Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ – an elegant ornamental succulent

Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave, Variegated Smooth Century Plant)

Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant), beautifully variegated in green and yellowThis variegated form of Agave desmettiana is obviously more charming than the typical non-variegated species. An elegant medium-sized succulent shrub, Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ showcases bright green to blueish-green leaves with creamy to golden-yellow variegation along the margins. Simply enchanting!

Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant) with 3 flowering stalks, March 5 2012We were excited when we chanced upon a colony of these plants beautifying the landscape outside a bungalow house in a nearby residential area last October. And, were even more captivated when we observed two flowering stalks towering above the plants a few months later, with a third addition not long later.

A dramatic beauty, fabulously structured as an urn-shaped rosette that’s popularly grown as an ornamental plant for the landscape in the ground or in a large modern container for outdoors and indoors.

Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' with an offsetJust need to grow a single Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ plant in your garden for that lovely tropical look and it will perpetuate itself by producing offsets readily from below the rosette as seen on the left image. Besides, it will produce numerous aerial bulbils/plantlets on its flowering stalk which occurs only once when it’s about 10-15 years old, before it expires. Isn’t that great… free Dwarf Variegated Agave for life!

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ (syn: A. desmetiana ‘Variegata’, A. miradorensis ‘Variegata’, A. regeliana ‘Variegata’)
  • Common Name: Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave, Variegated Smooth Century Plant.
  • Family name: Asparagaceae (previously placed in Agavaceae)
  • Etymology: The genus Agave is derived from Agavos in Greek, meaning ‘admirable‘, ‘noble‘ or ‘splendid‘. The species epithet desmettiana is named after the Belgian horticulturist and nursery owner Louis De Smet (1813-1887) who introduced this species to Europe.
  • Origin: Native to Mexico
  • Plant type: An ornamental herbaceous succulent shrub.
  • Features: Attractive foliage of Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant)Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’, a dwarf Agave species that has an approximate height of 0.6-0.9 m (2-3 ft) and a crown spread of 0.9-1.2 m (3-4 ft). An evergreen succulent plant with a slow to medium growth rate.
    It is stemless, with sessile leaves emerging from an underground rhizomatous stem and arranged spirally in a rosette-like formation. It will eventually produce suckers readily, forming clumps with age.
    Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant) with focus on its apical spineIts eye-catching foliage is bright green to bluish-green, and variegated with creamy-yellow edges in fabulous contrast.
    Lance-shaped leaf blades of this Variegated Smooth Agave are fleshy, thick and smooth. It does not have marginal spines or if at all present, they are minute and minimal.
    However, each leaf ends with a sharp reddish-brown apical spine.
    A colony of flowering Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant)Flowering buds of Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant)Growing in an upright manner, the symmetrical rosette with recurved leaves will create an elegant urn-like or architectural structure that’s most appealing.
    Yellow flowers of Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant)Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ is monocarpic and will flower only once towards the end of its life-span, typically at 10-15 years of age and will die after flowering.
    It will produce a thick green flowering stalk, emerging from the center of the plant and towering majestically to 2-3 m (6-9.8 ft) in height, and bearing panicles of bright yellow flowers.
    Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' with numerous aerial bulbils on its withering flowering spikeThe whole blooming process will last for several months (about 4-5 months), with the flowers at the base opening first.
    The inflorescences will eventually produce an abundance of bulbils or aerial plantlets that can be propagated into new plants.
  • Culture (Care): Dwarf Variegated Agave grows easily with low maintenance. It enjoys the tropical and desert or arid climatic conditions.
    Light: Grows best in full sun but is tolerant of light shade or semi-shade. However, in shade, the marginal yellow variegation is less vibrant in colour.
    Moisture: Medium to low water requirements. When mature and established, it is drought tolerant and needs occasional watering. However, it thrives best with regular watering during the hot seasons.
    Soil: Prefers well-drained, infertile, sandy or sandy loam soils.
    Others: It dislikes wet feet and if waterlogged, may lead to root rot. You can clip off the sharp reddish-brown spine at the tip of leaf blades, when grown in high traffic areas, if desired. If a single garden specimen is preferred as a focal point, remove the unwanted suckers around it routinely to make its beautiful architectural character stands out. It is generally free from diseases and pests.
    For subtropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 9-11. In non-hardy regions with temperature below 25°F, it should be protected from heavy frost or overwintered indoors with sufficient light and minimum water.
  • Propagation: Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant) with aerial bulbils or plantletsBy separating suckers or pups and grow them as new plants. Or propagate by removing and planting the aerial bulbils that are produced on flowering stalks.
  • Usage: Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ will be ideal for container planting because of its dwarfish stature.
    Flowering Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (Dwarf Variegated Agave, Variegated Smooth Agave/Century Plant) - Jan 20 2012With a bold and statuesque form, it will make a stunning landscape plant, whether grown singly as a striking accent or mass in garden border/flower-bed. As it is highly drought tolerant, it’s excellent too for xeriscapes, rock and desert gardens. It is also useful if grown as hedges to fence off animals and undesirable humans.

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Last edit: June 10, 2016

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5 Responses to “Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ – an elegant ornamental succulent”

  1. Africanaussie Says:

    Those are lovely – need lots of room though don’t they?

  2. james Says:

    Its truly beautiful.
    I guess it is not suitable for small garden areas as they become massive and with their towering flower spike.

    I did manage to collect few pups of agave from a different species but found they are not able to thrive in a shaded garden.
    I’m guessing they require quite a good sunny area to really do well.

    I wonder whether you can propagate using their leaves like the ones used as mother in law tongue.
    (instead of waiting for the pups to appear and it might take ages)

  3. lifera Says:

    Wow, that is a rare sight, have never seen this plant in flower before, nor did I expect the stalks to be so high in proportion to the plant. Interesting!

    I hope the “undesirable humans” are fenced outside and not inside the Agave desmettiana, otherwise they have a prickly journey to freedom awaiting them!

  4. Manju Says:

    Hi! came across your site, while I was looking for ways of propagating ixora. Can see that you are passionate about your garden. Well, I was in Malaysia recently and was amazed by the greenery and the orchids and your gardens. I have a picture, which I would like to send to you, to find out the name as I have really fallen in love with it. It grows as a small tree, bright red flowers that grow in a tapering form. if you may reply to this, I will send the pic in your e-mail id. Also saw a plant with hardy stems, that grows straight and with plumeria like white flowers. I managed to bring a stem home and still not grown. Regards

  5. Jacqueline Says:

    Thank you all for your visits and kind comments.

    @ Gillian : Not really… a single specimen on ground usually has a crown spread of less than 4 feet but if container-grown, only about 2.5 feet.

    @ James : Agree with you… though very attractive but not suited for small gardens unless grown in a large container where size will be much smaller. Do keep us informed if you ever try propagating it by its leaf, out of curiosity.

    @ Lifera : Indeed, a rare sight! We too were captivated by its towering flowering spikes! By the way, I like the humour in your writings. ;)

    @ Manju : Re identifying plants, I’m not an expert at all. Most of our plants’ ID are obtained through laborious search online by comparing photos of similar features, which at times are not reliable. Probably you can upload your photos online (at a free hosting site like and provide the links here and I’ll follow up thereafter.

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