Agave Attenuata – The Big Boys of Succulents

Agave Attenuata – The Big Boys of Succulents

The Agave (Attenuata -also known as Agave Foxtail.) is one of the most popular succulents in my local neighbourhood and its understandable as to why.

Sun Lovers
The Agave thrives in the sun and shade.  In my opinion they are a true succulent, in that they can survive just on rainfall.  I have a rockery that has full sun most of the day and the Agave’s I have planted have survived under harsh conditions.  Admittedly, some of them have taken off and grown fast and strong whereas others have struggled in the same conditions and taken alot longer to thrive than the others.

Agave Attnuata Succulent and Cacti

This Agave is about 3 years old.

Cacti Succulent Agave Attenuata

These agave’s wtihstand 40C+ heat

Shade Lovers
I have Agave’s growing in pots on a shady window sill that never sees the sun and although they are small they are still fine specimens of the species.

Succulent Cacti Agave Attenuta

Grown in shade with little annual rainfall

When an Agave is mature it sends out a flower which has lots of Agave pups along the stem which can be transplanted and will grow.  They also grow little ‘pups’ as off-shoots which can be pulled off or cut and replanted.  A neighbour of mine threw out about 8 mature, very large, Agave plants on the pavement for anyone to have.  It took two people to get one in the back of our car.  It is now growing happily in my front garden, it had only a few tiny roots sticking out the bottom.

Agave Attenuata Succulent

Found it on the pavement and stuck in the ground.

Agave’s do not like a lot of water.  If you are planting one in the garden, do not dig a hole but rather build a mound and plant it in the top so that the water does not pool around the bottom of the plant.  They do not like having wet roots at all.  I planted one in my rockery last year, it was doing quite well until we had a very wet Winter and the results were a bit devastating to say the least.

Agave attenuata phto

This Agave Attenuata is growing in minimal soil in my rockery.

Agave Attenuata succulent cacti

After a very wet Winter. It never recovered.

I have noticed that Agave’s get yellow spots on their outer leaves in the Winter.  I have checked out Google but cannot find any information about this.  It does not seem to affect the plant, growth wise, just doesn’t look as nice as the leaves being smooth and green.  The spots disappear in the Summer, this is the only minor problem I have noticed.

Agave Attenuata Succulent

Yellow spots after the Winter

Agave’s are monocarpic. This means that when the plant flowers the parent plant will soon die.  As previously mentioned, the plant will grow lots of small baby plants before it flowers which usually grow in the protection of the parent plant. So, although the parent plant dies it will leave some children in its place.  The photo below is an an Agave in my front garden that (amazingly) has bent some of its leaves backward on a 40C/104F to protect its children plants  (see post: Which succulents die after flowering?)

Agave pups

Agave parent plant protecting its babies

Other Varieties
There are quite a few other varieties, some are available here in Australia.  They are generally the larger of the Succulents plants and can look stunning in gardens and rockeries.

Agave Americana Succulent

Agave Americana

agave succulent cacti

Agave Isthmensis

Updated 31.1.17
I have just returned from a trip to Queensland where I took the photo below of some variegated agave which had just sent out a flower spike. This is called bolting.

Variegated Agave Succulent




South Australian Succulent Society Spring Fair & other Succulent Societies

South Australian Succulent Society Spring Fair & other Succulent Societies

This weekend is the South Australian Succulent Society Spring Fair.  Of course I went along.  They have one in the Autumn as well.

All States in Australia have a Succulent Society.  Most Countries in the world have their own Club/Society. Some are very active and some are not. Unfortunately, for me, the South Australian one only has two fairs a year and a minimal website and Facebook page.  I was expecting their website to have lots of growing tips and discussion pages about Succulents, but alas, no.

Details are as follows:
Website :
Western Youth Centre
Marion Road, Cowandilla
They meet on the 3rd Friday of every month

However, the Australian Succulent Society website and Facebook page is a different story and posts photos of Succulents from around the world, helps you to identify plants and is well worth a look:  It has a link to its Facebook page and also has a YouTube channel where you can watch lots of videos.

South Australia Cacti and Succulent Society

Just after the doors opened at 10 am

South Australian Cacti & Succulent Society

There were a lot of different varieties.

Back to the Succulent Fair which is held at the Paynham Library! From past experience I get there early on the Saturday – it runs on the Sunday too. There is a long line to get in when it opens at 10 am.  If you wait until the Sunday there is not a lot left to choose from- that was my experience last year. It is set up in a small room with tables around the outside.  I am only 5″4″ and spend most of the time at the back of the pack trying to peer over people’s shoulders. You have to push your way through to the front if you want to get any Succulent buying action.  Some enthusiasts even bring their babies in prams and block the way to the seller’s tables!!

South Australian Succulent Society

Competition Table

South Australian Succulent Society Fair

Competition Table

The prices range from $4-$15.  They also have a competition table which members of the Society can enter. The table displays the entries and other Cacti and Succulent displays.  I had a long time to look at the entries as I had to queue up for 20 minutes around the table to purchase my wares.

If you live in other parts of Australia I have listed the websites for each State states Society’s website. They all have fairs that you can attend and have some Succulent fun.

WA –
TAS – Closed down in 1996
NT – unable to locate one

In Summary, I would say if you want to buy some Succulents that you cannot get at your local hardware store and would like to get some advice then make sure you check out the Autumn Fair next March/April.

