Plant of the week: Manfreda ‘Chocolate Chips’

One of the blogs I follow, Loree Bohl’s Danger Garden, has a regular feature dedicated to Loree’s favorite plant in the garden in any given week. I’ve long wanted to do something similar, so this is my first entry in the Plant of the Week category.

My favorite this week is a plant I picked up at Peacock Horticultural Nursery in Sebastopol, CA a couple of Sunday ago. I was immediately attracted to its rather odd look: deeply guttered leaves with wavy margins and bold brown spots. Another plant that would be right at home in a Dr Seuss garden.


This interesting looking fella is a Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chips’. Manfredas—there about 20 different species and an increasing number of cultivars and hybrids—are closely related to agaves. Like agaves, they form rosettes and and their flowers appear at the end of a long stalk. Unlike agaves, however, manfredas are deciduous (they lose their leaves in the winter) and polycarpic (they don’t die after flowering).


Their flowers are quite strange as well. Plant Delights describes them as “alien antennae-like.” This post on Pam Penick’s blog Digging has a couple of photos.

Some manfredas like Manfreda maculosa and Manfreda virginica, are native to the U.S. Manfreda undulata is from Mexico, and ‘Chocolate Chips’ was found by Carl Schoenfeld of Yucca Do Nursery in a batch of seedlings.

The plant I bought at Peacock Horticultural Nursery came in a 4-inch container so it’s quite small. I certainly didn’t expect to find roots like these:


They look like a tangle of soba noodles!


I just read that manfredas have extensive root systems. I wonder how large the roots are on a mature Manfreda undulata!


For now, I’m keeping my specimen confined to a pot but I may plant it out eventually.

Most manfredas, including Manfreda undulata and Manfred maculosa, are hardy down to 0°F (zone 7a). This allows them to be planted in the ground in much of the country. While not exactly rare, they’re not regular nursery fare either so you may have to do some poking around (or order from an online source).



Name: Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chips’

Mature size: 12” high x 24” wide

Location: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Hardiness: 0°F (zone 7a)


  1. I know plant "loves" are personal things, but I'm reserving judgement on this one until I see its more mature form. It's got some nice qualities, but... I don't know. Will manfredas colonize like many agaves? That would be quite nice I think.

    1. I totally get what you're saying. Plant preferences are as subjective as any other kind of preference. A mature specimen is definitely more impressive.

      Virtually all manfredas form clumps so I expect this one to do the same--although oddly enough all the photos I've seen are of individual plants.

  2. So glad you joined in the fun Gerhard, I do really enjoy seeing what others are lovin in their garden, even when the object of their affection isn't one I would chose. Yours however, it's wonderful! My 'chocolate chips' bloomed this summer and 3 seed pods have formed. I keep waiting for them to break open but so far there is no indication they're ready.

    1. Manfreda flowers are so weird, aren't they?

      Has your 'Chocolate Chips' started to offset yet? See Alan's question above.

  3. I just lost my Chocolate Chips recently, I'm pining for a replacement now...

    1. I'm sorry to hear. What happened? I'd be curious to know if there's anything in particular I should pay attention to.

  4. I must admit I like the name more than I like the plant itself, but in certain aspects it really is impressive. And the root system - wow! :)

  5. I have two small ones like this and ever would I have thought the root system was so intense. Wow, maybe that is why one of mine stays so small it needs a bigger pot. And a plant of the week is a super duper idea. I may steal it!

  6. I've had my Manfreda undulata "Chocolate Drop" for 3 years. Each year, it has put up another offspring, so I have 3 in the pot. It's the only plant I talk to, but it deserves all the compliments, especially when it puts up its yearly bloom. It's a starburst bloom that looks like cat whiskers and has small black star-shaped flowers on long, thin stems, very delicate.


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