Plant This: Chocolate Chips manfreda

Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chips’ is in bloom all over Austin, judging by posts on various local garden blogs. I have two of these striking plants. The more mature one bloomed several weeks ago, but my newest, a passalong from Eleanor, is doing its Dr. Seussian thing now. It hasn’t escaped the notice of the honeybees, who have easy work collecting pollen from the exposed anthers.

This fanciful yet moody flower sits atop a 6-foot stalk. You definitely sit up and take notice when it blooms. In the background you can see the spent bloom stalk of the other manfreda.

Here’s how it looks at ground level (picture taken before blooming). Don’t you just love those wavy, chocolate-spotted leaves? The eye-catching foliage is the real reason for growing ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda. It’s a low-growing plant, despite its grandiose flower, so it works best in a container or a raised bed, where you can really appreciate it.

Unlike agaves, manfredas don’t die after blooming, and once established they’ll bloom annually. Mine survived last winter’s prolonged stretch of 20-degree weather with no damage whatsoever. Just be sure to give it good drainage. And unlike many more-tender succulents, you don’t need to baby it with protection from the Death Star. Mine gets several hours of afternoon sun and simply basks in it. Would that I could do the same.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

9 Responses

  1. Darla says:

    Very striking plant here!

  2. Your post it tempting me to plant mine in the ground. It’s alive in it’s container but not looking fabulous…and I doubt I’ll ever see that amazing flower unless it gets some room to stretch. Tempting…

  3. Greggo says:

    that’s one funky looking dude..

  4. Iris says:

    No wonder you like these so much! The wavy chocolate-spotted leaves are totally cool! I mean hot! Always looking for drought-tolerant, full-sun plants.

  5. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, my ‘Macho Mocha’ Mangave has been sporting similar blooms recently. I haven’t seen any ‘Chocolate Chip’ available here. I may need to make a trip to Austin!

  6. Robin says:

    Pam, my chocolate chip mangave that I got from Eleanor at the same time as yours is pitiful and floppy and definitely not thriving. We obviously know who has the green thumb and who is all thumbs around here…. that is a fabulous pic at the top, too!

    Robin, is yours in the ground? If so, maybe try a sharp-draining container instead to try and save it? There’s no such thing as a green thumb, you know. Killing plants is the way to really understand them! Try, try again! —Pam

  7. Jenn says:

    Love this plant.

  8. Jenn says:

    From Pam’s comment reply:
    “Killing plants is the way to really understand them!”

    Wow, I must be a desert plant master by now!

  9. Curtis says:

    I cannot find Chocolate Chips manfreda in Dallas, someone’s going to have to send me a pup. Hint, hint.