Scientific: Agave potatorum
Common: Butterfly agave, Verschaffelt agave
Family: Asparagaceae (subfamily Agavoideae)
Origin: South Mexico from Puebla south to Oaxaca at elevations from 3,000 to 9,000 feet.

Pronounciation: A-GA-ve po-ta-TOR-um

Hardiness zones
Sunset
13-24
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: Strong, blue gray accent for desert gardens and xeric landscape design themes. Great for use around small-scale desert rock gardens and places of much human traffic such as ramadas, patios, good in large containers. Best if used as specimens, but can also use effectively in groupings.

Form & Character: Highly variable, stiff and pointed, rosetting, imposing, curious looking, attractive.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, deterministic succulent perennial, rosetting, highly variable form, mostly solitary to sometimes densely clumping reaching anywhere from 1 to 3 feet tall with equal spread.

Foliage/texture: Broad leaves to 12 inches long are presented in a regular rosette pattern, very variable in shape, size and color, generally somewhat reflexed, strap-shaped, succulent with rounded, sinuous margins that have a coarse orange to reddish spine. Leaves strongly glaucous (grayish blue) and taper to a distinct sharp, grayish brown. As leaves unfold they bear the image imprints of adjacent leaves in their adaxial surfaces; coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: Butterfly agave will produce a flower stalk up to 10 feet or more in height when fully developed. The stalks are spikes with either a raceme or a panicle configuration. Flowering during the year when it occurs starts with stalk development in early February; thus, stalks are typically heavily laced with anthocyanin pigmentation (purplish) due to winter cold. At full anthesis, flowers are pale green and yellow tinged with red; fruits rare.

Seasonal color: None except when flowering.

Temperature: Cold hardy to 22oF, heat tolerant.

Light: In Phoenix, the filtered shade of a small desert tree is best.

Soil: Well-drained best.

Watering: Apply only occasional water once established. It readily responds to water by increasing growth and eventual size.

Pruning: None

Propagation: Seed, bubiles (if you can find them on a reproductive stalk).

Disease and pests: Yes, all agaves are prone to some root rot if soils are chronically wet,

Additional comments: Butterfly agave is a very polymorphic species with a large range of variability from which many cultivated varieties have been selected such as 'Bluewinds' or 'Kichijokan'. The species name potatorum comes from the Latin word "potator" meaning of the drinkers referring to the use of this plant in making alcoholic beverages.

Butterfly agave has also been used to synthesize gold nanoparticles.