Time to repot agave bulbils — i.e., Moby spawn


Two months ago Moby, my big whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), bloomed and sent up a tree-sized flower stalk, on which hundreds of bulbils (baby agave clones) eventually formed. You can read all about that here and here.

I kept them misted through the last weeks of summer, but lately it’s turned cool and rainy — something agaves don’t like very much. Now that they’ve had time to root, I’ve given many of them away to friends near and far. One of those, Jenny at Rock Rose, told me she unpotted hers and found long roots circling the 4-inch pot, so I knew it was time to replant those I intend to keep. I selected 6 nice ones and gently shook the damp soil from their fragile roots. I bought 6 Italian terracotta pots from Shoal Creek Nursery (Italian terracotta doesn’t crack when it freezes like Mexican terracotta)…


…bagged cactus potting soil, and perlite to improve drainage and avoid root rot. (Pumice would be preferable to perlite, which floats, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next time I’ll order in advance.) The sales guy at Shoal Creek advised washing the perlite in a colander to flush out excess fluoride and to keep it from blowing around, which was easy thanks to this handy plastic colander and scoop from Tubtrugs, which I won as a door prize at this summer’s Garden Bloggers Fling.

Next I mixed one part cactus mix with one part perlite and filled the terracotta pots, first placing a small square of fiberglass mesh screening material over the drainage hole in the bottom. This is optional but helps keep out ants and hold the soil in place while still allowing water to drain freely.


With each pot filled partway, I placed a baby agave in the pot so the roots were spread out and down and then added more soil, gently pressing it around the plant.


Here they are, all potted up.


Gravel or rock mulch keeps the perlite from floating to the top of the soil when you water, plus it insulates the soil and gives a finished look to container plants. I bought vase-filler river stones and gravel at Target and spread a layer of black river stones atop each pot.


That’s better! For now they’re basking in the gentle autumn sun on the deck rail. Grow, Moby spawn, grow!


I still have some Moby babies left in my mobile potting station (a Gorilla Cart that I’ve covered with metal screening to keep out squirrels). Most of these are going to friends who’ve called dibs on a pup or two. But I hope to have a few leftover next spring to give away to a lucky reader or two! But wait — what’s that on the left?


Babies from a ‘Bloodspot’ mangave that bloomed months ago and finally produced bulbils of its own! Yes, I’m officially addicted to potting up bulbils. Grow, mangaves, grow!

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24 Responses

  1. ks says:

    Oh boy I would be thrilled if I got progeny from my ‘Bloodspot’ ..It’s nowhere near blooming but it does live in a small pot in filtered sun, so perhaps not the best conditions.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’ve had several bloom over the past few years, KS. They don’t seem to live very long before blooming in our climate. But I’d never waited long enough, apparently, before cutting off the spent bloom stalk. This time, on the advice of another blogger, I held off, and lo and behold, 10 bulbils formed! I’ve been letting them “ripen” for a couple of months, and I’m excited to see how many I can root. —Pam

  2. Kris P says:

    Your babies look very healthy, Pam!

  3. I can hardly wait to get my baby ‘Moby’ in the mail next week. Thank you, Pam!

  4. Paige Nugent says:

    I have loved reading about Moby! You made me want to have one in my yard so bad, but I don’t think he would have liked Ohio?

    I look forward to seeing baby Moby in the years to come.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, Paige. Thanks for commenting! Ohio is too cold to grow a whale’s tongue agave outdoors. It would have to be grown in a pot and moved indoors during the winter. I grow a few freeze-intolerant agaves like that myself, but I keep telling myself no more because I don’t have a greenhouse — ha! —Pam

  5. Congrats on such a generous collection of little mobys and the manfreds. FUN…

  6. Fabulous. Something wonderful out of the death of Moby…so nice to see those babies out in the world. What a treasure – to bring up a little Moby like that and watch it grow! Thanks for an uplifting post, Pam.

  7. Glad to see you waited it out and got your Bloodspot to have babies. They can be a little more difficult to root, but looks like you should get a nice crop.

  8. Sherry says:

    I would love a baby Moby sprout. I can pick up as I live in the Austin area. I will give you one of my agave baby sprouts.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Sherry, I’d really love to share if I have leftovers. Right now my priority is getting them to my garden-blogging friends to whom I’ve already promised pups. I appreciate your patience, and I’m also delighted to know you’re a Moby fan! —Pam

  9. Gerhard Bock says:

    Moby lives on–not just in Austin but all over the place, including Davis, CA!

    When I stepped outside this morning (Sunday) to get the paper, there was a box from you in front of the door! I imagine the mail lady had delivered it to the wrong house and somebody brought it over to us this morning. I can’t wait to meet my Moby Jr!! Thank you again for your generosity.

  10. hb says:

    See? Moby is not gone, he’s renewed. :)

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    So cool that Moby lives on in his progeny! I’m looking forward to an arrival! Thank you again!

  12. Mike Ratherson says:

    I just put my Plant Delights’ Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ in the ground yesterday right before our Austin cold snap. It was potted since June with about 3-4 hours sun. It will get 6-8 hours sun now but not our Death Star variety sun. Supposed to be hardy to the 20s. Hope it survives. Have you ground planted your ‘Vanzie’ yet? Glad Moby has some nice spawn.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, I planted it a couple of months ago, Mike. Ideally you want to plant agaves and other dry-loving plants before it starts to get chilly and damp, so late spring/early summer is preferable. But hopefully we’ll have a mild winter, and your agave (and mine) will do just fine. Excellent drainage is the key. And maybe a little winter protection this year if we do get an especially hard or prolonged cold snap. After that it should be fine. —Pam

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