Do Succulents really prefer Sun?

Do Succulents really prefer Sun?

When I first started out with Succulents I was excited to find a species of plant that should withstand the harsh Australian sun.  Since then I have found that the truth may be a bit different.

I have found the following scenarios.

  • Agave Succulents will grow just as well in full shade as well as full sun
  • Some succulents like sun but only for part of the day – maybe a few hours in the morning
  • Some succulents grow best in dappled sunlight (ie under a tree getting some filtered sunlight)
  • Some go bananas in the sun and thrive (and don’t do so well in the shade)
  • Some succulents suffer when temperatures are 40C+ – understandably – who doesn’t?

When you buy a Succulent from a nursery or garden centre they are normally grown under some type of shade cloth.  So these are the growing conditions they are used to.  Now when I buy Succulents I am very reluctant to put them out in a full sun position straight away.  There is always the option to check out Google but even then I have found that there can be conflicting information for the same Succulent plant species.  Hence, I decided to adopt my own system.

I have planted Succulents straight from the nursery into full sun and they ‘have’ survived.  They have struggled a lot at first and, at times, I thought they would die, but then they have turned around and thrived ….eventually.  I think the best way, if you have the time and inclination, is to get them used to the full sun position in their pot.  Put the pot in a position which would get full sun for say half a day and then half day shade.  Increase the time in full sun until they are used to it.

Below are photos of succulents I bought at a Home Show Expo. I bought it during the Winter and kept it inside as a display piece.The bottom part of the plant grew inside in the Winter, its leaves are facing down and are pale and elongated. Once Spring came I put it outside it became a different plant. Facing up to the sun, the leaves are compact and full of colour.

Echeveria Succulent - Sun or Shade

The bottom grew inside in the shade, the top looks like different plant.  This grew in the sun.


The colour is totally different and the whole plant looks more like a Succulent.

The same happened with the Echeveria below in the same pot.

Echeveria - sun or shade

The top part of the plant is so much more beautiful.

Echeveria Succulent - Sun or shade

Even with a lot of water from the rain, the sun changed the plant entirely.

Even though I hadn’t intended this to happen it was a real eye opener for me with regard to sun and Echeveria/Graptoveria Succulents.  The pot is now getting full sun for most of the day, the other smaller plants in the bottom of the pot are also thriving.

Graptoveria Succulent

I pulled the long leaf off this plant and new plants began to grow all the way down the stem.

Graptoveria Succulent

It turned from brown to a beautiful purple. Identification of the shaded plant would be hard.

Can succulents survive a 40C heat wave? – see my post Can Succulents survive heatwaves?


Succulent Jars

Succulent Jars

I decided to see if I could grow Succulents in glass jars.  I see them all the time for sale in elegant gift shops and at stalls at markets and fairs for a hefty price.  Once you have a few plants giving babies it’s worth a try.  Even if they seem to suffer after a while. It’s the same as cutting some flowers from your garden and bringing them inside.  Succulents just last a lot longer.  Plus, when you work out which ones can survive inside on a sunny window ledge or at least in a room which receives bright light it is very rewarding. If they do not survive you can put them outside again and they will be fine.

The first thing to do is find a glass jar.  I like to buy Ikea candles which are quite cheap and once the candle has burnt down it is an ideal glass jar for one succulent.  Any glass jar will do really.

I have an Echeveria Elegans that has babies all the time. You can usually pull the baby away from the parent plant with roots in tact. Don’t worry if there are no roots it will grow anyway.  If you do not have any babies you can buy a small plant at your local hardware store/nursery.  Echeverias usually do well and look sexy too.

Layers enhance the look of the jar. I found some pool filter sand near my daughter’s aquarium and used this as the base. This is very cheap at any pool suppliers.  You could also use sandpit sand.  Then some small pebbles on the top to finish the look.  You can can buy bags of small pebbles in the garden section at Cheap as Chips or the $1 shop. (or if you have time scour your garden for small stones.)

Echeveria Glauca in glass jar - succulent

The bottom layer is aquarium sand. Then a layer of small pebbles from the garden. It doesn’t matter if the roots reach the sand they will eventually.

Echeveria ELegans in a Jar

I water maybe a desert spoon of water every week. DO NOT saturate the jar with water it is not required and the plant will probably die.

Echeveria Elegans Succulent in a Glass JarThis one is on my kitchen window which gets morning sun for a couple of hours Sometimes I turn it around so it doesn’t grown in one direction.

Some leaves will naturally wither and die at the bottom of the plant, when they are quite dead give them a yank and they will come off easily.  Do not drench the plant/jar in water.  I only water about a desert spoon of water every week.

Aloe Succulent in Glass Jar

This is an aloe vera which is very hardy.

Aloe Succulent in Glass Jar

Using layers looks effective

Aloe Succulent

Water once per fortnight with 1 tbls


You will need:

    • a glass jar – candles in a jar from Ikea are ideal
    • a baby/small succulent – echeveria and aloe’s are a good choice as they are hardy
    • sand/pebbles – from your local cheap shop (garden section) or whatever you can find around the garden/house
  • Layer the sand and pebbles
  • Pop in the succulent
  • Place on a sunny windowsill or in a bright room.
  • These are also great for presents.
Succulent Garden

I made this little succulent garden for my daughter’s bedroom. The aloe plant on the left likes it in there so much it has 3 new babies shooting.