Mangaves in mid-summer (late July 2021)

We're only half way through the summer of 2021, but the Sacramento Valley has set heat records already. Fortunately, the really hot spells have been intermittent, but there have been several, and I expect several more. Going by the UC Davis weather station, the highest temperature of the summer so far was 112°F on July 11.

As part of an ongoing effort to document how our garden is faring, this post is about the many mangaves I'm growing—a few in pots, but most in the ground. In a nutshell: All mangaves are handling the heat very well. Some are folding up their leaves in response to the high temperatures but are otherwise carrying on like it's business as unusual. Most importantly, I haven't had a single loss, which is an impressive testament to their resilience.

Let's take a closer look. The mangaves that show the least response to the heat are listed first, the ones showing the most dramatic response come last. For each plant, I indicate how much sun it gets. All mangaves in the ground are irrigated by drip/spray emitter once a week; the plants in pots are either on drip or are hand watered once a week.

Note: For more information about each variety, see my 2020 ×Mangave roundup.


×Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’
Full sun all day, including the hottest part of the afternoon. 'Kaleidoscope' hasn't missed a beat. In fact, it's never looked this good. 

×Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’

×Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’

×Mangave ‘Pineapple Punch’
This variegated sport of 'Pineapple Express' is in the same bed as 'Kaleidoscope' above but it gets a tiny bit of sun protection from the Acacia baileyana above it. Just planted out this spring, it's done exceedingly well, especially considering it's still fairly small.

×Mangave ‘Pineapple Punch’

×Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’
The ×Mangave 'Pineapple Express' in the photo below is in a terracotta pot in the backyard. It gets a few hours of sun in the early afternoon and is in bright shade the rest of the day. It couldn't look better.

×Mangave ‘Pineapple Express’

×Mangave ‘Tooth Fairy’
Perennially one my favorite mangaves because of its general habit and its red teeth, 'Tooth Fairy' never disappoints. Full sun from late morning on.

×Mangave ‘Tooth Fairy’

×Mangave ‘Tooth Fairy’

×Mangave ‘Iron Man’
'Iron Man' took a few years to get going but is now living up to its name as a strong plant with a strong presence. Full sun from late morning on.

×Mangave ‘Iron Man’

×Mangave ‘Lavender Lady’
'Lavender Lady' is only a few feet away from 'Iron Man' (see above) and is handling full sun remarkably well. It has lost most of its lavender-purple coloration in response to the heat, but I expect that to return when the weather starts to cool off in late September.

×Mangave ‘Lavender Lady’

×Mangave ‘Fiercely Fabulous’
'Fiercely Fabulous' is a new introduction that rolled out to growers in 2021 and will be available through retail channels in 2022. I received a small plug to trial and planted it in this large container where it receives a couple of hours of direct sun. It appears to be a fairly vigorous grower and shows strong coloration even with less than full sun.

×Mangave ‘Fiercely Fabulous’

×Mangave ‘Black Magic’
Another 2021 introduction, 'Black Magic' is thriving in full sun. To my surprise, it's lost some of its dark color compared to late spring/early summer. You'd think the UV radiation is strongest now but its effect on pigmentation seems to be counteracted to a degree by the heat. I'm not a botanist so I don't know what chemical processes might be at work here and hence cannot provide a plausible explanation. Still, 'Black Magic' is a beautiful compact plant.

×Mangave ‘Black Magic’

×Mangave ‘Blazing Saddle’
I have a weak spot for 'Blazing Saddle'. It's a small plant (compare it to 'Red Wing' next to it) and a slow grower, but I think its form and coloration are remarkable. Growing in the front yard in all-day full sun.

×Mangave ‘Blazing Saddle’

×Mangave ‘Red Wing’
In my book, 'Red Wing' wins the prize for best all-around landscaping mangave. It's big enough to make an impact, but not so massive that it requires a ton of room. And as you can see below, it handles full sun exceptionally well. I have two specimens in the ground, one in the front of the house and one along the sidewalk. Both bake in the heat, the one along the sidewalk even more, and both look fantastic.

×Mangave ‘Red Wing’, specimen #1

×Mangave ‘Red Wing’, specimen #1

×Mangave ‘Red Wing’, specimen #2, next to a Hechtia argentea that got bleached by the heat

×Mangave ‘Red Wing’, specimen #2, looking splendid

×Mangave ‘Man of Steel’
Together with 'Tooth Fairy', 'Man of Steel' is arguably the most agave-like mangave. With its steely blue color, this compact mangave is a great foil for plants with purplish or reddish leaves. It pups prolifically early on in its life, but I find that changes as it matures. My specimen below, growing in full sun but protected somewhat by an ocotillo above it, is producing far fewer offsets now.

