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Agave Care Guide

Agave montana, Agave parryi var. truncata, Agave parryi 'cream spike'

Agaves are very easy to care for and can be extremely tough plants that require little attention to thrive. A free-draining soil mix is vital….

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Agave montana, Agave parryi var. truncata, Agave parryi 'cream spike'

About Agaves

Agaves are in the Asparagaceae family with over 270 known species native to Mexico and the surrounding region. Agaves are known for their beautiful structural forms and make stunning feature plants in pots, gardens and rockeries. Many species can survive temperatures well below freezing and are incredibly happy growing outside in the U.K, when given the correct amount of drainage. Be careful when handling these stunning plants as they come covered in an armoury of spikes. These are to protect themselves from being eaten in their habitat as they grow in arid locations where water is scarce.

Agave leaves unfold very slowly and incredibly neatly from a central conical shaped crown. Many species leave very pronounced markings and patterns where the previous leaf rested before unravelling. 

Agaves can take many years to flower and are often called century plants because of this, with some varieties taking up to 50 to 60 years before flowering. Some of the larger species of Agave can produce an incredible flowering display of over 12 meters high.

Due to the time they take to flower, it is very rare to find hybrid forms of Agave, but when they do arise, they are often beautiful and highly sought after. Variegated Agaves are visually stunning, with many coming in compact forms, making them the ideal collector’s plant.

Soil Mix and Feeding

Agaves are very easy to care for and can be extremely tough plants that require little attention to thrive. A free-draining soil mix is vital. We use 50 percent soil and 50 percent grit or perlite for drainage, a supplementary feed in the warmer growing season such as a slow-release fertiliser or regular balanced liquid feeds will help these plants grow. 

Agave victoriae-reginae 'white rhino'
Agave victoriae-reginae ‘white rhino’

The ideal time to feed Agaves is during the repotting process. Add a 5 to 6-month slow-release fertiliser during the spring at the recommended amounts or a well-balanced liquid fertiliser every two to three weeks.

Adding these will help to encourage good strong growth throughout the summer.

Planting

Planting your Agave at an angle will keep the plant’s crown from becoming waterlogged and allow the rainwater to drain freely out of the plant. It is especially important when grown outside where you cannot control the watering.

Pot on your Agave when it becomes pot bound, this is an excellent time to remove dead and dying older leaves and roots. It also allows you to pot on any pups that may have appeared. Always wash your hands after handling agaves as the sap can be irritant.

Many Agaves are cold hardy and will happily grow outside year-round given the correct amount of drainage. Choose a spot where they will receive plenty of sunlight. A bright location is essential, especially during cold winter months.

We like to underplant with rocks for two reasons. It will help keep the plant free draining at the base, and it also keeps weeds at bay as Agave can be hard to weed around due to their spines. Its good to use a thick layer of top dress to keep the leaves off the wet soil to avoid rot as the Agave grows.

You can use horticultural fleece to keep the plant dryer if the winters are particularly wet. You could choose to pop a temporary shelter over the Agave for the winter, as this will ensure extra protection against the cold and wet, especially if the Agaves are young and tender.

Positioning 

Positioning Agaves is incredibly important for them to achieve a mature size. Most Agaves prefer full Sun to Part shade. Variegated Agaves prefer part shade as this intensifies the colouring and markings. Position your Agaves where they can’t danger passers-by or pets with their sharp spines.

Watering

Agaves respond well to regular watering once a week during the summer, but if the weather is scorching, sunny and dry, it is always good to water up to 3 times a week. When watering, make sure the free-draining soil mix is thoroughly drenched and well saturated. The best time to water Agaves is early morning when the Sun is less intense. During the winter, Agaves require a lot less water, a slight moistening of the soil is sufficient for the colder months as the plant is dormant. 

Over-wintering Agave

These plants don’t just look tough, they are tough and can deal with all types of extreme weathers, from heatwaves to windstorms and torrential downpours. Some species, such as Agave montana can survive long periods under snow. 

The winters are usually the resting periods for Agave, it is always best to keep the soil on the drier side during these colder months. Sunlight is vital during the winter, as much direct sunlight will ensure a healthy plant come the spring.

You may even choose to snip the spines off the end of the Agave, to make them safer to be around. It also makes it easier to apply the fleece in the winter and prevents puncturing the horticultural fleece. This will not affect the plants in any way but be careful not to cut into the leaf tips.

If Agaves are grown in pots, then they can be moved into a greenhouse, conservatory or indoors on a sunny windowsill for the winter.

Growing tips

  • Use a well-draining soil mix 50% multipurpose compost and 50% grit of perlite.
  • Feed and water regularly during the growing season.
  • Plant at an angle so water can freely run away from the crown.
  • Use a good thick top dress to help the Agave from rotting.
  • Place in a bright sunny location for optimum growth rates.

Shop Agave

See a list of the current Agave we have in stock.

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Surreal Succulents at RHS Malvern

Last year Surreal Succulents were excited to be exhibiting for the first time at the RHS shows. T...

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Last year Surreal Succulents were excited to be exhibiting for the first time at the RHS shows. This was a new challenge for us as we are new to showing plants at this level. We wanted to showcase the colour, texture and form and highlight how well they work in a garden setting together. We came up with a contemporary display garden theme that would suit any small space such as a yard, patio or balcony garden. With of course  its’s own Surreal Succulents style.

We decided to design and make some features for our show stand including our bespoke vertical succulent garden, succulent chaise longe and also corten steel planters. With a contemporary designer theme, we wanted to show how you can squeeze lots of plants into a small space.  Using existing walls or furniture with space for plants designed into it to take up as little room as possible.

