Agave Aloe


They have long been naturalized in the Mediterranean area, and even in Italy they find a place in botanical gardens, but also in the flora that constitutes the Mediterranean scrub in its natural state; the outward appearance of the two plants is similar in fact they both develop large fleshy leaves, endowed in some species with thorns on the sides, triangular, united in compact rosettes, high from 30cm up to the meter or even more. In reality the two plants are very different, due to their origins, development and use.

The agaves

Agaves are large succulent shrubs, originating in Central and South America; if they do not know many species, which have been cultivated in Europe since the time of the first conquerors, who brought some specimens from Central America, and naturalized them in the Mediterranean area.
They have large triangular, sharp, fleshy and rigid, often leathery leaves; the color of the agave ranges from light green to gray or bluish, and there are also species with striped or variegated foliage.
These plants are mainly cultivated for the foliage, since the flowering happens every 20-30 years, and to it follows the death of the plant; the flowers are white, bell-shaped, and bloom at the apex of tall rigid stems, gathered in large clusters. In general the agaves gather in colonies, always producing new rosettes close to the main rosette; in this way, when the oldest specimen dies after flowering, other nearby plants develop.
These are plants that love hot and dry climates, although many species can easily withstand very cold winter temperatures, and even intense and prolonged frosts. In fact, many species of agave are placed outdoors on the shores of the great lakes of northern Italy, where they thrive without any problems.
Agaves have been used for centuries in South America to produce, distilling them, liqueur, called tequila or mezqal; in America and Europe it is also cultivated to produce a textile fiber, sisal.
Family, genus and species: Agavaceae, gen. agave with more than 300 species
Type of plant: Multi-year or perennial succulent
Growth: slow
RusticitŠ°: from -5 ° C to -15 ° C depending on the species
Exposure: Full sun
Ground: Well drained, 50% soil-50% sand
Irrigation: Abundant in the summer, suspend in the winter
Composting: monthly
colors: Green, variegated, striated, glaucous
Height: From 50 cm to 2 meters
Propagation: Bulbilli, basal or seed jets
Use: Mediterranean, rocky gardens, vase

Exposure and terrain

These succulents prefer sunny exposures, in addition to well-drained soils. If we respect these conditions we will rarely encounter radical rot. We can insert the specimens both in pots and in the ground: we always create a thick draining layer on the bottom. As a substrate, the preparations for cactaceae are fine, but we can create ourselves a mixture with half a soil for green plants (maybe with a slightly acid pH) and half coarse river sand.

Climate and varietal choice

In the Center-South and on the coasts it is possible to cultivate almost all varieties in the open ground, since they easily tolerate temperatures around -5 ° C, as long as the cold is dry and the drainage treated to perfection.
In the northern regions we can instead direct ourselves to the Agave Americana (it also bears -10 ° C, in optimal conditions) or to the Agave Montana (even more resistant). In any case it is very important to make sure that the ground is suitable, choose a warm location, reached by at least 6 hours of direct sun even in winter. We also avoid cold winds, possibly using special covers and thick foot mulching.

Pot cultivation

Pot cultivation is simple as long as you take care of the drainage, repair in time at the arrival of winter and, at the same time, suspend almost all irrigation. In spring we then gradually expose the specimens to light and heat to avoid leaf burns.
We choose containers that are not too large (they avoid water stagnation). Over time the plants can become of considerable size: at that point it will be good to opt for a vase equipped with wheels to facilitate seasonal movements.

Irrigation and fertilization

The agave can also live with very little water; if we want to stimulate its growth it is however good to irrigate frequently from mid-summer to early autumn, always waiting for the soil to dry in depth before proceeding. In winter we suspend.
In the vegetative period it is good to distribute a specific fertilizer for cactaceae monthly.

Pests and diseases

Agave is very resistant. In general, it only fears frost and root rot. The most common parasite is the cochineal on which it is possible to operate manually at the first signs. In more serious cases it is instead good to resort to mineral oils activated by a systemic insecticide.


Although very similar to agave, aloe is a plant of African and Asian origin; it has also found its place in the Mediterranean scrub for centuries. Aloe is a succulent appreciated both for aesthetic reasons and for its many medicinal virtues. It produces large, succulent, fleshy leaves, enclosing a transparent, mucilaginous pulp. In spring they produce large spikes of yellow or red flowers. All the aloe species have green leaves, there are no species with striped or variegated leaves.
They are cultivated as ornamental plants, even if they fear the cold and can be placed in the garden only in areas with mild winters and slight danger of frost; frost in fact irreparably damages the foliage and can cause the death of the entire plant. In northern Italy it is cultivated in pots, and sheltered in a cold greenhouse during the coldest months of the year.
For millennia man has been exploiting the medicinal powers of the pulp of aloe, which has emollient, humectant and antiseptic properties; in some regions of the world nowadays aloe is cultivated to extract the active ingredients it contains from the pulp, so that they can be used to produce oils, ointments and other products useful in medicine, herbal medicine or personal hygiene .
Family, genus and species: Liliaceae, gen. Aloe, more than 500 species
Type of plant: Succulent
Growth: fast
RusticitŠ°: From little to medium rustic
Exposure: Sun, half-shade
Ground: Sandy or stony, well drained
Irrigation: light
Composting: monthly
colors: Green, glaucous, speckled, streaked
Height: Up to 5 m
Propagation: Division, sowing, cutting
Use: Vase or full earth

Aloe exposure and soil

The ideal positioning is the one that is as bright and warm as possible: the aloe supports very well temperatures even above 40 ° C. Particular attention should be paid to the substrate which must be fairly rich in organic substance, but also perfectly drained. An excellent product is obtained by mixing in equal parts garden soil, leaf mold and sand. We can also add some pebbles.

Climate and varietal choice

Most of the aloe bears at most temperatures up to 5 ° C: this means that they can only be placed in the ground in the South and on the coasts. In any case, it is always necessary to take care of the drainage perfectly because what they fear most is the damp cold.
In the other areas it is good to keep these plants only in pots or to orientate oneself on some more resistant species, for example the aristata, the Striatula or the arborescens.
If we want to use the leaves for medicinal purposes, let's turn to specialized retailers: some aloes can even be poisonous or irritating.

Other information to grow aloe

Pot cultivation
We choose a container that is not too large and we prepare a thick draining layer. The mixture indicated above is ideal.
Irrigation and fertilization
It wants a very dry environment. Before irrigating, let's make sure that the ground bread is dry in depth and we suspend almost completely in winter. From April to October we distribute a specific fertilizer monthly.
Pests and diseases
Here too, root rots and cochineals are feared: we follow the same advice given for agave.

Agave Aloe: Yucca

Yucca are large shrubs belonging to the agavaceae family; as the agaves in fact come from Central and South America, and also from the Caribbean. Even the yucca produce large compact rosettes, consisting of triangular leaves, sometimes succulent, sometimes rigid and leathery; generally though many species of yucca also develop high sparsely branched stems, at the apex of which leaf rosettes develop. Most of the yucca grows without problems even outdoors, not afraid of frost or cold.