Mangaves React to the Atmospheric Rivers

 My collection of Mangaves' tolerance for my zone 9 winters here in Northern California fluctuates. I've lost a couple over the years but disfigurement is more common and they tend to grow out of it over the course of summer and fall. For the first couple of years I grew them they all lived in containers -I really didn't know what to expect and at least I was able to move them around easily to audition a variety of locations without commitment. I could also move them to protected areas in winter and learn which were the most frost and/or rain averse. Eventually I started planting those that endured winter with little or no damage  into the ground.

  My first frost this year was in early November and  it kicked off a lengthy string of freezing temps overnight, the lowest of which was 25. It was a relief when the clouds rolled in and brought along mornings in the 40's. Unless you are one who eschews news media you probably know what happened next. My rainfall totals for the 30 days ending this Wednesday was a little under 16 inches.Higher elevations of the valley clocked in around 25. While not unheard of for a 30 day period here, it was accompanied by high winds and fell upon our drought stressed hillsides and eroded burn scars from our several years of wildfires. In my area mudslides, flooded roads and downed trees and fences was the worst of it but the Napa River stayed well under flood stage. The best scenario is always intermittent rains with dry periods in between and lots of snow pack in the Sierra. It's crystal clear and 26 degrees this morning, with the expectation of mid-50's this afternoon. But back to the Mangaves....

  'Bloodspot' and 'Moonstone' were the first to be let out of potted confinement. I took the precaution of buying a second one of each just in case -this was back when finding any Mangave at any garden center in these parts was uncommon. If you look closely and the center of 'Bloodspot' you can just make out the remains of the stem that held the 10 foot tall flower stalk. So far there is no sign of  Agave-like post bloom decline . Based on the in ground success of 'Moonstone' I planted my back-up plant into the ground last summer.


Mangave 'Bloodspot'

Mangave 'Moonstone' 

' Purple People Eater' is one of my favorites -this photo doesn't really do  it justice. There are a few black spots on the lower leaves but I've kept it under a frost blanket when needed . I didn't cover it at all last winter and it got some tip burn when the low 20's came around so precautions were in order this year. It also has two robust offsets which I'll attempt to pot up this spring.

 Mangave 'Purple People Eater' 

'Navajo Princess' is on it's second winter in the ground, has never been covered  and so far is in pristine condition.

Mangave "Navajo Princess'

'Jaguar' seems to love it's life in this container, so here it will stay. The container is tall so it elevates the plant nicely.

 'Mangave Jaguar'

Poor 'Kaleidoscope' always has a rough winter. It looked so great after it's near death experience last winter I neglected to cover it and you can see the result. I'll dig it and raise it's berm this summer and be sure to provide both rain and frost covers. I think rain is the real culprit here since it looked ok after the earlier fall frosts.

Mangave 'Kaleidoscope'

I frost covered 'Lavender Lady' but the rain was apparently too much . This area drains really well so I thought it would be okay and I thought wrong. It's also in a prominent front garden spot so I may end up moving it . I feel particularly bad about this one , it looked so perfect all year !

Mangave 'Lavender Lady'

My back garden looses a significant amount of  direct sun in winter so this 'Black Magic' has faded a bit. It is however in good health, despite the fact that it is becoming engulfed by Nigella volunteers. I must get the Nigella situation under control this year.

 Mangave "Black Magic"

'Desert Dragon' wants nothing more than to be liberated from this pot and will go into the ground in April. This link will show you what it's supposed to look like .I had to remove most of the lower leaves which were beat up and dried up-I think it's badly potbound and can't retain enough water.  It has so many offsets I'll be able to make a grouping.

 Mangave 'Desert Dragon'

Man of Steel is another that seems to be mostly unfazed by winter. It  has earned a place in the ground, or at least a much larger pot. We'll see how it looks when April rolls around.

 Mangave  'Man of Steel'

 These are 'Crazy Cowlick' lower center and 'Spotty Dotty' at the top. These have always suffered the cold and wet , so they are destined for container life. I moved them into my little pop-up greenhouse before that last string of storms since I could see that they were starting to show some damage; the protected area I moved them to in the beginning of rainy season wasn't quite protected enough. The jury is out on Crazy Cowlick; it's never looked great . Spotty Dotty will get a bigger pot.

In the center of the frame is 'Snow Leopard' which was new to me this fall . It was also put in the little greenhouse for the winter along with all my potted cacti ,Agaves and Gasterias. I bought this on Amazon for last winter and it has worked out really well. It was inexpensive , easy to put together and takes up little room when stored over the summer. It has 3 of the zippered openings shown in the photo and so when the weather is nice I can open it up and let them get some sun and air circulation.

  No rain is on the agenda for the next several days so it's time to get a head start on the weeds. They are everywhere.





  1. Thanks for this post, Kathy! You got a LOT more rain than we did - counting from October 1st, our total stands at 10.83 inches. We also don't get nearly as cold as you do either so I can't do an apples to apples comparison with my experience with these plants. While I still have one 'Kaleidoscope' in the ground (on a moderate slope next to rock), I've found that plant and 'Bad Hair Day' do best in pots. I suspect my 'Spotty Dotty' and 'Jaguar' would also do better in pots - they're alive but I can't say they're thriving in the ground. I lost 2 'Snow Leopards' when I planted them in the ground and I noticed that a large group of them planted in the ground at my local botanic garden had "disappeared" when I last visited. I've got 'Crazy Cowlick' and 'Moonglow' in pots but that's mainly because I wanted height in particular areas. 'Lavender Lady' does fine in the ground here but then again I'm not as wet or as cold.

    1. I think my season total is about 24 , which is almost total season average . It's very likely that Kaleidoscope will end up back in a pot at some point. I'm going to give it one more year in the ground. Thanks for the heads up on 'Snow Leopard' . I'll keep in in a pot for this year.

  2. Most of yours look pretty darn pretty despite below-freezing temps and a lot of rain. Tougher than we thought, I guess. With their softer-than-Agave foliage I was unsure of them in the ground and in full sun. They do seem to need more water than most Agaves.

    Was worried about mine even with warmer temps and less rain than you got, but they all seem fine.

    1. I have found that some don't seem to like full sun, but then they don't get the best color. Interesting how variable they can be .

  3. You've assembled quite the collection! When I first saw the title of your post I was afraid there was going to be a lot of bad news. Instead things are looking rather fabulous.

    1. They seem to be pretty variable, but considering amount of rain and south of 30 degree weather we've had so far this winter I'm pretty happy with their performance so far. If they can hold on a couple more weeks the temps should start to warm up-but who knows how much more rain we get.

  4. You have a beautiful selection of varieties, for sure. Thanks for sharing the beauty and highlights of your collection.

    1. Thanks Beth ! Hopefully they make it through the rest of winter.

  5. Interesting observations. These plants are so new not much is really known about hardiness. I overwinter a lot of my agaves in a frost free garage but am hesitating with the mangaves as their zone rating makes me think most would suffer from the longer cold period even if semi dormant.

  6. Nice post thank you Alfonso


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