The striking agaves (Agave spp.) bring architectural impact to the yard. These large, evergreen succulents have a rosette form and often have spiny leaves. Although they pack a visual punch, you need to be careful when planting agaves in a yard that kids use.
Century plant (Agave americana) is the most widely grown ornamental agave. It grows outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. It grows best in the warm climates of Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and Louisiana. Other varieties of agave also grow well in warm, dry areas. For example, Arizona century plant (Agave arizonica) and giant century plant (Agave franzosinii) are both hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10. Because temperatures often drop drastically at night in the desert, most types of agave can tolerate occasional freezing weather. In cool or rainy areas, you can landscape with agaves in containers and move them indoors or under cover during wet or cold weather.
Agaves grow best with at least six hours of sun per day. When planning your landscape, avoid areas in the shade of larger plants or buildings. Agaves are not picky about soil nutrients but they do need well-draining soil. Plant them in raised beds or containers if your soil holds water. Although you can allow the soil around them to dry out between waterings, agaves grow best with supplemental watering during dry spells.
Thick, spiky agaves add a structured look to any landscape. They provide high contrast to more wispy grasses, shrubs or flowers. You can also use agaves to form borders, although you should not put them near where people walk. Agaves also grow well in rock gardens. Several types of agave clustered together in a container or in the ground creates a dramatic and contemporary succulent garden.
Landscaping Considerations With Kids
The sap from agaves is poisonous. It causes severe skin irritation, including a burning sensation and blisters. Agaves are also spiky and often around the same height as a small child. If you have yard in which young children play, hold off on planting agaves until the kids are old enough to avoid the plants. Alternatively, plant agaves away from kids, such as in pots or a large planter that's not near play areas. To avoid accidental scratches, do not plant agaves with sharp spines next to a walkway.