Have you ever purchased a plant that wasn’t originally on your list? Dumb question. We’re gardeners. Lists are a distraction and feel so limiting. Therefore, I rarely stick to them. Which was the case last May when my mom and I visited Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL. In addition to the coleus, banana plant, clematis and roses, a mangave landed in my cart. I’ve grown plenty of succulents and had heard of it before but I can hardly say I knew what to do with it. All I knew was that I had to give it a go. How hard could it be? As it turns out, mangave is one of the most undemanding, and quite surprising, plants I’ve grown.
What Is Mangave?
It’s basically the love child of the manfreda and agave plants. The result is a faster growing colorful succulent, thanks to the manfreda parentage, that retains the agave architecture and durability minus all the sharp pokes and prickles. That’s not to say you won’t get poked. Some of those edges can be sharp, but it’s relatively benign and a helluva lot easier to work with when it comes time to plant or relocate.
How to Grow It
I live in zone 5b so leaving mangave out all winter isn’t an option. Most can be overwintered outside in zones 9-10. Lavender Lady, Mission to Mars, Moonglow and Pineapple Express, all members of the Mad About Mangave series from Walters Gardens, are winter hardy to zone 8. Bad Hair Day to zone 7b. Like most other succulents, mangave prefer a well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. I used a succulent potting mix and located it in the hot sun of my south-facing patio.
The big difference is in the way mangave respond to water. They’re far more tolerant of it than most succulents. While you don’t want to starve it entirely, doing so will produce a smaller plant. But if you want it to grow big fast, offer plenty of water. Just don’t drown it.
Once you get the mangave to a desired size, simply curtail the watering frequency. My cold weather climate dictates just how big my Mission to Mars can be since I have to keep it inside for the winter. Space is limited and given how quickly it’s grown in these five short months, I’m certain it could be a Little Shop of Horrors plant in no time. Only far more attractive.
In late September, I relocated the mangave to the south-facing windows of my family room. It’s the brightest room in the house. Just before I brought it in, we had a hail storm that damaged the leaves. While the red coloring isn’t as vibrant, the plant has remained healthy. I’ve pulled back on the watering and treat it as I do my other houseplants that have entered their dormant periods. A once-, possibly twice-a-month watering should suffice.
For some additional light, I added a lightweight clamping grow light fixture outfitted with a Miracle LED Ultra Grow Lite bulb. The padded clamp won’t damage furniture and the head is adjustable. I’ve used the fixture for several years on other succulents with success. The extra dose of light might not be needed, but it certainly can’t hurt either.
For more on mangave, go to Mad About Mangave where you’ll find the complete collection available from Walters Gardens, hybridizers of the series. There’s also a “Find” option to help you locate a garden center near you that might carry mangave.
Jan Allen says
I live just south of Houston, Tx. (Zone 9). How cold tolerant is the Mangave Aztec King?
Heather Blackmore says
He’s a beauty! Hardy to zone 9 so you’re safe.
Chris Dean says
I have a good sized mangave/falling waters in a container outside. The container is clay and a bit shallow but just enough width to let the leaves fall around the outside. I live in zone 8a. It’s hard to move it, so I have been covering it when the evening temperatures dip below freezing. I also water it before the freeze because I thought that helped protect it. So far so good, but I’d like to know your thoughts on if/when I should bring it inside, if/when to cover it and when I should water it during the winter months. Thanks!
Heather Blackmore says
Hi Chris! Thanks for reaching out. I’d bring it in as soon as you’re able to a bright window. I’d be concerned about the clay pot cracking and cold damage to the plant. Your planting zone is right on the edge of what this variety can tolerate temp wise so err on the side of caution. Just be careful moving it. Perhaps someone can help you? As for watering, I pull back in the winter months. Over watering is a great way to kill succulents during the winter. Check it once a month for water and give it a drink if the top inch or two is dry. I don’t water mine thoroughly, or until it’s coming out the drainage hole. That seems like too much. Don’t be too concerned with discolored leaves. It’s very common when the plant enters a lower light situation. And be sure to reintroduce gradually outside. Good luck!
Alan Mastin says
Hi I live in the UK . and I have just purchased a mangave mission to mars plants . I was wondering if you can grow them in your garden.
Heather Blackmore says
Hi Alan, I grow mangave in containers so I can bring them in during the winter. I’m in zone 5. I’m guessing you’re in 8 or 9? If so, you should be able to leave yours in the ground years round.