Aloe (AL-oh) and Agave (uh-GAH-vey) are two groups of (sometimes) spiny, thick-leaved rosettes. They are not closely related, just similar in appearance and in their functions as living art in waterwise landscaping or miniature marvels for indoor growing. Look to Aloe and Agave for a wide variety of textures, forms, and colors that are sure to impress. (What's the difference between Agave and Aloe?)
- Form: Both plant groups are slow growers with a wide range of sizes, from under 3.0" to over 4 feet in diameter. Some varieties grow as solitary rosettes or shrubs while other produce offsets and form dense clumps.
- Colors: Across these two genera there is a stunning variety of colors and patterns on display including robin’s egg blue and fuchsia with variegation patterns or a smattering of “freckles”. Environmental stress from sun exposure, cold temperatures, or limited water can bring out their brightest pigments.
- Foliage: Both types can have toothed spines along their leaf edges, though not every variety does. Agave spines tend to be sharper and can leave beautiful imprints on the leaves beneath them.
- Flowers: Aloe can bloom every winter or spring with large, showy flowers of red, orange, or yellow that attract hummingbirds. Agave, however, are monocarpic, meaning they bloom once in their lifetime. After 8-30 years, an agave will send up a massive bloom stalk as it goes to seed and eventually dies.
- Light: Both groups need full sun, year-round. If growing indoors, be sure to place containers near sunny windows and move them outside in summer if possible.
- Soil: Good drainage is imperative, so opt for a gritty cactus/succulent mix from a garden center or make your own by mixing 1 part potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, and 1 part perlite or lava rocks. Fertilizer is not necessary, but 2-3 applications of cactus fertilizer in the growing season (summer for Agave, winter for Aloe) can speed up foliar growth.
- Water: Aloe and Agave are exceptionally drought tolerant and should never grow in standing water. Water the soil deeply then allow plenty of time to fully dry out before repeating. Frequency can vary from 2-6 times a month. We recommend erring on the side of under-watering and using pots with drainage holes.
- Hardiness: Minimum temperature tolerance varies greatly, as some species arose in the sub-tropics, others in desert or alpine climates. Some are even frost-tolerant. Refer to each variety’s product description for its specific hardiness.
- Propagation: Not all aloes and agaves produce offsets, but for those that do, propagation simply involves removing the offsets and re-planting them in well-draining soil with plenty of sunlight to grow roots.
Notes from the Nursery
There are over 500 species of Aloe and more than 300 Agave species, plus a whole lot of hybrids and cultivars. Though they are not closely related and evolved in different hemispheres, they share many adaptations to hot, dry, climates that make them similar in appearance. For more information, explore these succulent resources: Under the Spell of Succulents by Jeff Moore and Succulent Plants of the World by Fred Dortort.