Moby death vigil and other flowerings

In case you don’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram, where I’ve been posting pictures since last Wednesday, when I first noticed it, I must break the news to you: Moby is dying. Moby is my beloved whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia) and the most iconic plant in my garden.

No, not Moby! Avert your eyes from the horror, Cosmo.

How do I know? Moby is getting ready to flower, in the most magnificent way possible. See that bloom spike, like a Jack-and-the-beanstalk-sized asparagus spear? It’s growing about 5 or 6 inches per day, and where it’ll top out is anybody’s guess. (Feel free to start wagering!) At the end of its life span — Moby has lived 10 years in my gardens — an agave pours all of its energy into a single extraordinary flower spike, and then it dies. You can’t cheat Mother Nature and save an agave by lopping off the bloom spike. All you can do is accept that it’s going out in a blaze of glory and enjoy the show. I’ll share a daily pic on Facebook over the next month or so, if you want to follow along.

Less traumatic flowerings are also happening, like this magenta ice plant (Delosperma cooperi).

Lovely against the blue stucco wall

And the spuria iris are blooming, about 2 or 3 weeks earlier than usual.

The burnt gold coloring is unusual and pretty.

I especially like them with variegated dianella’s strappy leaves.


Speaking of dianella, it’s flowering too but with more subtlety.

The paleleaf yucca (Y. pallida) in the purple pot is sending up a bloom spike. Loropetalum ‘Sizzling Pink’ has already finished blooming, but with foliage that colorful, who needs flowers?

Not blooming, but looking mighty fine nonetheless, is this toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in a steel-pipe planter in my entry garden. It’s like a green fiber-optic lamp.

Yesterday I mucked out the stock-tank pond and divided all my pond plants. It’s a tiring and messy job, but it’s a once-a-year chore that pays off in a beautiful pond all the way through fall. If you look closely, you’ll see there’s a single ‘Colorado’ waterlily blooming already. And in the background, frilly orange pomegranate flowers are visible.

How about in your garden? Anything exciting happening?

I welcome your comments. If you’re reading this in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment link at the end of each post.

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

I’m on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

29 Responses

  1. Laura Munoz says:

    Your garden looks lovely–cool and inviting.

    I’m sorry to hear about Moby because I know he was/is prized, and he makes such a big architectural statement in the spot he’s in. I think you moved him from your old house, right?

    How do whale’s tongue agaves reproduce? Do they make pups or set seed?

    I look forward to finding out what you will put in his place.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, I moved him from my former garden when we relocated to our current house. I’ve had him for a little over 10 years, and yes, he’s a major focal point in my back garden. But agaves eventually do bloom, and I’ll just plan on replacing him once the show is over.

      According to a local horticulturist, Agave ovatifolia sometimes sets seed (but not always, and I haven’t learned why). I’m also not sure whether or not it’ll produce bulbils (baby agaves) on its bloom stalk. There will be much to learn! —Pam

  2. Kris P says:

    Oh no! I’m glad you had a party for him last year. I know that all agaves come to this end but it is sad. Still, he’s going to put on quite a show I’m sure. I have 2 (smaller) whale’s tongue agaves and many agaves of other species so I look forward to learning from your experience in this case.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    On Saturday we saw an agave flower spike reaching up, up, up thru an oak tree!
    Perhaps Moby will leave you a son, or daughter?

  4. Renee says:

    Poor Moby is putting a lot of energy into that flower stalk! I hope you’ll be posting pictures on Instagram too? I can’t believe how fast it’s growing!

  5. Robin says:

    Wow, it must be hard to watch Moby dying. I’m sure his predecessor will be a beauty too.

  6. Pam Duffy says:

    So sorry about Moby. He had a good run and was well loved and admired. My next door neighbors have several and one of theirs bloomed last year. They are large, but I don’t think they are ovatifolia. It was huge and they finally took it down for fear it would fall into the neighboring property. The stalk was cut into small pieces and they were heavy so be careful with Cosmo our there…. and your bottle tree.

  7. How very bittersweet. It’s sad to loose a plant, especially if it is such a focal point and has witnessed all the growth and changes in a garden. Funny how we become so attached to plants. I am looking forward to seeing the bloom. Are there native pollinators who will visit Moby?

  8. linda peterson says:

    noooooooo, not moby!!!

    this is the part of gardening that i, admitted control freak, haven’t come to terms with yet: losing something you’ve loved and cosseted for years & being powerless to save it…i admire your equanimity & will try to emulate it when the inevitable end comes to any of my agaves.

    may your replacement moby bring you as much joy as moby one!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks for the sympathy, Linda. I think I’ve come to accept it so quickly because for the past couple of years I’ve been expecting Moby to bloom. He’d just gotten so enormous that I really felt his end game was near. And he proved me right this spring.

      What I’m worried about now is how I’m going to get him out once the collapse happens. —Pam

  9. Nancy says:

    Moby lived a long and happy life but it’s sad to see him go. We had the same experience in Tucson several years ago, and it was hard to believe how tall the stalk grew. Beware if high winds develop near the end, we needed to rope the stalk to guide its fall so as not to have it take out other plants. Amazing things, aren’t they! Really miraculous to watch.

  10. I’m in mourning for Moby already. What are the funeral plans? I’m following on facebook and can’t wait to see the bloom. At that size it is bound to be spectacular.

    LOVE the sotol in the steel planter — truly fabulous!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’ve long said I’ll throw him a New Orleans funeral party, but since he just had a birthday party, we’ll see. I will certainly give him a tribute here on the blog, and long may his memory live on.

      Isn’t that sotol fun? It greets visitors at the front porch. —Pam

  11. Your garden just won’t be the same without Moby. He needs a tribute written about him. He is so brave being moved and continuing to grow and hold reign over your garden. Sigh~~ The interesting part is what will you put into his space???? I love the pipe with the stolo in it. It is a striking combo. It looks like pure fun spewing out.
    My garden is in shock by all the cold weather we have been having. Frost this morning. Hopefully the end of the week with warmer weathers will encourage everything to burst into flower.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Thanks for the sympathetic words. I’ll put a new baby Moby in his place after he’s removed. I just can’t imagine any other plant in that spot. Sure hope you get some warm weather and spring flowers soon, Lisa. —Pam

  12. Heather/xericstyle says:

    Oh no! Poor Moby:( good thing you threw him an epic party :)….you must have known…

    Loving your toothless sotol!

  13. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Oh no, not Moby! Oh well, all good things must come to an end. Hope Moby makes lots of bulbils or offsets so you can enjoy grandchildren in your garden for years to come.

  14. Carolyn says:


    I started reading your blog a few years ago after purchasing a succulent. While researching online, to figure out the name of my new plant and how to take care of it, I stumbled upon your beautiful photos and quirky/cute/informative descriptions and they grabbed my attention and have held it since then. Moby must be given his due credit for attracting readers but you get the majority of the honor for keeping us engaged.
    The succulent I was referring to looks a lot like Moby. If my plant is in fact a whale’s tale agave you are welcome to have it. I’ll post a pic on Instagram and tag you in it. I’m @barneycarolyn on Instagram. Blessings! -Carolyn

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, Carolyn. Thanks for your lovely compliment! I found your photo on Instagram. What a pretty combo it is. I think you probably have an American agave, given the narrow, pointy leaves. Whale’s tongue leaves are broad and cupped, hence the common name. Then again, it can be hard to make an ID when an agave is small. Thank you for the kind offer to share with me, but I wouldn’t want to break up your planting, plus I already have my own Moby-replacement plan. Enjoy your agave! —Pam

      • Carolyn says:

        Now that you mention it, it does seem like I remember a tag on the plant that said “American” agave on it, that is familiar! Thank you for helping me identify it. Can’t wait to see the bloom on Moby! Keep us posted.