The Whales’ Tongue Agave is one of my most favorite agave I have ever grown. This plant, otherwise known as Agave Ovatifoliatia, is not only gorgeous, it is unique…..and, sometimes, very hard to come by. But, stay tuned…..y’all are in luck.
I first spotted a Whales’ Tongue Agave at a small nursery not far from my home when I lived in Argyle, Texas. But, I could not afford the hefty price tag of $175.00 for a 1 gallon plant. However, I immediately jotted the name of that beauty down in my “One Day Soon” landscaping journal so that eventually, just maybe, I could get my hands on one.
That “one day soon” happened about 15 years later. I was able to snag 3 babies for a mere $10 each. These little cuties were only about 2″ wide, but I knew what the future held if only I could be patient. HA!
For the first year, I nurtured them in the greenhouse. Then, when they outgrew their pots, I planted them directly into a temporary flowerbed home until I finished preparing the stone beds I had designed in my mind to eventually showcase them.
Just this spring, four years after I bought them, those little cuties are now in their forever home. They are showstoppers and everyone who visits us wants to know all about them.
This particular agave specimen is native to Mexico and was introduced into Texas in the 1980’s by Lynn Lowrey, a world famous horticulturist. Mr. Lowrey was a big proponent of native plant landscaping and loved to scour the mountains of Mexico for plants.
I felt an immediate connection with this brilliant and yet, humble man. Because, like yours truly, he is originally from Louisiana. He also graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in Horticulture. (I do not have a degree in Horticulture, I have a degree in Agricultural Business, but that is another story), Anyway, GEAUX TIGERS.
Back to the agave…….This stunner is known for its beautiful powdery grey evergreen leaves and its sharp teeth. The Whale’s Tongue will flourish in Zones 7b – 11 and can handle more chilly temperatures than many other agave.
It can also get up to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. In addition, the Whale’s Tongue can stand alone as a single specimen plant. Or, if you are living right and lucky enough to find enough stock, a mass planting of these exotic beauties in nothing short of AHHH-Mazing.
And even bigger plus (for me anyway), is that deer, squirrel, and porcupines are not fans of these succulents. However, the Agave Snout Weevil is a highly damaging pest to agave specimens. These slightly larger than half inch creatures will destroy the plant from underneath. If you see an agave wilting and sagging (and it has not bloomed yet), this weevil is usually the culprit.
Short of using a highly toxic insecticide, these weevils can be hard to control if they ever make their way into your gardens. Therefore, to prevent lots and lots of tears, make sure that any agave stock you purchase is completely healthy and pest free. That way, you will not inadvertently spread this weevil to your current agave collection.
Because of the sharp teeth, I would encourage planting this agave out away from any high traffic areas – specifically where children and animals play regularly. My Whale’s Tongue are planted in raised beds where there’s little to no foot traffic. These agave will handle neglect (meaning, plant them and leave them alone), but do require well drained soil. If these are planted in soggy areas, they will suffer from root rot.
This particular agave loves full sun, but can also tolerate some afternoon shade in hotter climates. Mine get full sun all day, and so far, don’t seem to be bothered by the sun’s strong afternoon rays.
Typically, these agave are very slow growing, but I have found that mine have grown in size faster than normal with the additional water I give them. And by additional water, I give them a deep drink once a week, instead of just relying on Mother Nature……who has been quite stingy with the rain these last 7 summers I have lived here in The Hill Country.
But, again, the Whale’s Tongue do need well drained soil to handle the extra water. Whatever you do, don’t fertilize them because there is a down side that I will get to shortly.
Typically, agave reproduce by making pups that grow out from under the mother plant. The photo below is one of my Agave Americana, another variety of agave. You can see the smaller baby agave all around her.
However, the Whale’s Tongue Agave does not reproduce by making offshoots around the mother plant. The Whale’s Tongue Agave reproduces through bulbils and seeds that it makes when it blooms. The bulbils are located all along the bloom stalk once the Whale’s Tongue Agave sends up a bloom stalk.
All specimens of agave bloom only once – including the Whale’s Tongue. Whale’s Tongue usually bloom when they mature somewhere around 10 years of age.
This bloom is spectacular as a mature Whales Tongue will send up a flower stalk that can be upwards of 14 feet and is covered in chartreuse colored flowers AND baby plants……lots and lots of babies.
When this magnificent bloom happens, the mother Whale’s Tongue will die. It is at this time, that gardeners want to harvest the bulbils from this highly sought after succulent.
Unfortunately, all agave experience this death at the end of their life cycle. But, this is the only down side I see to growing these magnificent specimen plants. My Whale’s Tongue have not bloomed. But, I have seen this bloom cycle twice with my Agave Americana. Both times, I uttered the words “Well, sh**”. And, then the grieving process started over my lovely Vivian. You can see a photo of her below.
This is why I don’t recommend fertilizing them. I don’t want to make them so happy that they end up blooming ahead of their typical 10 year and longer cycle, depending on the variety you grow.
My source for these lovelies is no longer available. HOWEVER, after searching high and low and coming up empty handed, I finally found a vendor that grows Whale’s Tongue Agave.
I am excited to announce that they will have some starter plants available this November. So, don’t wait around. Click here to message Cumberland Plants to be put on their waiting list for your very own Whale’s Tongue Agave.
These agave could not be more low maintenance if they tried. All I do is walk out into my yard and take photos of them while I tell ALL of them how beautiful they are. For this post, Lowrey, the largest of my three Whale’s Tongue Agave I planted, was thrilled when I told him that he had been chosen as this month’s feature photo!
Finally, to borrow from the real deal fabulous horticulturist Mr. Lowrey, “This is a great plant. Take it and try it.”
P. S. If you want to learn how I became such a fan of gardening, you can click here. You will also find some hilarious photos I edited horribly on purpose! First of all, I had no idea how to use Photoshop, and I still don’t. Secondly, I will leave it up to you to figure out.
P.S.S. Need some more gardening tips. Here’s a glimpse into what I do in my gardens during September.
HAPPY GARDENING! Also, check out my Wins of The Week – August 23rd addition where I showcase all my latest finds from around the web!
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Jeanne Cameron WashburnAugust 30, 2020 5:34 pm
Love your photos…I had to laugh at the agave…it almost grows wild here…it is the one plant I can’t kill and I (sadly) kill them all…but now, after reading of your love of agave, I have a renewed appreciation – and a name, Whale’s Tongue. Thanks for a fun post.