the short but productive life of Agave mitis ‘Multicolor’

There’s something about an agave bloom that’s crazy-making. Emotions are as variegated as the leaves of this nomenclature-challenged agave. (Bought as Agave celsii ‘Multicolor,’ it might even be chiapensis*.) I’m thrilled, sad, awestruck, and a little dumbstruck, too, at having to deal with the enormously heavy carcass. And then there’s that bloom stalk itself, a slow-motion supernova years in the making. Agaves are called the century plant after all. But not very many years in the making, it turns out, with Agave mitis ‘Multicolor.’ Earliest reference on the blog is 2011. To be safe, we’ll say I had it a year before that photo, 2010, which still makes it a five-year-old when it bloomed.  That’s a relatively young age for an agave to bloom (after which they die).


Photo from 2011, the only one I could find. Obviously not a well-documented agave on the blog. All the leaf litter from the parkway jacarandas rendered it less than photogenic year-round.

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And I didn’t take any photos of it in bloom either, but this is where the bloom spike currently rests, tied to the pipe stand. Sources indicate a 4 to 6 foot bloom spike, but this one is touching the eaves here at over 11 feet.

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Instinctively, I want to honor the now-deceased agave by growing on its brood of bulbils, but there’s hundreds of them. I now run a house for orphaned agave bulbils. (If anyone would like to nurse one of these babies, be my guest. But be warned, it’s a very cold-sensitive agave.) I’ve already got a half dozen or so rooted and started this batch earlier in the week.

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And there’s lots more where those came from.

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And now this week the Agave mitis var. albicans ‘UCB’ started to bloom.

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Notice they’re both considered forms of Agave mitis, but this one’s cinnamon-colored blooms are nothing like ‘Multicolor’ (photo here.)

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In May 2014. It was transplanted from pot to garden in 2013. I haven’t had this agave very long either. I found it close to this size at a Pasadena nursery.

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Bloom spike in March 2015

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May 11, 2015

PhotobucketAgave sp. Sonora State, Mexico UCBG 7/13/12

I first saw this agave at the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden in 2012, when it was still known as A. celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’

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I have no idea what to expect with this one as far as its reproductive abilities, maybe offsets instead of bulbils. It couldn’t possibly match the vigor of ‘Multicolor,’ right? I think I’m going to need more pots…

*see discussion here

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14 Responses to the short but productive life of Agave mitis ‘Multicolor’

  1. Wow, two agaves in bloom. Not sure whether I should say “congratulations” or whether “my sympathies” is more appropriate. I’m still dealing with my massive Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ flower stalk–no bulbils yet.

    I think that A. mitis/chiapensis ‘Multicolor’ is truly beautiful. I can attest to its frost sensitivity, having lost two. Which is strange, because both my regular Agave mitis and my Agave chiapensis have made it through every winter since 2010. ‘Multicolor’ is definitely less hardy than its non-variegated parent. If any of your bulbils are variegated, I’d love one to pamper in a pot.

  2. Alison says:

    I share your sense of guilt at not being able to honor all the babies with care. I accidentally broke off a handful of Aloe pups and a pair of tiny Rhipsalis, and they all ended up in pots on my windowsill while I see if they root. I tried just throwing them in the yard waste bin but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ll take a few bulbils to see if I can make them thrive. I can overwinter them in the greenhouse.

  3. Denise says:

    @Gerhard, they do all appear to be variegated, with a thin band of white at the margins. I was wondering about that too. Send your mailing address to agrowingobsession@gmail.
    @Alison, I’ll bring some next week. Thank you!

  4. Jennyusagi says:

    If your albicans does leave you with extra pups/bubils to distribute, I’d love to get some of those. I admire them whenever I go to the UCB bot garden, but haven’t found any for sale around here. Them not being labeled in the garden (last I saw) didn’t help of course. They’re lovely enough to lure me out of lurking! 😉

  5. Denise says:

    Jenny, I’ll definitely post about the albicans when it does its next trick, whether that’s pups or whatever. Glad it lured you out!

  6. Wow, big Agave happenings in your garden (congrats). I adore that bloom stalk tied to the pipe stand, what a great way to watch how they progress.

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Congratulations, you’re a grandma! Such cute little pups. I got my Agave mitis var. albicans ‘UCB’ at The Ruth Bancroft Garden Shop when we were flinging there together. Hope you enjoy your new orphanage (Do you need some sort of license for that?) and find lots of good adoptive homes for your charges. (I’m hearing songs from “Annie”)

  8. Denise says:

    @Loree, and much easier than pulling off all those pups until I decide what to do with them!
    @Peter, you’ve got that musical in my head for the rest of the day, thank you very much!

  9. hoov says:

    would really really like a few ‘UCB’ if you are so inclined.

    my ovatifolia is slow, too.

  10. Denise says:

    Of course, Hoov. No idea how prolific offsetting will be yet tho.

  11. Amy Bouck-Knight says:

    Hello Denise! I’ve got an agave desmettiana that flowered this year — and is just passed the flower stage (much loved by the neighborhood bees!) If I just wait a while, will the flower stalk create bulbils?

  12. Denise says:

    Yes, Amy, you should be seeing baby bulbils soon. And congratulations!

  13. Rebecca says:

    Wow! All those pups are beautiful! And I’d never seen them growing out of the flower stalk like that before-I mean, I’m used to seeing seed pods, but seeing how many little ones are growing is crazy! I wonder at what point my own Kissho Kan will flower-5 years? 10? I have no idea, but it’s still a pretty little thing.

    If you’re still swimming in them, I’d be happy to take some off your hands.

  14. Seghen says:

    I am so new to agaves. Just picked up a no name that’s probably americana marginata. I have to say your ‘UCB’ is stunning. Would love to adopt if you are fortunate to have any!! If there are any ‘multicolors’ still needing a home, I extend a warm welcome there too! I only wish I had something to exchange in return! I am going to try some species from seed.

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