Monday, 6 August 2018

Is this finally the year of the mangave

So manfredas and mangaves, what is not to like; the colour of the manfredas and the structure of agaves combined. It is strange that the plants available in the UK have not really changed in years. We have a good selection of manfredas with virginica, guttata, maculosa and undulata all being fairly readily available if you look for them. You can even get choice forms like undulata 'Chocolate Chips' if you search hard enough.

I haven't quite sorted out the best growing conditions for my undulata 'Chocolate Chips' yet, it seems I probably grow them too much like an agave, and should give them righer soil and more water.

It did however flower, which is typical of manfredas; interesting but only a few flowers on the stalk.

Sadly the flower was at the start of spring and I couldn't get hold of any agave pollen to cross with, so no seeds. This was really frustrating as it would be a great parent plant for mangaves.

You don't grow manfredas for the flowers, it's the colour  and speed of growth that make them an ideal partner for agaves. Manfreda guttata is a good example of this, and my most dramatic manfreda.

This plant has offset well and there are a few decent sized pups, in the photos the pot is 30cm to give you an idea of size. I just need it to flower at the correct time, when agave pollen is available.  Or figure out if pollen can be frozen for use later.

So the mangaves. There are two main plants you can get in the UK,  'Bloodspot', and 'Macho Mocha'. My 'Bloodspot' is a work in progress.

There is a variegated form of 'Macho Mocha' call 'Espresso'. I am lucky enough to have both and they pretty much behave identically.

Sadly they suffered last winter and are just getting back into looking good again.  The great thing about mangaves is that they quickly. Next winter they will be brought inside as the unheated greenhouse is just too a little too cold.  So if you are looking in the UK that is probably what you will find.

The thing about manfredas is that they flowers readily, and even in the UK agaves flower.  So ther are probaly lots of un-named mangaves out there in private collections.  Again I have been lucky in that I have managed to get hold of two. Both crosses with an agave obscura (or polyacantha var xalapensis, I forget which is the current name). One with manfreda maculosa, the other manfreda virginica. They have very different forms.

The manfreda maculosa x agave obscura have triangular sections to the leaves.  It seems to offset profusely which is useful.

As with many manfredas / magaves the colour depends on the light and sun levels.  In direct sunlight this one is covered in spots.

The manfreda virginica x agave obscura is more upright with softer leaves.  Speaking to friends who also took pups, these were quite variable in colour and form.

I had high hopes for this one, then dispite only being a few years old it flowered.  At first it looked like it would be a typical manfreda flower; a few flowers on the stem.

The flowers themselves are larger and typical of agaves.

So the timing for this flower was better and a friend had 4 agaves in flower.  She rushed over pollen from agave mitis,  and a large blue agave which has a spectacular flower. The signs are good, with at least 4 seed pods definitely taken.

Obviously the issue with seeds is that they need to be germinated and grown. Me and seedlings do not go well together. The last seed project was the aloe polyphyllas, 48 out of 50 seeds germinated, only 2 seedlings are still alive.  I guess, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the mean time keep your fingers crossed that the pods produce viable seeds.

This summer, with the flowers and propagating my plants I have renued my search for more varieties.  In the USA, there are now a lot of stunning varieties avialable. Just go to Walters Gardens Mad About Mangave page for a sample. While these are now for sale in the US, they have yet to make it over to the UK.  I understand that plans are afoot to change this, but it will not beuntil for a year at least. In the mean time my search for European collectors / growers continues.  If you have any manfredas or mangaves and would be interested in trading please let me know.

No doubt I will keep you up to date in the seeds progress, and if you live in the US, what are you waiting for go out and buy yourself a pot of happiness. Mangaves have been in the shade for too long,  this is their year to shine!


  1. ohhhhh shit... You're gonna have your own mangave farm started soon! Assuming you don't commit genocide vs. the seedlings are you going to give them English names? Mangave 'English Pudding' or Mangave 'Spotted Dick'? =D

    That espresso is magnifique! I've done some looking through that mad about mangave website and it's crazy to see all the stuff that's popped up. It reminds me of people crossing dyckia's. You've got a million different ones.

    1. Yes it is plant that flower freely, means you can get hybrids. The Mad about Mangave lot have amazing set of plants, great that so many are for sale for you.
      I think the mangave 'Spotted Dick' is a great name not sure it means that much to people outside of the UK.

  2. Tooth Fairy and Kaledoscope are my favorites. I have 3x Lavender Lady's I'm not sure how well they ship though? It would be coming from Oklahoma all the way to England.

    1. You are so lucky to have those, although amazed you have limited yourself to only 3. The lavender Lady, looks like a great plant, very tempted as you say postage is a problem. Hopefully someone in Europe will have some to trade other wise i will get back in touch.

    2. Yea I hadn't ever looked up shipping costs for international... it's crazy expensive! Good luck!

  3. Excellent news on the pod development, at least in the early stages! If only Mangaves weren't more available over here, there are so many awesome new hybrids appearing stateside. I'm thinking of starting a proper agave bed, most of my succulents have to come under cover over winter (many many Aeoniums etc!) but want to get going with some permanent plantings.

    1. I know. I am slowly building my collection of varieties but it is hard work and there are so few people to trade with so even when you have spares it doesn't help.

      I stopped growing aeoniums due to the winter requirements, Love the easy care agaves in my rockery.

  4. I am in Africa. I have ordered agaves from Taiwan USA and Europe, they travel some time two month but still arrive OK.Post here is so slow.In Europe from USA they will take a week with EMS.