Ivory Curls Agave (Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’)
Now here’s an agave with a truly global origin story. Like most agaves, the original (non-variegated) Agave Gypsophila is a native of Mexico—but this variegated sport, officially named Agave Gypsophila var ‘Ivory Curls’, first appeared halfway around the world, at a nursery in Australia. Best of all, its stunning looks are sure to wow you no matter where on the big, blue marble you call home. How’s that for international appeal?
Like most agaves, Ivory Curls has long, pointed, leaves edged with small-but-numerous spines and arranged in a rosette (i.e.: circle) around a central point. It actually looks a lot like those “blooming onion” appetizers offered at many fine eating establishments. However, unlike most agaves, the leaves of Ivory Curls are pleasantly ruffled and feature chunky white stripes along those spiny outside edges. This variegation contrasts with the soft gray-green in the leaf centers to create a unique look that intensifies in direct sunlight (in shade, the leaves get greener).
There’s more. After several (4-20) years, many Ivory Curls Agave bloom, firing off a single panicle 8’-20’ high and laden with two dozen of more clusters of small, fleshy, tulip-shaped, yellow flowers. These botanical fireworks do usually signal the parent plant to pass on, but both the seeds and any offset “pups” around the base of the plant can be nurtured into a new plant, so the show can go on.
Ivory Curls Agave is a desert species through and through. This means that, in sharp contrast to most tropical plants, which tend to hail from verdant jungles and rainforests and require indirect light and constantly moist soil, Ivory Curls loves huge amounts of direct sunlight and requires very little water. It’s also well accustomed to temperature extremes, and can survive everything from triple-digit heat to just-above-freezing temps with no worries. It doesn’t even need to be repotted very often—which is great for both you and the plant because it doesn’t like to be handled and you can minimize the odds of being pricked by leaf spines. Matching absolute beauty with near-zero maintenance, Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ delivers the best of both worlds—or at least the best of both hemispheres in this world.
Characteristics and traits of a Ivory Curls Agave (Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’)
- Scientific Name: Agave Gypsophila var ‘Ivory Curls’
- Genus: Agave
- Family: Asparagaceae
- Common Name: Ivory Curls Agave, Variegated Gypsum Century Plant, Ivory Curls Century Plant
- Indoor: All year round as long as temperatures are above 40F
- Outdoor Zones: 9-12
- Type: Perennial evergreen; propagated via seeds or offsets
- Mature Height: 24” - 36”
- Mature Width: 24” - 36”
- Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
- Growth Rate: Slow
- Flower: Branched stalk several feet tall with many clusters of dozens of small, fleshy yellow tulip-shaped blooms. Often signals plant death.
- Foliage: Long, triangular, succulent-like leaves with gray-green base color and white-green margins along their ruffled, spiny edges
Plant Care and Advice for Ivory Curls Agave (Agave Gypsophila)
- Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 9-12
- Light Requirements: Full sun (6 or more hours direct sun daily) to partial shade (in desert summers)
- Water Requirements: Let completely dry between waterings.
- Drought Tolerance: Excellent
- Temperature: Comfortable in any temperatures above 40F, inside or out. Damaged by frost and temps 25F or lower.
- Air Purification: Good
- Toxicity: Mild toxins in sap can cause mouth, throat, or skin irritation in pets and, if improperly prepared as food, people.
- Fertilizer: Optional once in spring first two years. After that, avoid as it may trigger blooming and senescence.
- Container Friendly: Yes - Be sure it drains well
- Planting: Like most succulents that have evolved to survive in the nutrient-poor desert, Agave grows quite slowly, so it will rarely outgrow its pot and require a new one. When the time comes, select a sandy, even rocky, fast-draining soil to avoid root rot at all costs. The only real trick to the repotting process—besides avoiding the plant’s leaf-edge prickles—is to make sure the plant is properly anchored in the soil while also making sure it’s no deeper in the soil than it was in its previous pot. Planting deeper will enable soil to contact the plant stem higher up than before, which can trap moisture against the unprotected stem and cause root rot.
- Plant Care: Don’t be fooled by its fancy look: Ivory Curls Agave is one tough plant. Once established, it requires very little care and maintenance. When planted in the ground, water when the soil becomes dry during the warm months and perhaps once a month in the winter. Plants in containers will drink a bit more, but can still stay mostly dry. Ivory Curls Agave is quite comfortable in heat and sunlight, and is at its best when given six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. But it can survive in light shade, and may actually require it during the peak summer heat in zone 11. It also has surprising cold tolerance. Though it is frost-tender and will take severe damage at temps below 25F, as long as temperatures stay at or above 40F, this plant will be just fine. One plant-care staple Ivory Curls Agave has little interest in is fertilizer. While a light dose of fertilizer in the spring may help a bit the first couple years, after that fertilizers run the risk of burning the plant or—ironically even worse—triggering a flowering cycle, after which the plant will often die.
- Expert Advice: As one might guess from its name, the agave snout weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus) is the major pest that strikes agave. Unfortunately, once you see the weevils—black, long-nosed beetles about ½ inch long—they’ve probably already infected your plant with fatal bacteria, so most gardeners simply throw away the plant at that point. The best treatment, therefore (other than good luck) is preemptive treatments with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Other pests, such as mealybugs and scale insects, are less of a death sentence and can be treated with neem, insecticidal soap, or even just a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. In its natural habitat, Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ is prone to few diseases. In a garden or potted setting, the odds of overwatering by well-meaning caregivers increase, raising the likelihood of moisture-related ailments such as bacterial and fungal infections. If the plant’s leaves begin to yellow and shrivel, decrease watering immediately and treat with fungicide. You may also need to remove infected plants to protect the rest. Propagation of Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ is typically done via seeds or offsets. Both methods require the plant’s cooperation. Offsets are simply miniature clones of the plant that grow either at the plant’s base or near the flower stalk. Once they have a handful of fully developed leaves, prune them from the parent plant and set them in well-draining soil, watering when dry. Roots should develop within 2-4 weeks. To propagate Agave Gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ from seed, simply collect seeds from the flower and set them lightly covered in a container of well-drained soil. Place the container in a warm location with bright indirect light (simulating the shade of a parent plant) and keep the soil lightly moist until the seeds germinate in 2-3 weeks.