×Mangave ‘Man of Steel’ (in front of ×Mangave ‘Red Wing’, specimen #1)

×Mangave ‘Blue Dart’
'Blue Dart' is another blue mangave that could be mistaken for an agave. My plant is in full shade, protected by the leaves of a large sago palm (Cycas revoluta).

×Mangave ‘Blue Dart’

×Mangave ‘Crazy Cowlick’
'Crazy Cowlick' looks a lot like its agave parent, Agave bovicornuta. Depending on the amount of sun, its color ranges from apple green (more shade) to greenish purple (more sun). See my three specimens below.

×Mangave ‘Crazy Cowlick’, specimen #1, half day of sun

×Mangave ‘Crazy Cowlick’, specimen #2, just a few hours of morning sun. Specimen #2 is maybe 10 ft. away from specimen #3 below but receives less sun.

×Mangave ‘Crazy Cowlick’, specimen #3, a few hours of sun in the morning and another hour in the mid afternoon. I just moved it to a corner of the backyard from a much sunnier spot in the front yard; as a result, I expect its color to become more green over time.

×Mangave ‘Navajo Princess’
'Navajo Princess' is one of the few variegated mangaves. Mine gets about six hours of direct sun and is doing well.

×Mangave ‘Navajo Princess’

×Mangave ‘Whale Tale’
Planted in a tall pot immediately behind 'Navajo Princess' (see above), my 'Whale Tale' also gets about six hours of direct sun in the summer. Its leaves are much more purple now than they are in the winter.

×Mangave ‘Whale Tale’

×Mangave ‘Bad Hair Day’
'Bad Hair Day' completes the potted mangave trio in this area of the front yard (the other two being 'Navajo Princess' and 'Whale Tale'). Its leaves have stronger purple pigmentation now than in the winter.

×Mangave ‘Bad Hair Day’

×Hansara ‘Jumping Jacks’
×Hansara 'Jumping Jacks' is a trigeneric hybrid involving Manfreda, Agave, and Polianthes. According to the San Marcos Growers website, my #1 source for plant information, “×Hansara 'Jumping Jacks' was created on Nov. 5, 2014 when Hans [Hansen at Walters Gardens] crossed 'HAN12-83-9', a trigeneric hybrid involving Agave gypsophila ssp. pablocarrilloi, Manfreda maculosa, Polianthes tuberosa and Polianthes howardii, with ×Mangave 'Bloodspot', which is thought to be a handhybrid between Agave macroacantha hybrid and Manfreda maculosa.” 

I don't have much experience with 'Jumping Jacks' (I just planted it less than six months ago), but my little guy looks essentially like the plant Hans Hansen is holding in this photo. It receives a couple of hours of direct sun and relatively bright shade the rest of the day.

×Hansara ‘Jumping Jacks’

×Mangave ‘Frosted Elegance’
My 'Frosted Elegance' receives about six hours of direct sun in the summer. Its leaves are more upright and the coloration is more yellow than in the winter.

×Mangave ‘Frosted Elegance’

×Mangave ‘Inca Warrior’
'Inca Warrior' is one of the largest mangaves (it has Agave ovatifolia genes) and reminds me of a more upright version of 'Mission to Mars'. Mine is in a large pot and receives 2-3 hours of direct sun. It's growing well but is mostly green, with only a hint of purple in the newest leaves. It's likely that more direct sun would stimulate more purple pigmentation.

×Mangave ‘Inca Warrior’

×Mangave ‘Catch a Wave’
'Catch a Wave' is in the ground in the backyard and only receives a couple of hours of morning sun. The purple spots are tad darker than in the winter, and the leaves more upright rather than flat or decurved.

×Mangave ‘Catch a Wave’

×Mangave ‘Dreadlocks’
'Dreadlocks' is a recent addition (planted in the spring) in the backyard. It gets about 2-3 hours of direct sun and looks good. It'll look even better in another year or two with more leaves.

×Mangave ‘Dreadlocks’

×Mangave ‘Silver Fox’
'Silver Fox' is living up to its name, with just a tad more purple in the leaves than in the winter. A slow but steady grower, and a nice plant overall. Like 'Dreadlocks' (above), 2-3 hours of direct sun.

×Mangave ‘Silver Fox’

×Mangave ‘Desert Dragon’
'Desert Dragon' is in the same area as 'Dreadlocks' and 'Silver Fox' above. 2-3 hours of direct sun, little water. Coloration is lighter than in the winter.

