Agave ovatifolia

Common Name: whale's tongue agave 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Mexico
Zone: 7 to 11
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: Yellow-green
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Other: Thorns
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Estimated to be hardy to USDA Zones 7-11. Best growth occurs in a sandy/gritty, dry to dry-medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Sharp soil drainage is important. Poorly-drained soils inevitably lead to root rot. Tolerates dry soils and drought. Surprisingly good winter hardiness for this succulent. Plants have reportedly survived winters with temperatures as low as 0°F (USDA Zone 7), but cold temperatures should be "dry cold" as opposed to "wet cold".

Noteworthy Characteristics

Agave ovatifolia, often called whale's tongue agave, is a rosette-forming succulent that is native to the Nuevo Leon region of the Chihuahuan Desert in northern Mexico, typically at elevations from 3,700 to 7,000 feet. It is most noted for its attractive blue-gray evergreen leaves and infrequent flowering spikes. Thick, rigid, smooth, and slightly cupped blue-gray leaves (to 24” long) form a large, dense, symmetrical, basal rosette. A rosette will typically mature over time to 3' tall by 4' wide. Each leaf has grey, curved spines along the margin and a sharp terminal spine. This species is solitary, and does not produce offsets. Each rosette will flower only once, usually at some point between 10-20 years. One huge flowering stalk (to 14' tall) will rise from the rosette, with each stalk producing 15-20 side branches, and each side branch sporting clusters of yellow-green flowers. In its native habitat, flowers typically bloom in summer (June - August).

The genus name Agave comes from the Greek word agauos meaning "admirable" or "noble" in probable reference to the very tall flower spikes found on the plants of many species of Agave.

Specific epithet derives from the Latin 'ovatus', meaning egg, and 'folius', meaning leaves, in reference to the leaf shape.

Common name also refers to the leaf shape.


No serious insect pest or disease issues reported.


Rock gardens, urban gardens, succulent gardens and xeriscapes. This plant can also be grown in a container with well-draining soil if provided protection from winter moisture.