Just recently, I received a great plant from a volunteer – a sharp and pointy agave, large but in its infancy.  Despite its young age, it is still an ornery plant for the garden.  This agave when planted in the landscape will grow to become a large and lovely plant with green and light green variegated leaves with many points at the ends and sharp points along the leaf edges to avoid, thus an ornery plant.  There are some marvelous ornery plants with sharp teeth or points to include in your garden!

Rattle Snake Master

plant with white blooms



Serrated leaves can be very sharp on Rattlesnake Master. Photo by L. Sanderson.
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccafolium L.) is a Florida native perennial that has large clusters of tight greenish-white, dense, rounded heads held over the leaves. Flowers are long-lasting with impact still made when the flower heads dry.  If you have gardened farther north, you may have had a blue sea holly which is in the same genus as Rattlesnake Master.   The reason that this is “ornery” is because the thin leaves have small but potentially vicious serration along the leaf margins which persist into the winter.  Despite those leaves, this is a great perennial for mass planting in your landscape that attracts pollinators when in bloom.  Once established, are drought tolerant.


green rosette plant with tall flower stalk



Agave can have sharp edges and points. Some varieties can have very tall flower stalks.
The UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County Demonstration Garden has an assortment of Agave. There is incredible diversity of agave from the size of plant to leaf color and variegation.  They originate from Mexico but can also be from places like Arizona and the southwestern United States, and the Caribbean.  Leaves grow in rosettes and other forms, and they have those “vicious” points at the leaf tip, and also can have “evil” teeth along the leaf.  Most agave will die after producing a flower stalk.  Depending on the agave, some flower stalks can be taller than your home. Some agaves may flower and survive based on the specific variety.  All agaves often produce small agave pups which will replace the one that has flowered.  There are some that can spread significantly and may be better in a larger container. You can see images and descriptions of Agave and Yucca by visiting  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP419 and open the PDF to see the table.
two colored leaves



Yucca filamentosa can have very sharply pointed leaves. Photo by L.. Sanderson.


There are several Yucca species you can grow in your landscape, some more ornery than others.  Yucca filamentosa is a native plant which is also known as “AdamsNeedle” because it has sharp points at the end of the leaves and filaments along the leaf edges . It grows up to 4 feet wide and sends up a dramatic flower spikes with cream-colored flowers.  The cultivar ‘Color Guard’ has leaves that are green with cream in the center. Yucca recurvifolia is green and does have a point at the end of its tips.  This “Pendulous yucca” can eventually produce multiple trunks, and also has a variegated variety that has wide, soft leaves.
green plant with leaves in a circle



There are many different varieties of aloe including smaller and unusual varieties.  Not all are hardy so check plant labels.


Aloe vera, is thought of as the plant with leaves you could cut open and apply their leaf innards to relieve a mild burn or sunburn.  It is a succulent plant native to Africa you can plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 11.  The aloe found in the UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County Demo Garden, has vicious teeth around the outside edge of the leaf, but like the gargantuan aloe growing in my garden, they are drought tolerant when established.  Flowers are bright orange or light yellow and can attract hummingbirds with their nectar.  There is a wide variety of aloe, including some that are quite small compared to Aloe vera.  Check plant labels about hardiness of other varieties of Aloe to know whether to plant in the ground or in a container. Read about Soap Aloe (A.maculata), its sharp spines, and how it attracts hummingbirds at: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/soap-aloe.html. There are many types of plants which can be drought tolerant and add interest to your garden, so see if varieties of some of these ornery plants will work well in your garden.
by Lisa Sanderson
Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert
Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.
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