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Agave bovicornuta (Cowhorn Agave)

Cow's Horn Agave, Little Lettuce, Cowhorn Agave

Agave bovicornuta, Cowhorn Agave, Succulent, Agave
Agave bovicornuta, Cowhorn Agave, Succulent, Agave
Agave bovicornuta, Cowhorn Agave, Succulent, Agave
Agave bovicornuta, Cowhorn Agave, Succulent, Agave
Agave bovicornuta, Cowhorn Agave, Succulent, Agave

Agave bovicornuta (Cowhorn Agave) is a stunning and resilient plant that offers both aesthetic and practical benefits to gardens and landscapes. Its distinctive appearance, coupled with its low maintenance needs and environmental adaptability, make it an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a touch of the dramatic to their outdoor spaces.

Agave bovicornuta – Cowhorn Agave: An In-depth Look

Agave bovicornuta, commonly known as Cowhorn Agave, is a striking species of agave that is notable for its large, thick, and sharply toothed leaves. The plant forms a dense, symmetrical rosette of leaves that can reach impressive sizes. Each leaf is a bright green color, sometimes with a yellowish tinge, and has prominent reddish-brown teeth along the margins. The name “bovicornuta” refers to the cowhorn-like shape of its marginal teeth. This agave is highly valued for its ornamental qualities and architectural form, making it a popular choice for desert and succulent gardens.

Native: Cowhorn Agave is native to the mountainous regions of the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwestern Mexico. It is typically found in dry, rocky areas and steep slopes where it has adapted to survive in harsh, arid conditions.

Plant Type and Habit: This plant is a perennial succulent that forms a solitary rosette, although it may occasionally produce offsets or pups. The rosette grows from a central point and maintains a relatively compact form, with leaves radiating outwards in a symmetrical pattern. Agave bovicornuta does not form large colonies like some other agave species, making it a focal point in garden designs.

Size: Cowhorn Agave can reach a height of 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) and a spread of 3 to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm). The leaves can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) long and 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) wide, contributing to its substantial and impressive appearance.

Flowers: The flowering of Agave bovicornuta is a rare and dramatic event. The plant produces a tall flower stalk, which can reach up to 15-25 feet (4.5 to 7.5 meters) in height. The stalk is adorned with clusters of bright yellow to greenish-yellow flowers that attract pollinators such as bees, bats, and birds. The flowering process is monocarpic, meaning the plant will die after blooming. Agave bovicornuta typically blooms after many years of growth, usually between 10 to 20 years, depending on environmental conditions.

Foliage: The foliage is one of its most striking features. The leaves are thick, fleshy, and arranged in a rosette. Each leaf is bright green with a slight yellowish hue and has pronounced reddish-brown marginal teeth and a terminal spine. The leaves are slightly curved, resembling a cow’s horn, which adds to the plant’s distinctive appearance. The texture of the leaves is smooth, with a slight sheen, making them stand out in any garden setting.

Uses: This agave is primarily used as an ornamental plant in landscape design. Its architectural form and striking foliage make it a popular choice for xeriscaping, rock gardens, and as a focal point in succulent gardens. It can also be grown in large containers, which allows it to be moved indoors in colder climates. Additionally, Agave bovicornuta can be used in erosion control on slopes due to its deep root system.

Hardiness: Cowhorn Agave is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11. It can tolerate temperatures down to around 20°F (-6°C) for short periods, but it prefers warmer climates. In regions with colder winters, it is best grown in containers that can be moved indoors or provided with protection during frost events.
Toxicity: The sap of Agave bovicornuta, like many agave species, contains compounds that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. It is advisable to handle the plant with gloves and to be cautious of the sharp teeth and spines, which can cause physical injury.

Wildlife: Agave bovicornuta flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including bees, bats, and birds, which are essential for the plant’s reproduction. The dense rosette of leaves can also provide shelter for small animals and insects in its native habitat.

Deer and Rabbit: Deer and rabbits generally avoid Agave bovicornuta due to its tough, spiny leaves and the presence of irritating compounds in its sap.

Drought: Agave bovicornuta is highly drought-tolerant, making it an excellent choice for arid and semi-arid climates. It requires minimal watering once established and thrives in dry conditions. Overwatering should be avoided, as it can lead to root rot and other issues.

Invasiveness: Agave bovicornuta is not considered invasive. It grows slowly and does not spread aggressively. While it may produce offsets, these can be easily managed or transplanted to new locations.

Benefits: The primary benefits of Agave bovicornuta include its low maintenance requirements, drought tolerance, and striking appearance. It adds a dramatic focal point to gardens and landscapes, especially in xeriscapes and rock gardens. Its ability to attract pollinators also contributes to local biodiversity. Additionally, the plant’s deep root system helps with soil stabilization on slopes, making it useful for erosion control.

Cowhorn Agave Growing Tips

Light: Prefers full sun to light shade for optimal growth.

Soil: Requires well-draining soil, such as sandy or rocky soil. A cactus or succulent mix is ideal.

Water: Water sparingly; allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. Reduce watering in winter when the plant is dormant.

Fertilizer: Fertilize sparingly, once in spring with a balanced, diluted fertilizer. Over-fertilization can cause leggy growth.

Pruning: Pruning is not necessary; remove dead or damaged leaves as needed. Use gloves to avoid injury from sharp spines.

Propagation: Propagate by removing and replanting offsets. Allow offsets to dry for a few days before planting.

Pests and Diseases: Generally pest-resistant but watch for pests like mealybugs or scale insects. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so ensure proper drainage.

Requirements

Hardiness 8 - 11
Climate Zones 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Agave
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 3' - 5'
(90cm - 150cm)
Spacing 36" - 60"
(90cm - 150cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
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Alternative Plants to Consider

Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Medio Picta’ (Giant Agave)
Agave tequilana (Blue Agave)
Agave angustifolia var. marginata (Caribbean Agave)
Agave xylonacantha (Saw Leaf Agave)
Agave x leopoldii (Leopold Agave)
Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ (Octopus Agave)

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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 8 - 11
Climate Zones 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Cactus & Succulents
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Agave
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 2' - 3'
(60cm - 90cm)
Spread 3' - 5'
(90cm - 150cm)
Spacing 36" - 60"
(90cm - 150cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Deer, Rabbit
Garden Uses Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Mediterranean Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Agave
Guides with
Agave
Not sure which Agave to pick?
Compare Now

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