Pictures of our favorite agave plant types for a beautiful drought-tolerant garden
Of all the succulents, agave plants are some of the most incredible. They may not flower for decades. When they do, they can produce an enormous flower spike that grows to 20, even 30 feet tall. Like other succulents, agaves are drought-tolerant. The most famous agave is probably the one that gives us tequila.
Grow Agave Plants in Containers
Agave plants are great in pots because they are usually slow-growing, and they won’t want to burst out of their containers quickly. We talk about rosettes a lot below — if you look at an agave plant from above you’ll see how the leaves form in a circular, rosette shape. This circular form makes the perfect shape for a container plant.
Types of Agave Plants
Agaves usually die once they have flowered (which can take decades), but some will send out shoots or ‘pups’, to create new plants. Many types of agave plants have super sharp spines on the ends of their leaves, while others are smooth. Some are huge, while others stay small. There are some real showstoppers.
To help you choose the ones that suit your backyard best we’ve featured 19 different types of agave plants below. Which are your favorites?
Different Types of Agave Plants with Pictures
We’ve based our height and spread estimates on agaves grown in the ground. You may see less growth if you are planting in a container or growing your agaves indoors as houseplants.
Common name: Parry’s agave, artichoke agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 3ft wide with a 15ft flower spike
This agave is first on the list because it’s one of our favorites. You can see how it got its artichoke name in the picture above.
This agave looks wonderful grouped with other succulents in a dry stony garden. Black spear-like spines grow at the ends of broad, blue-grey leaves. The flower spike is huge but may not appear for 10 or 15 years, as with many agaves.
Common name: Foxtail agave, dragon tree
Height and spread: 5ft high x 8ft wide with arching 10ft flower spike
The foxtail agave doesn’t have spines, so it’s a good one to choose if you have a small space and might end up brushing against your agave plants all the time.
Those needle-sharp spines can hurt! As a young plant, it makes an excellent choice for an indoors or patio container. The flower spike has green-yellow florets.
Common name: Thread agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 3ft wide with 8ft flower spike
One of the striking agave plant types with unusual creamy-white threads adorning the leaves. The leaves themselves are bright green, edged with white.
It may take 10 years to flower with green-white florets. Sometimes you will get new plants when the original rosette dies after flowering.
Agave ‘Blue Glow’
Common name: Blue glow agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 3ft wide
A cross between Agave attenuata and Agave ocahui, this attractive blue-grey succulent has finely-toothed leaves edged with yellow and red.
It makes an impressive statement in any rock garden if you plant as a group. It will die back after flowering, but it will take 10 years to get to that stage.
Common name: Royal agave, Queen Victoria agave
Height and spread: 12-18 inches high x 2ft wide, 15ft flower spike
A compact agave makes a great feature in containers. This may be a small type of agave plant but it will live for 30 years, and it can produce a tall flower spike of cream or purple florets. The leaves are tipped with black.
Common name: Hedgehog agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 2ft wide, 6ft flower spike
A profusion of narrow, dark green leaves tipped with spines make this agave quite hedgehog or porcupine-like.
The leaves can get to about a foot in length. Small red flowers appear on a spike around 6 feet tall if your agave has the right conditions to flower.
Common name: Blue agave, Weber’s blue agave, tequila agave, agave azul
Height and spread: 5ft high x 5ft wide, 16ft flower spike
The one that tequila is made from. This plant needs lots of space, so you’ll need a big backyard. It makes a fantastic feature in a desert garden. The blue agave also grows very well at high altitudes, around 5,000 feet. It will live for decades.
Common name: Smooth agave
Height and spread: 3ft high x 5ft wide, 10ft flower spike
This agave plant is really good in gardens because it’s a smooth-leaved variety. You won’t get speared by any sharp spines. It will grow very well in pots on patios and it is ideal for desert or rock gardens. There is also a variegated version.
Agave americana, Agave mediopicta, Agave americana marginata
Common name: Century plant, Maguey
Height and spread: 6ft high x 10ft wide, flower stalk can reach 30ft in the wild
This agave plant can grow very large. It will look stunning as a feature plant in a container. Agave mediopicta and Agave americana marginata are both attractive variegated versions of the original century plant.
Common name: Large-thorned agave, black-spined agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 2ft wide, 6ft flower spike
With one inch black spines at the leaf tips, this blue-grey colored agave has a distinctive look. A medium-sized plant, it may flower after 15 years or so. It has purple-green flowers on a relatively short spike in the agave world, at just 6 feet.
Common name: Twin-flowered agave, twin flower agave, pincushion agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 3ft wide, 10ft flower spike
Hundreds of densely-packed narrow leaves form the compact rosette of the twin-flowered agave. It has creamy-white filaments like some others listed here, and an impressive round shape.
Common name: Small flower agave, small flower century plant
Height and spread: 8 inches high x 8 inches wide
This may be the smallest type of agave plant we’ve featured here but Agave parviflora can still produce a flower spike of 3-7 feet in the right conditions. This cute agave is just perfect as a container plant. It has creamy yellow flowers which bees love.
Common name: Caribbean agave
Height and spread: 4ft high x 4ft wide, 16ft flower spike
This one has very sharp spines on the leaf tips, so be warned. A vivid variegated plant, the green leaves have yellow margins. It’s attractive to pollinators when it flowers. Agave angustifolia will produce new plants by sending out suckers.
Common name: Octopus agave
Height and spread: 4ft high x 6ft wide, up to 20ft flower spike
With its unusual swirly shape, the leaves of this agave plant look very like octopus legs.
You won’t mind getting close to it because its leaves are soft and people-friendly. A good choice to have beside a path, as it won’t matter if you brush against this agave.
Common name: Verschaffelt agave, butterfly agave, toper’s agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 2ft tall, flower spike up to 15ft
The leaves are said to resemble a butterfly’s wings. This is a slow-growing type of agave plant that might take ten years to reach full size. Being medium-sized it’s a good choice for a container. Once the butterfly agave flowers, it won’t produce any more plants.
Agave lophantha, Agave univittata
Common name: Thorncrest century plant
Height and spread: 3ft high x 2ft tall, flower spike up to 12ft
A smart-looking plant with shades of dark and mid-green, this agave will tolerate temperatures down to -10֯ C. There is a very pretty variegated version with mid-green, dark green, yellow and reddish stripes called Agave lophantha quadricolour.
Common name: Mountain agave
Height and spread: 5ft high x 5ft wide, flower spike at least 10ft
With an impressive rosette of deep green leaves, the mountain agave is happy in colder climates. It grows in the pine-oak forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Orientale at an altitude of 6,000-10,000 feet. It will survive -10 ֯C. When it flowers, be prepared for an incredible 10-foot tree-like stem to emerge.
Common name: Squid agave, spider agave
Height and spread: 2ft high x 2ft wide but can get bigger, with 5ft flower spike
A perfect addition to a desert or rock garden, the spider agave is a slow-growing drought-tolerant plant which works very well in containers. Unlike some other types of agave plant, it will send out suckers to produce new plants once the original rosette starts to die.
Common name: Cabbage head agave, cabbage head century plant
Height and spread: 2ft high x 2ft wide, 20ft flower spike
A slow-growing compact succulent in an attractive blue-green colour. It will flower but it may take ten years – the flower buds are red, opening to yellow. This is another agave that sends out suckers to create new rosettes, rather than dying off completely. Very sharp spines, so not one to plant near a path.
Want more ideas for drought-tolerant gardens? Check these out: