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American Aloe Agave virginica

Previously known as:

  • Agave lata
  • Agave tigrina
  • Allibertia intermedia
  • Manfreda tigrina
  • Manfreda virginica
  • Manfreda virginica var. tigrina
  • Polianthes lata
  • Polianthes virginica
Description

Agave virginica, or American agave, is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial, native but rare to North Carolina, that grows in all of the southern states, west to Texas and as far north as Illinois, as well as northeastern Mexico. It was formerly known as Manfreda virginica, the genus name Manfreda coming from the 14th century Italian writer of medicinal plants, Manfredus.

The American Agave is easily grown in average well-drained garden soil in full sun to part shade, but can handle drought situations and thrives in xeric (dry) landscapes. The leaves of the American Agave appear in spring forming an attractive basal rosette and are reminiscent of aloe with their dark green, soft, succulent leaves, hence its common name, American Aloe. The inflorescence is unusual with the stamen protruding from the yellow-green tubular flowers, loosely arranged at the top of the stalk. The sweet, fruity fragrant flowers last from summer into fall. Unlike true agaves, the American Agave can bloom multiple times during its lifespan. The American Agave is only cross-pollinated by Sphinx moths, Noctuid moths, and bumblebees.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

American Agave has no significant insect or disease problems; however, the larvae of the sphinx moth, which is the primary pollinator, is the tomato or tobacco horn worm caterpillar.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mexican Single'
    Six foot tall hybrid with large greenish-white flowers and thin, spotted leaves.
'Mexican Single'
Tags:
#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#perennial#shade tolerant#native perennial#NC native#insect pest tolerant#herbaceous perennial#rhizomatous
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Mexican Single'
    Six foot tall hybrid with large greenish-white flowers and thin, spotted leaves.
'Mexican Single'
Tags:
#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#perennial#shade tolerant#native perennial#NC native#insect pest tolerant#herbaceous perennial#rhizomatous
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Agave
    Species:
    virginica
    Family:
    Asparagaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    United States
    Distribution:
    Southeastern United States, Illinois southwest to Texas, and North Eastern Mexico. Somewhat rare in North Carolina, currently found in a dozen counties in the Piedmont, two in the Mountains, and one in the Coastal Plain.
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers are cross-pollinated by Sphinx moths and Noctuid moths at night and, although less effective, by bumblebees during the day.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    drought
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Prostrate
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Very Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    After the bloom period, flowers are replaced by a 1/2 inch capsule-like fruit. The oval shaped 3-celled seed capsules contain 2 rows of flattened seed. The mature seeds are half-orbicular in shape and are blown about by the wind. Fresh seed pods are green and ripen to brown.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Up to 30 pale yellow-green 3-petaled flowers sit at the end of a solitary 4 to 5 foot flower stalk rising from the basal rosette. The flowers have a sweet fruity fragrance. At the base of each flower is a membranous leafy bract. The flowers are sessile (sit directly on the stem). The long summer bloom can extend into fall. Unlike true Agaves (Agave spp.), the American Agave can bloom multiple times during its lifespan.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Soft
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Denticulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The dark green basal rosette consists of thick, fleshy sword shaped ascending leaves that can be 6 to 20 inches long and 1 inch wide. The leaves are stiff and succulent and may have red for purple flecks. The edges of the leaves may curl up on the edges.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Rock Wall
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Native Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Hummingbirds
    Moths
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Heat
    Humidity
    Insect Pests