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Agave ovatifolia

Whale's Tongue Century Plant

A true dream of a plant, this once-in-a-lifetime find was originally discovered and introduced to horticulture by renowned Texas plantsman Lynn Lowery from Nuevo Leon, northeastern Mexico, where it grows in a small, rugged mountain area between an astonishing 1100 and 2100 m (3700 and 7000 ft.). Nurseryman and Agave expert Greg Starr and José Villarreal have recently described it formally. Agave ovatifolia will grow into a rather large, solitary plant with broad, lightly keeled, almost unreal, powdery grayish white leaves in a dense rosette that can reach to 2 m (7 ft.) across. In cultivation it is well adapted to temperate climates. Best of all is that not only it can take drought and very severe freezes without damage, it will also hold up well in cold and damp winters if excellent drainage is provided, outperforming most other Agave in this respect. For any Agave afficionado, this is a must-grow plant!

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germination comments by our visitors
For general germination instructions click here.

Also see plant cultivation comments below.

Seeds from this species ...

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Seing that ovatifolia survived the winter (see below) i had to try again, and got 12 germlings by the standard method, humid standard compost covered with a plastic bag. all are growing fine and have obtained the diameter of app 8 cm from spring to autumn first year. There is definately variation in the seed source, buy more than one bag in order to be sure.
Submitted on 20/09/2013 by Frank Fotel

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Standard succulent compost 100 % germination. Seeds were obtained from RPS. the last two time i bought the seeds none germinated, so seed batches seem to differ quite a lot
Submitted on 13/05/2013 by Frank Fotel

... are very difficult to germinate.
I have only had the luck to get one plant out of 4 packets of seeds. It is now about 40 cm in diameter.Compared to other agaves where i usually get 8-10 out of 10 seeds it is very difficult, so it not the method applied, but rather the quality of the seeds
Submitted on 14/09/2012 by Frank Fotel

... are easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
A germination mixture consisting of perlite, coarse riversand, peat moss and cocofibre in a ratio of approximately 2:1:1:1 was prepared by thoroughly mixing the various material. A drainage monolayer of very coarse gravel (5-8 mm diameter) was added to germination trays measuring approximately 300mm x 300mm x 120mm. The germination mixture was poured onto the drainage layer to form an approximately 60mm thick, airy layer. The layer was flattenend by shaking the tray gently, whilst avoiding compressing the mixture. The agave seeds was uniformly scattered across the surface of the germination mixture, and subsequently covered with a 4mm thick layer of coarse (2-3mm diameter) gravel. The bottom of the germination tray was submersed in stored rainwater, allowing the water to rise through the germination and completely wet the the gravel layer. The germination tray was removed and allowed to drain overnight. The tray was subsequently covered with a single layer of clingfilm (Purple coloured Gladwrap) and placed outside in a location that provided sparse early morning sun, but no direct sunlight for the remainder of the day. The prevailing average day temperatures was 35 degrees C and the night temperatures never dropped below 25 degrees C. After 10 days there were signs of germination with a lowish 30% of all seed having germinated after day 14. The clingfilm was punctured on day 10 and totally removed after day 14. Seedlings showed vigorous growth and all appeared visually identical indicating a species pure seed supply. A follow up post will be made to comment on the germination of the remainder of the seeds. Seperate the above procedure a few seeds was placed onto germination mix and covered with germination mix to perhaps a depth of 2mm. The was watered to saturation, allowed to drain and subsequently placed in a "ziplock" bag. After 10 days there were NO signs of germination, and the plastic bag was removed. After 20 days there was still no signs of germination potentially indicating a failed experiment as a result of too much moisture during the first 10 days (i. e. it may be that seeds were too wet initially).
Submitted on 15/02/2010 by Etienne van Zyl

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
1 month!. That's a laugh! I got sprouts in 2 weeks! No soaking! Just threw them in some wet peam moss, temps got up to 82 f, they are sprouting everywhere! Nothing special needed. Wet peat moss and sunshine! Good ol' south texas sun! First sprouts are at about 1/2 inch tall! Simply cover with a little bit of soil on top, about 1 inch over the top of the seeds. Place in full sun and watch them pop up fast! I think it's funny how other people get theirs to grow. Mother nature never did all that extra stuff at all. Throw them in and watch them grow is my saying.
Submitted on 16/03/2008 by one of our visitors

