Every Blooming Thing

Courtesy photo/John Garaventa

Falling Waters Mangave (foreground) and Mission to Mars Mangave (background) with cacti, Starfish Aloe (in pot) and Yucca in author’s garden.

Mangaves are a relatively new phenomenon. They were discovered in the Northern Mexico desert where manfreda and agave plants coexist. Cross pollination between the two species resulted in mangaves. Since the 1990s, commercial nurseries have hybridized the manfreda with different varieties of agaves. This new plant has the symmetry of agaves but not their sharp teeth and pointed spines. Mangaves inherited from the manfreda the more colorful soft succulent foliage variations of green, red, blue and purple. Some have a ruffled appearance and a cascading rosette flow; others have firm waxy leaves in a tight rosette.

Mangaves can thrive in USDA Zones 8-10. They can withstand short, mild frost conditions but welcome some protection in the winter. The hailstorm of last winter pocked the foliage of my Falling Waters Mangave. Though barely noticeable now, evergreen tree leaves would have deflected the hail and prevented any disfigurement. Without a sun screen some mangaves can not tolerate the extended, extreme summer heat conditions of Tehama County. They like at least four hours of early direct sunlight, and, filtered light during the hottest periods of summer days. I have had mixed results when planting my mangaves. I planted some mangaves in open areas of my garden without any appreciable shade and they suffered some leaf contraction and burns.

Mangaves are ideal plants for potting. Select a container that will accommodate your mangave’s mature size and complement its coloration. You can enjoy its beautiful appearance inside your home during winter; then relocate it on a patio during the rest of the year. You are able to move your specimens around, inside and outside, to achieve the most conducive conditions for growth. There are fewer better companions for reading and contemplation.

I have received conflicting information about the monocarpic nature of mangaves. Some say that, like an agave, they will send up a tall bloom stalk at the end of life. Others say that most are not monocarpic. A stalk is now emerging from the center of my Falling Waters Mangave. It appears to be monocarpic. I am hopeful that some offsets or pups can be propagated.

I have yet to see any mangaves in the box store nurseries. Our local Rock Garden in Proberta may occasionally have some; if not, Peter and Tanya may be able to order some for you. Magnolias in Chico usually has some sizable specimens. Mountain Crest Gardens (mountain crestgardens.com) in Scott Valley has an online nursery that offers a wide selection of mangaves. I purchased Falling Waters and Mission to Mars Mangaves, displayed in the photo, from Mountain Crest Gardens. They sell 1-1/2 inch plugs; no gallon containers. The small size isn’t a problem since mangaves grow three to four times faster than agaves. In a year or two, you will have a sizable specimen, especially if you fertilize it every month or so.

Mangave varieties have some real catchy names:

Moon Glow: This has a low rosette that features silvery-blue leaves and large purple spots; 8-10 inches tall and 16-20 inches wide.

Tooth Fairy: In my opinion, one of the most remarkable mangaves, having blue-green leaves with red and yellow tipped teeth; 10-12 inches tall and 16-18 inches wide.

Lavender Lady: Very similar in appearance to an Echeveria. She has purple leaves and subtle burgundy-purple spots; 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide.

Spotty Dotty: She has wide overlapping green leaves with purple freckles; 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide.

DON’T FORGET - THIS SATURDAY, APRIL 23, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Red Bluff Garden Club is having a Plant Sale in the parking lot of the United Methodist Church, 525 David St., Red Bluff. Our members have been propagating many plants: Chaste trees, Yellow Bird of Paradise trees, Acacia trees, Nandinas, Agaves, Mangaves, Cacti, Lavender, Society Garlic, Geraniums, Pelargoniums, Aeoniums, Aloes, Salvias, Red Dragon, Yarrow, Catmint, Tomatoes, Squash, Peppers and a variety of many other plants.

We are looking forward to spreading the joy of gardening in our community . . . And, if you would like to join the Red Bluff Garden Club, there will be applications available. You will meet some wonderful people who have a love of gardening and a willingness to share it with other gardeners.

A Blessed April Spring

The chorus of birds and cacophony of bees. The tremor of buds and sprig of new leaves. A cluster of clouds amidst shimmering light. The patter of rain and Rainbow become, a renewal of life in radiant sun.

The Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Region Garden Clubs, Inc.and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

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