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by High Country Gardens

This cold hardy desert lily (yes, Agave are in the Lily family) is an amazing plant. Its large size and wide, graceful leaves with their stunning blue color make this a very special plant. And It has an amazing history to match. Cold hardy to USDA 7, this beauty is perfect for planting from Texas and southern Oklahoma all the way west across the Southwest into California. It thrives in the heat!

Agave ovatifolia 'Whale’s Tongue'
"Agave ovatifolia 'Whale’s Tongue'"

I was very interested to learn a few years ago that I have a circuitous connection to this plant. It was introduced into cultivation by renowned Texas native plantsman and nurseryman, Lynn Lowrey. I was fortunate enough to get my first nursery job as a young teen working for Mr. Lowrey, so I have a great interest in native plants associated with him. A quiet and soft spoken man, his love of native plants and a lifetime of tireless explorations across TX and northern Mexico yielded an amazing list of plants introduced into cultivation and expanded our knowledge of their habitats and distributions across the land. In his day, native plants weren’t regarded as highly as they are today, but he spent a lifetime contributing invaluable knowledge about the native plants in this highly biodiverse region of the world.

The mighty Whale’s Tongue century plant was discovered by Mr. Lowrey back in the 1970’s but was never widely grown until Greg Starr of Tucson AZ became aware of the plant. But not much was known about it. So Greg trekked to Mexico where he retraced Mr. Lowrey’s steps and was able to relocate it in its Mexican habitat. And due to Greg’s efforts, Agave ovatifolia is becoming available to gardeners and landscapers. ‘Frosty Blue’ is a selected plant of this species with exceptionally blue leaves. It has been propagated in tissue culture (also used for Hosta, Lilies and Orchids to name a few) so all the plants are identical. This is particularly nice for formal or semi-formal landscapes where well matched plants are essential. ‘Frosty Blue’ Whales Tongue is also a fabulous specimen plant used as a single plant for front yards and other conspicuous spots.

Text and photos by David Salman