We were delighted to be approached by BBC Gardener’s World as they wanted to do a feature on us preparing for the show and film the final display garden. This was fantastic news for us but the pressure was on.

Mark came up with the design of the vertical garden and succulent chaise lounge.  The succulent chaise lounge was inspired by the amazing repetitive patterns found in succulents and the design was certainly surreal. It was a concept piece that is actually comfier than it looks. We planted the head rest with Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ as these grow giant rosettes on the end of large upright stems, these looked like sun parasols. We also mounted multiple Aeonium tabuliforme vertically into the design.

The vertical garden was designed with the idea that if you only have a small wall space you can still enjoy a wonderful colourful succulent garden. We added some laser etched foot prints to make the design more surreal and add a different texture to the show piece. This was planted up with our Echeveria collection and looked amazing.

We then made and planted some large planters to show how a raised bed or a rockery/gravel garden might look when planted up with amazing succulents. Our feature plants were the Aloe polyphylla, Aeonium ‘Pomegranate’ , Aeonium ‘Velour’, Aeonium ‘Ice Warrior’ and Aeonium ‘Sunburst’.

Our large corten steel bowls were planted up with our Surreal Succulents hybrids and large Echeveria’s from our collection. These were a great edition to the stand, and were a massive hit with the visitors.

We finished the set up with only 10 minutes to spare, It looked amazing and we were so pleased with it. All the features worked well and the colours of the planters and wooden textures went really well with the plants.

The next morning we were met by the BBC producers and it was at this point we received our medal. A silver gilt, we were so happy and delighted as this was our first RHS silver gilt we had ever received. It was so nice to share this experience with the BBC team as they had met us before and filmed at the nursery to cover the feature, they were really rooting for us.

The show opened and we were filmed with the legendary Adam Frost, It was amazing to chat with him before filming. Adam said he had seen our feature covering our nursery and he really enjoyed it.

A short while later we also met Carol Klein who was very popular at the show. The floral Marquee soon filled and the atmosphere was buzzing. It was amazing watching the crowds of people taking pictures selfies and popping their pictures on Facebook and Instagram.

We felt a massive sense of achievement but the best bit was meeting all of you that visited the show. We loved everyone getting inspired by our garden and buying our succulents.

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Surreal Garden Design

Garden Design At Night

We wanted to share with you one of our fantastic designed garden rooms. This was a collaboration ...

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Garden Design At Night

We wanted to share with you one of our fantastic designed garden rooms. This was a collaboration between our new in house designer maker Mark Lea and Surreal Succulents.

The garden/yard was a small space and it was a challenge to fit in all the clients’ demands, as they needed it to be practical as an entertaining space as well as showcasing their plants. With the current design it was hard to use the space for entertaining more than a few people. After a consultation with the client it was important to house an area for seating, cooking BBQ’s and evening relaxing in the summer time. Using CAD (computer aided designs) we were able to create the layout of the space.

Mark came up with the idea of having large raised planted beds, which would incorporate seating. The seating would connect the space together and make great viewing platforms for all the chosen planted succulents. You would then be able to get a close up view of how fantastically architectural the structures of the succulent plants can be. These beds would also provide the perfect growing conditions that succulents need to thrive.

With the design being so geometric and such a small space, Mark decided to use a contemporary tile design to give the space a modern feel and break up the straight lines of the raised beds. This looked great on the CAD rendering and the client was happy with the design.

The space was cleared and construction began, foundations were laid and the walls and raised beds were constructed. The raised beds were then rendered and painted to give the space a nice contrast. The walls were painted a light grey to make the space nice and light without reflecting or absorbing the natural light. These colours contrasted the red cedar wood that would be used for the capping and benches.

Being a contemporary designer Mark wanted to use some of his digital craft skills to add a narrative to the garden. The client would often talk about how his pet cats loved to use the space and was surprised by the amount of animals his cats would catch even though it wasn’t a rural location. This gave Mark the idea to add this story into the garden, choosing to place hidden footprints on the top of the raised beds and benches to tell the story of all the animals lurking out there that might not often be seen. Mark used a laser cutter to engrave these into the surface of the wood with a process known as Rasta engraving. The laser burns into the surface of the wood and leaves the effect of the footprints.

The garden room was planted up using a number of Surreal Succulents’ favourite plants. The garden was designed and planted with low maintenance in mind. There were some existing plants that the client wanted to keep in the space including a palm and fern tree. It was great using these as it gave the garden height in the planting while the succulents were establishing themselves. We used Surreal Succulents’ favourite varieties such as Aeonium Pomegranate, Aeonuim Red Edge, Aeonium ‘Velour’ as feature plants, these we complimented with contrasting Aeonium SunburstEcheveria Elegans, Echeveria Glauca and sempervivums

These varieties of succulents were used for their range of great contrasting colours and their striking architectural structures. The bespoke benches with etchings were then made and fitted. These connected the space and really show the clever design that made the space practical, meeting the client’s wishes. Every bench was under lit with colour changing LED’s so at night the mood of the space could easily be changed and controlled.

One year on

The design for the space has really worked and can now comfortably house 10 plus guests. The client was very satisfied with the end result saying their house feels like it has an extra room added despite being their garden/yard. They were especially pleased with the way you can even enjoy the garden over the winter as the succulents look amazing all year round unlike a lot of flowering perennials which lose their flowers and leaves. With the clever use of design in the space, it feels so much bigger and roomy. The succulents in the garden are happy and looking fantastic, they have certainly grown in just over a year. We hope you enjoy looking through the images and are inspired by how small spaces can be used.