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.