Agave pumila (Miniature Agave) - A very slow unusual agave that has dimorphic stages, growing for many years in juvenile form as a small suckering rosette with individual rosettes that are only 2 to 4 inches across with short smooth stubby gray-green leaves that are deeply concave above and check-striped below with small weak marginal and terminal spines. As the plant matures it forms a few-leafed, open, and solitary rosette that has leaves that are paler and elongated to 16-18 inches long and that have white leathery margins and a stout short dark brown terminal spine. This plant is not known to have ever flowered and, in fact, its entire origin is quite a mystery. The neotype specimen used by Howard Scott Gentry to describe this plant in 1963 for his book “Agaves of Continental North America” was a plant in cultivation at the Huntington Botanic Garden. Gentry noted that when John Baker first described this plant in 1888 he did so from a plant growing at the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Kew which had been obtained from De Smet, a Dutch plant trader, in 1879. Gentry speculated that if it were of hybrid origin that he would suspect it a cross between Agave lechuguilla and Agave victoriae-reginae and in his book he includes a statement from Charlie Glass agreeing with this hypothesis and noting that if this were the case that he thought it might be from the north edge of Laguna de la Viesca where a dwarf form of Agave victoriae-reginae and Agave lechuguilla were both collected. This plant is most often sold as a collector curiosity in its juvenile form as a potted specimen but it is also an attractive agave as it matures and should be tried in the ground in Southern California where it thrives in full sun in a well-drained soil with little irrigation and is hardy to around 20 F. Our plants from vegetative propagation of plants received from Stockton plant collector Alice Waidhofer. This description is based on research and observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in our nursery garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We also try to incorporate comments received from others and appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have any additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Agave pumila.
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