Porcupine AgaveAgave victoriae-reginae 'Porcupine'
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Agave victoriae-reginae 'Porcupine'
Outdoor Growing zone
Porcupine Agave is a special, rosette-forming perennial plant that is remarkable for the perfect symmetry of its leaf arrangement. The fleshy leaves are elegantly marked with white lines, and they end in a short black spine. This slow-growing plant reaches the size of a basketball in 10 years, and after 20 years may send up a 15-foot flower spike, with yellow blooms attractive to hummingbirds. Grow it on dry slopes and banks, among gravel and rocks, or in a pot. It can be grown outdoors in hot zones, or as an indoor or porch plant in areas with cold winters.
Full sun is best for the Porcupine Agave, which should be grown in soil that is very well-drained. In areas with winter rains, plant on a slope or elevated place. Tolerates temperatures below freezing when dry. In pots, use soil for cacti and succulents, and only water when the soil is completely dry. Fertilizer a little during summer. Pests and diseases are normally not a problem, and deer leave this plant alone.
The symmetry of nature is all around us, but not always visible. That is why the Porcupine Agave is so remarkable – it shows that urge for symmetry with such beauty and precision it is almost unbelievable – how can this be a living plant? Each leaf in the dense rosette is placed with exact precision, and the elegant white markings on the leaves are copied precisely, and seem to have been made with a precision drafting instrument. The overall effect is of something approaching a level of perfection rarely seen – and that is why this plant is such a magnet. It is long-lived – this plant-group is often called ‘Century Plants’ – and a wonderful special addition to your garden if you live in the warmest parts of the country, or a spectacular potted plant for a sunny window, solarium or glass-in porch. Growing slowly into a round ball of many leaves, about the size of a basketball, but broader than tall, it is eye-catching, super-appealing and almost like having a very quiet pet in the house. One day it will send up a 15-foot flower spike (it’s true!) carrying yellow blooms that are a magnet for hummingbirds. A moment to dream about and anticipate, even if it is well into the future.
Porcupine Agave is a stemless perennial succulent plant, forming a round, dome-shaped cluster of fleshy leaves, arranged in concentric spirals. It sits directly on the ground, forming a neat flattened ball of many leaves that in 10 years will be about the size of a basketball. Each leaf is thick and like a broad triangle in cross-section, with an almost flat inward face and a back with two sides. The leaves taper gradually to an abrupt point, topped with a short black spine, but the edges of the leaves are smooth. There are white lines along the mid-green leaves forming a sophisticated and elegant pattern.
When a plant is 20 years old or more it may flower. It sends up a fat, fuzzy spike from the center, rising to 10 or 15 feet tall, with the upper section covered in flower buds. These open in succession from the bottom up, forming a moving circle of fuzzy, pale-yellow flowers. It’s a spectacular and amazing event, so be patient! Unfortunately, this is not an agave that forms offset plants, so once it flowers it will die and be gone. Make sure you have a few younger plants coming along to replace it.
The Porcupine Agave is a wonderful addition to any open, sunny part of your garden. Grow it among rocks and gravel, or on a dry, stony bank. Plant it among other succulent plants and drought-resistant small shrubs. Use it in the levels of terracing and retaining walls – anywhere that is hot and dry. It also makes a great potted plant that can be grown indoors in a sunny place, or inside a cold porch – anywhere where the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing.
The Porcupine Agave will tolerate temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit when growing in the ground, which is zone 8. It thrives in all warmer zones. Potted plants should not be exposed to temperatures below 35 degrees, and the soil should be completely dry during periods of cold.
Sun, sun and more sun is perfect, but the Porcupine Agave is reported as also growing in bright shade for a few hours a day. It will grow in any soil that is very well-drained, and it grows well in rocky, sandy and gravel soils. In areas with winter rains, it is best grown on a slope or elevated place, to avoid damp accumulating. Good drainage is essential. Plants in pots should be grown in soils blended for cactus and succulents, and the pot should have good drainage. Many growers find clay pots best, as these absorb water from the soil, making it dry more quickly and drawing air into the root-zone.
Water new plants a little, but established plants need no additional watering. In pots, water once the compost has dried completely, and don’t water in winter unless the leaves begin to shrivel. Occasional feeding with liquid fertilizer for cactus, at the same time as watering, is valuable. Feed between April and August, with a little extra in June and July. Use a fertilizer with high phosphorus and low nitrogen, such as 2-7-7, or 5-10-5. No other attention is needed, and this plant is normally free of pests or diseases, as long as the soil is not too wet.
The Queen Victoria century plant, Agave victoriae-reginae, is also called the royal agave. It grows in a limited area in Mexico, in the Chihuahuan Desert. Although relatively rare, it isn’t considered an endangered species at this time. It is perhaps the most cold-hardy agave, with resistance to light frost. It was named by the British gardener and botanist Thomas Moore in 1875, in tribute of course to the queen of the time, Victoria. The variety called ‘Porcupine’ is a special selection made by Yucca Do Nursery, which used to specialize in drought-resistant plants at their nursery in Hempstead, Texas.
Every one of our Porcupine Agave plants has been carefully grown from seed. It is the only way, but it takes a long time to create a small plant. It is illegal to collect plants from the wild, to protect these amazing plants from possible extinction. Our healthy, nursery-grown plants will grow to become cherished members of your garden family. Because of the slowness and difficulty in growing them, they are always rare, desirable and hard to find. We only have a few, so don’t wait to place your order.