Plant favourite – Swans neck Agave

Swans Neck Agave - Agave attenuata

Agave a go go ...but why 'swan's neck'?

The word Agave comes from the Greek for ‘noble’ and Agave attenuata has a striking and much loved form of large green rosettes with pointed tips. Some people adore succulents, let me say this is certainly a good one even if you are not a fan.

Originating in Mexico and seriously drought tolerant it grows across most of Australia, is salt and wind tolerant and looks particularly good as a feature plant with stone, gravel or sand. It needs good drainage so make sure it doesnt have wet feet. It does quite well as a feature plant in pots so its well suited to the modern minimalist look. The mature size is about 1m tall by 1.5m wide. It is slow growing but does have some weed references particularly in the northern parts of Australia.

I have always been curious about the names associated with this plant. Apparently the ‘noble’ refers to the large flower spike the plant develops, but the ‘swan neck’ (also ‘lions tail’ and ‘fox tail’) comes from the curving stem the plant develops as it gets older. The ‘attenuata’ presumably refers to the tight cone in the centre of the magnificent rosettes. Another name, the  ‘Century Plant’ suggests the plant lives for a 100 years, flowers and then dies.  Other sources tell us it will flower after about 10 years but is quite variable, and if you cut the flower spike after flowering it will survive. In any event it seems to propagate naturally around the original plant ready for the next ‘century’. The Agave attenuata is noticeable as a well used feature of beautiful gardens.

You can find this plant and lots of our other favourites on the savewater!® Plant Selector

  • This is cool! And so interested! Are u have more
    posts like this? Please tell me, thanks

    • Hi large flower pot, actually we are doing a series of our ‘favourite’ water efficient plants. Click on the ‘plant favourite’ tag on the top right and they should all appear, similarly you could click on the gardens photo in the banner and you will see them with our other gardening articles

  • Jill

    What should I do if the leaves are dying on this plant?


    • Hi Jill. Without knowing about your local conditions I would guess it is poor drainage, either over watering or the roots are being kept damp. Alternatively if it is very hot and dry where you are it may need a drink, but this is much less likely unless you have recently relocated it, in which case it will need some water to re-establish.

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