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
hi this is my first go at agave seeds. sowed in shallow pot of peat and sharp sand mix sprayed surface of compost put in sealed plastic bag and seven out of ten seeds have germinated within 5 days.the bag was placed on a heatmat the type used for reptiles etc . will try more soon.
Submitted on 15/02/2008 by sean barton shaun@shaunbarton.wanadoo.co.uk

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
Seeds germinated within 1 week on a windowsill at room temperature with my normal mix of 50% perlite & 50% potting compost....no need to cover pot.
Submitted on 08/02/2008 by Mark Williams industrial@sky.com

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I was reluctant to try this as there was no notes on it. However, I am happy to say 1st one germinated after 10 days and others followed suit. I used only moist standard seed mix, no complicated formula whatsoever. Can't wait for them to grow!
Submitted on 07/01/2008 by Tog Tan, Malaysia togtan@streamyx.com

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I soaked the seeds in warm water for three days, changing the water daily. By the third day most of the seeds has already germinated. I then planted the seeds in small pots with a mixture of 75 percent top soil and 25 percent sand. 100 percent of the seeds germinated. While the seedlings developed, I kept the pots covered with clear plastic to maintain humidity. After two weeks I left the seedlings out in full sun and watered regularly. Growth has been initially slow; after six months the seedlings were all apparently healthy and between 1-2 inches tall and 1-2 inches wide.
Submitted on 23/11/2007 by one of our visitors

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
First sign of germination after only a couple of days. Sewn in a mixture of 1 part perlite, 1 part vermiculite & 1 part multi-purpose compost.
Submitted on 28/05/2007 by Mark Williams industrial@sky.com

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I ordered 10 Agave Ovatifolia and recieved 18 in the packet. I soaked the seeds in warm water for four days, changing the water every day. At the end of four days 17 of the seeds had germinated with a small root. I then planted all 18 of the seeds in peat pots with a mixture of 40% peat moss 40% top soil ans 20% sand. The peat pots were placed in an air-tight clear plastic box to maintain humidity and placed outside with temperatures of about 85-90 degrees F at day 60-65 degrees F at night. After 14 days all 18 seeds have sprouted.
Submitted on 28/05/2007 by Kevin J. Hrycay hrycay@hotmail.com

... are difficult to germinate and need up to 3 months to sprout.
3 germinated out of 9 sown (grit/sand & soil mix - room temp) after 29 days. First one appeared at 28 days. Hopeful of more to come!
Submitted on 22/03/2007 by one of our visitors

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plant cultivation comments by our visitors
Also see germination commnets above.

Plants from this species ...

... are of high ornamental value
In Gentofte in Denmark zone 7-8 they need much care and grow fast.
A 2 year old plant(30 cn diam. from seed) were put in the rock(gravel) garden, during winter it was covered with acryllic plates to allow sunlight, and protect from wind and precipitation. It survived 2012-2013, which was the coldest spring in more than 20 years in Denmark. It has started growing now in mid may
Submitted on 13/05/2013 by Frank Fotel

... are of excellent ornamental value
In Ravenna in Italy they need little care and grow slow.
This is the cold hardiest agave I tried, no problem with -10 C on the dry and wet side in a pot, with snow and ice too. I lost many a. montana but none ovatifolia. Now I'm trying in the ground too with good drainage.
Submitted on 31/12/2011 by one of our visitors

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If you wish to read more on palm cultivation, we highly recommend Ornamental Palm Horticulture by Timothy K. Broschat and Alan W. Meerow, available in our bookshop.

Ratings and comments reflect individual experiences and the views of our visitors. They do not necessarily describe the most appropriate methods, nor are they necessarily valid for all seeds or plants of this species. Germination and plant cultivation success depends on many different factors; nevertheless, these experiences will hopefully aid you in your effort to get the best germination results from our seeds and the best growth results from your plants.

We recommend:
The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft, Scott Zona

2nd edition
Completely revised and updated

Hardcover - 528 pages
11 x 8.5 inches

Our rating:
Suitable for: all

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is the definitive account of all palms that can be grown for ornamental and economic use. Palms are often underutilized as a result of their unfamiliarity—even to tropical gardeners. To help introduce these valuable plants to a new audience, the authors have exhaustively documented every genus in the palm family.
825 species are described in detail, including cold hardiness, water needs, height, and any special requirements. Generously illustrated with more than 900 photos, including photos of several palm species that have never before appeared in a general encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is as valuable as an identification guide as it is a practical handbook. Interesting snippets of history, ethnobotany, and biology inform the text and make this a lively catalog of these remarkable plants.

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