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Plant of the Month
Mangave has traditionally been considered to be an intergeneric cross between Manfreda and Agave. However, in the 'Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants; Monocotyledons' edited by Urs Eggli (2001), Joachim Thiede, the author of the Agavaceae section, combined Polianthes (Tuberosa) and Manfreda into Agave, thus making Mangave actually an interspecific Agave hybrid – for this article I prefer to leave it as ×Mangave.
Fig. 1 ×Mangave 'Bloodspot'
×Mangave 'Bloodspot' looks very much like an Agave in habit and form and makes a rigid, upright, compact and symmetrical rosette of stiff, lanceolate leaves. The colouring comes from the Manfreda side of the family tree. Glaucous grey-green leaves are covered with prominent purple spots or blotches, together with a matching purple edge, tiny reddish-brown marginal spines and a small terminal spine. The spotting is most prominent when grown in strong light and it is advisable to grow this on the top shelf of a greenhouse (though ventilate well) or outdoors in summer to take advantage of available UV light.
Apart from that, cultivation is easy; though remember that this plant is a slow grower. Use a well-drained potting mix with plenty of grit or other non-organic material and give it ample water during the summer growing period. It will also appreciate some half-strength fertiliser at this time. Keep completely dry during winter and remember to keep it frost free, but if you can keep it above 5°C then so much the better.
Fig. 2 ×Mangave 'Macho Mocha'
If you are after something larger and faster growing you can do no better than ×Mangave 'Macho Mocha'. This rosette-forming plant grows up to 4–6ft (1.2–1.8m) wide and has thick, fleshy grey-green leaves densely covered with brown-purple spots. These spots are so thick toward the tip of the leaves that the entire surface appears a brownish-purple colour. The thick reddish flower stalk emerges from the middle of the plant much in the manner of an Agave, and plants remain solitary until flowering, at which time several new plants will emerge from below the older rosette. Keep this in full sun to light shade and water only when the mix is completely dry, allowing it to dry out again before further watering. Protect from frost as above. This plant is thought to be either an intergeneric hybrid between Manfreda variegata and Agave celsii (A. mitis) or a tetraploid mutation of Manfreda variegata. It was originally grown from seed collected by Carl Schoenfeld in Mexico from a plant of Manfreda variegata at a location where there was also Agave celsii present.
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