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Agave nickelsiae (King of the Agaves)

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Scientific Name

Agave nickelsiae Rol.-Goss.

Common Names

King of the Agaves, King Agave, King Ferdinand's Agave, Pinguino

Synonyms

Agave ferdinandi-regis, Agave victoriae-reginae var. laxior, Agave victoriae-reginae f. nickelsiae

Scientific Classification

Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Agave

Description

Agave nickelsiae, formerly known as Agave ferdinandi-regis, is a stunning, small, slow-growing Agave up to 18 inches (45 cm) tall and wide. It forms an open rosette of stout, triangular, blue-green leaves with narrow, longitudinal, white bud imprints that usually form a triangle shape. The margins of the leaves are dark reddish-brown and spineless, terminating at the blunt leaf tip in a stout spine of the same color. The inflorescence is spike shaped, up to 13 feet (4 m) tall, containing many paired flowers of various colors, often with shades of purple-red.

Photo via inaturalist.org

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 7a to 11b: from 0 °F (−17.8 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Agaves are not difficult plants to grow. They are slow-growing and dramatic and will even thrive on a bit of neglect. If you are the type of person who likes to fuss with houseplants and water a lot, Agave is probably not the plant for you. If, however, you are the type of person who likes to set it and forget it, and you have a sunny window, Agave might the way to go. Be aware that some of the large varieties will eventually outgrow your room (unless you have a large greenhouse), and Agave can be aggressive. They have irritating sap and sometimes very sharp thorns that can cause injuries to small children and even pets.

In general, Agave do not need to be repotted every year. Most of the species commonly found in cultivation grow very slowly and will take a long time to outgrow their pot. It is also best to handle your plant as little as possible, since they do not like to be disturbed. When you do repot, refresh the spent soil with new potting mix and make sure the plant is firmly anchored in its pot. However, be careful not to pot the Agave too deep as that will encourage stem rot during the growing season… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Agave

Origin

Agave nickelsiae is native to the mountains north-east of Saltillo in north-western Mexico. There is much confusion regarding the naming of this plant. It was first named as Agave nickelsiae in 1895, but was re-named as Agave ferdinandi-regis by Alwin Berger in 1915. Later authors, notably including Howard Scott Gentry, considered it to be merely a form of Agave victoriae-reginae, not even meriting the rank of a subspecies or variety. Recently, however, a group of Mexican botanists have noted the significant floral differences between the plants, and they have concluded that A. nickelsiae should be recognized as a separate species.

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