Scientific: Agave vilmoriniana
Common: octopus agave
Family: Asparagaceae (subfamily Agavoideae)
Origin: subtropical to arid regions of northwest Mexico
Pronounciation: A-GA-ve vil-mor-in-ee-A-na
USDA 9-11 (arid and semi arid region only)
Landscape Use: Strong accent, focal point agave for desert landscapes themes, whether planted singly or in mass groupings of 3 or more. When planting, space octopus agave plants at least 8 to 12 feet apart so that each plant can reach it's full spread, also a handsome large container plant.
Form & Character: Herbaceous perennial, wild and medusa like, striking accent of form and texture.
Growth Habit: Octopus agaves live life in the fast lane. They are relatively rapid growers to 4 to 5 feet in height with slightly greater spread. They are only somewhat rhizomatous and produce very to no basal offshoots. Octopus agave are relatively short lived as agaves go living generally less than 10 years.
Foliage/texture: Light green to gray green, succulent strap-like, elongated leaves arranged in a rosette habit. Leaves are recurved and slightly twisted upward (thus, the "octopus" common name) to 3 to 4 feet long. Leaf margins are entire and smooth, sometimes wavy, tapering to a relatively soft terminal spine to 1 5/8 inches long. In Phoenix, marginal tip necrosis of strap-shaped leaves is common. Like most agaves, it's texture is coarse.
Flowers & fruits: At the end of its life, generally in winter, octopus agave will start to produce a blunt flower stalk that will utlimately through the spring season grow 10 to 15 feet tall. The stalk is a true spike and the individual flowers are small, cream yellow to whitish. Octopus agave plants in the Phoenix area will often produce bulbils.
Seasonal color: None
Temperature: Cold sensitive, some freeze damage possible especially when plants are young
Light: Full sun, avoid reflected radiation and intense western exposures in Phoenix
Soil: Well drained soil is a precursor for successful landscape use
Watering: Needs infrequent but regular summer water for best appearance in Phoenix area, especially if summer monsoon rains are light.
Propagation: Seed, some bubile formation on flower stalk, offshoots, though not as other agaves species.
Disease and pests: Root rot in poorly drained wet soils
Additional comments: It is important to note the relatively LARGE size of this agave. Thus, don't use it in small areas or group together specimens too closely. This agave is not as rigid as century plant and therefore is more amenable for use around people. Octopus agave can show heat stress in full sun in Phoenix in the form of terminal leaf necrosis. It also can yellow some if in full sun and dry soil. On balance, it is a striking textural accent plant that doesn't hang around long in the landscape.