I have dozens of Agave attenuata – aka Fox Tail Agave – in my backyard. The species is one of my favorite plants because of their beauty, sculptural qualities, subtle luminescence and, of course, their drought tolerance. They look healthier if they get some occasional water since they are from an arid tropical area of the world (South America). I love to photograph them because of the way they capture and naturally reflect the soft qualities of sunlight.
“Agave” is Greek for noble or admirable (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 864). The word “attenuata” refers to the tips which are produced to a point. Their form is quite majestic and elegant if you look closely at them. This particular plant is commonly found in Southern California gardens. Along the coastal areas, they are adaptable in both shade and sun, but they will grow slightly faster with a bit of sun. They are also great accents in the garden if used as focal points.
Agave attenuatas look spikey, sharp, and dangerous. They are not. Unlike other beautiful agaves, like ‘A. Deserti’ or the large ‘A. Americana’, this particular variety is soft and flexible. Nurseries typically sell them in 5 to 15 gallon containers, which are 12″ to 14″ wide. Don’t be surprised if after two to three years, the plant expands to a beautiful 30″ to 36″ width. Plant them 5–6 feet apart, and with a little patience they will grow in size to become sculptural elements in the garden. Make sure they have a neutral background to show off their spikey cluster.
Lastly, if you’re into photography as I am, the Agave attenuata is a brilliant specimen to visually capture and experiment with. I’ll share more as we go.