Monday, June 26, 2017

Potting up an Agave — a rant and a recommendation

I went a little crazy earlier this spring and bought three qty 2-gallon Agave utahensis v. eborispina. After thinking long on what I wanted to do with them it was finally time to put one in a container, and so I popped it out of its nursery can. Imagine my surprise when the soil fell away and I was left with a 4" root ball. Yes that plant on the right came from the same exact container that you see on the left.

This...

Became this...

And once I worked all the soil away from the base of the plant there was even less mass.

What's the story? I really want to imagine a scenario where the grower has the plant's best interest in mind. But honestly it seems less about that and more about potting up the plant so the price tag can be inflated. I bought two Agave bracteosa from the same (California) grower from a different (local) seller earlier this spring. They were in a 1-gallon can. Upon popping them out to plant I was shocked to end up with a root-bound mass that filled the top half of the can, and compacted soil of a different consistency filling the bottom half. Obviously neither one of these instances affected the health of the plant, but as the customer I couldn't help but feel I was paying for a inflated pot size. Not cool!

Okay, that was the rant. Now for the recommendation. Awhile back I wrote about a pair of pruners from Corona Tools, they were labeled as grape snips but I found them to be extremely useful for pruning out a dead or decaying Agave leaf growing in the middle of the plant, like this...

The curved blades of the grape snips were perfect for the Agave cutting task. Sadly snipping grapes and cutting out Agave leaves require vastly different tools and I quickly broke my originals. Amazon to the rescue! Andrew spotted these Sure Cut grape snips online and ordered them for my birthday, which isn't until next month but the package was accidentally opened the day it showed up (oops!)

I love the packaging

And the snips themselves are the real deal. I predict many happy years of use.

I highly recommend the purchase should you find yourself in need of a tool that can get in between good Agave leaves to remove the bad. It's a delicate job!

Weather Diary, June 25: Hi 101, Low 64/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2017 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

19 comments:

  1. It's a frustrating thing that happened with the pots; in this case size does matters.
    Will you show the sellers the pictures? Maybe they'll find a different grower next year. The pruners are really good looking. Fabulous early birthday gift.

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    1. I may talk to them (the sellers) about it, just to make sure they know...because it does reflect on them.

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  2. Thanks for the rant and rave. I lost my favorite pruners for fine work in the garden a week ago. I usually put them back in my tool belt (which I was wearing) as soon as I am done using them. I also put a hot pink plastic ribbon on them to make them easy to find if I set them down and forget them. So now I have an idea about a replacement.

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    1. I don't know these would be ideal for everyday use. The curve of their blade however does make them wonderful for specific tasks.

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  3. Haay, that happens here too. Naughty tricks of the nursery trade...

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    1. It's been a particularly frustrating year of said tricks (there are others I haven't written about...).

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  4. It is so annying when that happens. But at least the plants are healthy.

    And we love new tools for trimming the agaves. I use tin snips which again come with various length of tips

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    1. Indeed, those are happy Agaves.

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  5. Cathi LamoreuxJune 26, 2017

    That happened to me with a tree! The roots were pot bound in the shape of a much smaller pot and I spent 3 hours trying to get them untangled. I called and ranted. Didn't do me much good. I didn't return for two years and have only recently gone back. But, I will only buy plants from them (and, now, any nursery) if I can tap the plant out of the pots to check on the root ball.

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    1. Oh my gosh. Agaves are one thing...trees are something entirely different!

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  6. I guess the positive thing is: if a person buys a potted plant and leaves it in the pot six months, it won't be quite so pot-bound come planting time. But...that person is paying a 1 gallon price for a 4" plant. It's why I prefer to buy 4" plants most of the time.

    Like I did with a Cordyline a week or so ago. I was just thinking on this same subject today because of the Cordyline.

    Those are pretty Agaves!

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    1. If only the plants I want were available in 4" pots..

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  7. Oh, don't even get me started on the subject of your rant! The worst is when they do this to trees, especially slow growing ones like oaks! I can't tell you how many dead trees I've removed where the clear cause of death is circling roots from the nursery potting up without cutting the roots. I'm always having to convince clients that they don't want to spend the money on a huge tree because I likely won't be able to correct any root issues I can't see when I plant it. Sure, you could shell out the big bucks and plant a 45 gallon box and have a great looking tree for a few years, but ten years down the line, it's gonna be a dead tree if the grower was lazy. Better to buy smaller and be patient. (Easier said than done!)

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    1. Instant gratification...it will get you in the long run. I don't envy you the client conversations.

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  8. Frustrating when growers do that. Usually my plants sit around in nursery pots so long that something like that would most likely go unnoticed. Thanks for the recommendation. I was just playing with a dead agave leaf today. Knife, scissors, swearing, little trickle of blood. Your way sounds much better. Thanks.

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    1. If you let these sit outside and they got much rain you probably would notice because they'd rot with that much potting soil in the grown of the plant. No bleeding!

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  9. Thanks for the tool recommendation. I bought two pairs of the Coronas when you first blogged about them. They were great for a little while but slowly declined. I'm going to give your new recommendation a try.

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  10. It would be great if you would be willing to update us on the response of your Nursery to your complaints.
    Inquiring minds, want to know.
    And forewarned is forearmed!

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  11. Sad on your up-potted agave. That practice is a signature of one local nursery, who mostly sells 5 gallon and not 1 gallon plants! A regional supplier sells plants so fast, they never grow them up to specs...while others grow larger caliper trees, stunted and 25%+ shorter than specs.

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