in early summer. These succulents like full sun but do well in shaded areas too. They require regular watering and have a hardy frost tolerance.
Originally from the coastal plains of Sonora, Mexico, the Mescalito (Agave felgeri) like full sun and have a high heat tolerance level. These succulents are also able to endure temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. They require little to no water and will not do well if over-watered. Their flowers are known to reach heights of 9 feet and usually appear in late spring or fall.
One of the more beautiful flowering agave plants, the Texas tuberose (Agave maculosa) prefers full sun but will grow in shaded areas. These agave succulents have excellent tolerance for heat and can endure frost conditions. The plants watering needs vary--they can do with a little or a lot of water, generally--so they are ideal for nearly any location. Light purple flowers appear on tall spikes in the summer months.
The Pulque agave (Agave salmiana) plant is from Central Mexico and can grow up to 6 feet tall. They only bloom after it's reached its 15th year and the flower stalk is huge, reaching heights of 40 feet but the flowers are rather obscure. This plant tolerates drought and poor soil conditions but requires good drainage.