Agave attenuata 'Nova' (Blue Fox Tail Agave) - A large rosette succulent that forms a large cluster to 4 to 5 feet tall by about twice as wide with individual rosettes 4 to 5 feet wide atop a stout gray stem to 4 feet tall. The wide blue gray pliable leaves lack any teeth along the margins and emerge from a tight central spear to arch gracefully back, looking like large open gray-blue flower. Mature plants send up a 5-to-10-foot vertical flower stalk that, unlike the species does not arch over back towards the ground but does have the same pale greenish yellow flowers.
Plant in full coastal sun to shade in a well-drained soil in moist or fairly dry soils but looks its best with an occasional watering. Will tolerate light frost but will usually be damaged in temperatures much below 28° F. Tolerant of near seaside conditions.
This is one of the first blue selections from plants at the Huntington Gardens that were from the seed collected along a high rocky cliff at 7,200 feet in the Sierra de Manantlan on the south facing slope of a ridge above Durazono in the state of Jalisco by Myron Kimnach and Fred Boutin in 1970. Seedlings from these plants were originally distributed by the Huntington Botanic Garden through their International Succulent Introductions program as ISI#1442 Agave attenuata S.-D. var nov. in 1984 and again in 1990 as ISI# 9038 Agave attenuata 'Nova'. It is much bluer and has wider leaves than Agave attenuata and the flower stalk is erect where Agave attenuata droops over. Culture and growth patterns are otherwise similar to the species.
In 2003 the Huntington Botanic Gardens announced that Agave attenuata var. nova (ISI#1442) and Agave attenuata 'Nova' (ISI# 9038) are the same taxon, though in fact the first plants offered in the nursery trade were seedlings, so really represented a grex group with many genetically unique individual plants that would allow for the potential for many separate cultivars that could be selected from them. San Marcos Growers grew some of these other named plants, including the selections 'Huntington Blue' and 'Arboleda Blue'. but continued to list the first of the seedlings selections that we made as Agave attenuata 'Nova'.
The name 'Nova' had been published as early as 1984 for this plant but Colin Walker, writing in the June 2001 Journal of the British Cactus and Succulent Society proposed the plant be renamed Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' citing that the cultivar name 'Nova' should not allowed by the rules of nomenclature for cultivated plants because it "may be considered to be Latin, and thus liable to cause confusion." Since the word "nova", meaning "a star that ejects some of its material in the form of a cloud and become more luminous in the process", is also used as a noun in the English language, it actually could legitimately be used for a cultivar name. San Marcos Growers has sold this seedling selection made from the Huntington seed grown plants since 1987 under the name Agave attenuata 'Nova' and we continue to offer this selection under this original name. In 2012 the Huntington Botanic Garden made their own selection of one of the original Myron Kimnach and Fred Boutin collected plants and had it reproduced by micropropagation (tissue culture) by Rancho Tissue Technologies and this plant has now been officially named Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'. We offered both our original selection 'Nova' and 'Boutin Blue' and noted that these sister seedling originated cultivars were so similar with seemingly only negligible differences, that we described them here in the same manner. When Rancho Tissue Technologies discontinued selling the micropropagated 'Boutin Blue' to California nurseries we decided to only grow this plant, our own selection we continue to call Agave attenuata 'Nova'.
Information about Agave attenuata 'Nova' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.