×Mangave ‘Desert Dragon’

×Mangave ‘Freckles and Speckles’
'Freckles and Speckles' is in the hottest spot of the front yard. It gets sun from noon on and bakes in the late afternoon heat, with just a bit of protection provided by the Salvia 'Little Kiss' next to it. It doesn't get much water but is hanging in there. 

×Mangave ‘Freckles and Speckles’

×Mangave ‘Mayan Queen’
'Mayan Queen' continues to be a standout because of its intense color. It's in a Corten planter, which has been completely engulfed by Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'. Blasted by the hot afternoon sun, 'Mayan Queen' hasn't missed a beat. (The blue flag is a reminder to myself to add a drip line to the container; right now, 'Mayan Queen' gets hand-watered.) 

×Mangave ‘Mayan Queen’

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’
My 'Mission to Mars' receives the brunt of the afternoon sun and has become a tangled mass, its leaves curving inward and upward to protect the center of the plant. Take a look at the Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' next to it, and at ×Mangave 'Spotty Dotty' to the left of 'Arizona Star' (next entry below), and you'll see essentially the same behavior.

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

×Mangave ‘Spotty Dotty’
'Spotty Dotty' is growing in front of Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' in a brutally hot spot. It's a tangle of leaves right now, much like 'Arizona Star' and ×Mangave 'Mission to Mars'. Come fall, I expect the leaves to flatten out again, like in this photo from last December.

×Mangave ‘Spotty Dotty’

×Mangave ‘Spotty Dotty’

×Mangave ‘Sponge Paint’
'Sponge Paint' is a recent addition (planted in the spring) and it's done well in a hot spot with all day sun. Its leaves are closed up right now but I expect them to flatten out again in the fall. 

×Mangave ‘Sponge Paint’

×Mangave ‘Night Owl’
'Night Owl' was planted in the spring as well. I put it in a spot where it would get all-day sun because I wanted the leaves to be as dark as possible. Oddly enough, the coloration is lighter than it was in early summer, and the leaves are clasped tight against the center.

×Mangave ‘Night Owl’

×Mangave ‘Praying Hands’
'Praying Hands' has created quite a stir when it was announced last year. It's still not widely available, but I received a small plant from Walters Gardens to trial. It's planted in one of the succulent mounds in the front yard where it receives sun from late morning on. The leaves are clasped around the center of the plant, but that seems to be its typical behavior. Here is a photo of the largest specimen I've seen so far.

×Mangave ‘Praying Hands’


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the heat tolerance and adaptability of mangaves is impressive. As word gets around and nurseries improve the selection they carry, I expect to see mangaves become a more common sight in gardens—the gardens of regular people, not just those of plant nerds or collectors.


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Comments

  1. An impressive collection! It's fascinating to see how some varieties protect themselves from the heat. It's so human-like.

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    1. It's all about survival. The growing point in the center of the plant is all that matters. It must be protected above anything else.

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  2. You can not imagine how I appreciate this Mangave post! I have quite a few and being in Phoenix, I have learned a lot about sun from you. While the sun is even more intense than where you are, you information is invaluable to me. Thank you so much, Gerhard!

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    Replies
    1. Nancy, I'm so happy to hear my post was useful. Which mangaves are handling the Phoenix heat the best?

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  3. I never cease to be impressed by the beauty and breath of your Mangave collection, Gerhard. Your plants look lush, a term I wouldn't usually think of in connection with Mangaves. Most of mine get some shade but now I'm wondering if they don't need a bit more stress to look their best.

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    1. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but in general, it seems that mangaves prefer full sun and heat. My 'Kaleidoscope' was not happy in a more shaded spot but perked up where it is now--baking in the heat.

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  4. Stunning collection Gerhard! And it's great they tolerate heat so well

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  5. It's obvious you've got the right climate for these plants to thrive. That Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope’ is gorgeous!

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  6. Excellent survey, thank you. I was baffled as to what they wanted in the way of sun and water. Your comments are very helpful.

    Here in full sun my limited number (3 or 4) have been very good. Summer seems to be their growing time. Shaded, they did not do much--but perhaps because they were small and struggling to establish.

    I like the 'Red Wing' a lot--great color! Will look for that one. Here, where temps are a little more mild, 'Silver Fox' has remained very purple in all day sun. "Kaleidescope' sulked and struggled through the winter, but is growing now.

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  7. Mission to Mars started inexplicably puckering its leaves, and we’ve had nowhere near your heat. I’ve pulled it from the garden and will keep it in a pot and see how it does. Love these mangave reports!

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