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Plant Highlight: Echeveria agavoides

May 2012

In nature, Echeveria agavoides is found in a number of states in central Mexico, from Durango and Jalisco in the west to Hidalgo in the east.  Its chubby, waxy pointed leaves are often edged or tipped with red.  The basic leaf color is green, but the hue varies from bright green to yellowish-green to gray-green, depending on the form.  Plants may sometimes remain single-headed, though they usually put out offsets to form a clump.  Depending on the form and the growing conditions, plants may have rosettes of varying sizes.  At the small end, they may be only about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, and in extra-robust specimens they may exceed 12 inches (30 cm).

Because of the variability of this species, a number of varieties have been described, but current taxonomy tends to regard these as merely forms.  Some of the more striking forms have been given cultivar names, such as ‘Red Edge’ (also sold as ‘Lipstick’) and ‘Ebony’.

Echeveria agavoides comes into flower in spring, with April and May being the main flowering months in our area.  The flower stalks are relatively slender and from one to two feet tall (30 to 60 cm).  There are narrow bract leaves at intervals along the stalk, but these are quite small and soon wither.  The stalks usually are forked at the tip, with the tips arching over so that the buds face downward.  As the flowers open, they begin to angle outward, and by the time they have passed and the seeds are forming, they are upright.  The individual flowers are urn-shaped, widest at the base and narrowing toward the tips, with the petal-tips flaring outward.  The base of the flower is deep pinkish-red to coral and clasped by small sepals, while the tips and interior are yellow.  Though the flowers are not large (typically about ½ to ⅝ of an inch long, or 12-16 mm), mature plants often put out several inflorescences per rosette, enough to make a nice display.

The horticultural appeal of E. agavoides is enhanced by its ease of cultivation and considerable tolerance for winter cold.  It can withstand temperatures down to the upper teens Fahrenheit (-8˚ C) without injury.  It should not be planted in too shady of a position, so that the intensity of its red tips will not be lost.