Plant This: Macho Mocha mangave


My ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave (pronounced man-GAH-vay) is budding its first bloom stalk! I’m very excited and checking on it almost hourly. When I transplanted it from my old garden last fall, giving it a solo spot in a low stock tank, I never expected it to respond like a gorilla on steroids. But that’s exactly what it has done over the winter and spring. This thing is a macho monster now. It could eat the Village People for breakfast.


As soon as I moved it last fall, it started producing pups—baby mangaves that grow out from under the mother plant. I’d read that pups appear before it blooms, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see the beginnings of a bloom stalk. At first I was also a little sad because I thought this plant, like many agaves, dies after blooming. But having done a little online research, I think it survives. Can anyone confirm? Update: Yes, it lives.


This is an incredibly eye-catching plant, as structural as an agave but lacking the sharp spikes that make some people shy away. Purplish red spots freckle the green leaves, and some of the lower leaves are entirely eggplant-colored. Like agaves and other members of the woody lily family, it is susceptible to the dreaded snout-nosed agave weevil. But I wouldn’t garden without it. It grows in sharply drained soil in either sun or shade and is very drought-tolerant though it appreciates a long drink every so often in the hot summer months.

For more info, check out Sunset’s Fresh Dirt blog, original provider Yucca Do’s catalog, and the always irreverent Plant Delights Nursery’s catalog, which deadpans that “the thick 8-ft tall flower spikes [are] a hummingbird’s wet dream.”

Eight feet!? I’m waiting with bated breath.

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 © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

20 Responses

  1. Les says:

    It reminds me of a giant bromeliad more so than an agave.

    I could see that. But for some reason bromeliads rarely appeal to me, while I adore manfredas. I think it’s the texture of the leaves. Manfredas seem less shiny, more succulent. This so-called mangave (some theorize it’s a cross between a manfreda and an agave) has the soft texture of a manfreda. —Pam

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    OOooo I can’t wait either. This is a stunning agave. If it likes shade maybe I could grow this one here and bring it in during the winter. The anticipation is exciting. I hope it doesn’t die after it blooms. If it does at least you have some pups.

    I hope you can grow one in your midwestern garden, Lisa. Bringing it inside for the winter and good drainage would be key, I think. —Pam

  3. Randy says:

    Oooooo, I’ll eagerly await its blooms, Pam. I hope it doesn’t die, but if it does at least it will go out in a blaze of glory and you will still have pups to raise. :-)

    It’s better to burn out than to fade away… And the pups are definitely a bonus. Now if I can just figure out how to extract them. —Pam

  4. Susan says:

    My Macho Mocha bloomed last year and then kind of went haywire. It certainly didn’t die. Mine’s in a pot and I guess what happened is that it sent up so many pups that it’s just too jammed in the pot now. In any case, it lost its geometric structure and is a hodgepodge of still attractive foliage (no sign of a bloom stalk this year). I need to pull the whole thing out of the pot and divide it up but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Hope all is well with you. The new garden is looking good. — Susan

    Hi, Susan. It’s good to hear from you. It’s kind of hard to dig up these mangaves, as they get so big and yet their leaves are kind of breakable. I’m wondering how to extricate the pups without injuring the mother plant’s leaves. —Pam

  5. MNGarden says:

    Hi, Pam,
    I was wondering if you put your plants in metal containers in the shade during those hot Austin summers? I put my hummingbird feeder out today. According to the hummingbird migration map, they are already in the area which is a little early this year.

    I don’t move my stock tanks, MN. They’re just too heavy. Mine are usually planted in part sun rather than full sun because I tuck them into my beds among other plants. But planted with tough xeric plants like agaves, cacti, and succulents, a full-sun location wouldn’t bother them a bit.

    Thanks for the hummer info. I’ll keep an eye out for them. —Pam

  6. Jenny says:

    So good to know it survived the move okay, and is thriving. I’ve been wondering how your Whale’s Tongue is doing.

    The Whale is doing great, Jenny. You’ll see it in the background of a picture I’m posting tomorrow. —Pam

  7. Tamara says:

    It is beautiful! I love the coloring.

    The coloring really is pretty, Tamara. It gets better the older it gets. —Pam

  8. Monica says:

    Is it OK to find the baby buds of a macho macho plant oh so cute?! :)

    I knew I was mixing metaphors to talk about a macho plant that is budding and setting pups. And yet the bloom stalk is pretty phallic… —Pam

  9. WOW! Pretty impressive!

    Cameron

    It will be, I think. —Pam

  10. All of these broad strappy-leaved plants that you Texas gardeners can grow just leave me drooling. And the colors are always amazing — even without flowers.

    I try to incorporate a number of broad-leaf agaves and yuccas in my designs because so many of the plants that grow best in our drought and heat are fine-leaved Mediterranean type plants, Linda. The broad, stiff arms of agaves and the like offer the perfect contrast to all the billowy perennials. —Pam

  11. Diana Kirby says:

    Very cool – Pam. I hope your “man” survives after the bloom. I’m sure you will find great places for the pups — isn’t it great when you have your own personal nursery at home in the garden?

    I just need to figure out how to extricate the pups without harming the mother plant, and that must be after the bloom is finished. Of course, if it dies after blooming, that problem will be solved for me. —Pam

  12. Terra says:

    There is a Macho Mocha on the UT campus that’s put up a bloom spike. It’s up about 4 ft. today, and I’m watching each day to see what happens. Yours looks to be a healthier specimen, though.

    Terra, it must be quite impressive even at four feet. I’ve never seen a Macho Mocha in bloom, so I’m excited to watch the process unfold. —Pam

  13. Brenda Kula says:

    Pam, you have completely changed the way I garden now. You introduced me to the agaves and succulents. I was so impressed I had to try them myself. Now I, like you, would not have a space without them somewhere in it. Yesterday Nola (Alamo North) and I talked on the phone while each at our computers about 100 miles apart gazing longingly at these stock tanks online, salivating for them. I just have to have one now. I will say that my aloe (which I know is different from your plant), one a neighbor gave me, once per year sprouts up this three to four foot tangerine bloom that is just phenomenal. The plant doesn’t look as robust after it blooms. But it keeps right on chugging along. Thanks for being my daily inspiration.
    Brenda

    Brenda, thanks so much for the very great compliment of saying I’ve changed the way you garden. I’m so happy to be able to share my love of these beautiful plants, and I love knowing that you’re growing them too in a very different part of Texas.

    The aloe in my old garden is blooming right now too. It’s an African aloe with a pretty awesome blossom. I wonder if it’s the same as yours. —Pam

  14. cindee says:

    It looks really nice. I hope it does not die after it blooms. At least you have babies to start though(-: I have just one agave in my garden but I would like to add some more(-: I also just received a small stock tank from my brother that he retrieved out of the recycle bin(-: That might be home to a new agave(-:

    You can’t go wrong with stock tanks and agaves, Cindee. Have fun with them! —Pam

  15. Becky Lane says:

    I want one! Do you know if any of the hill country nurseries carry it, or would I have to order one?

    Becky, I know nothing about the Hill Country nurseries, unless Hill Country Water Gardens is in your shopping range. I love HCWG, and they usually carry a nice selection of native and well-adapted, even unusual plants. You might give them a call. —Pam

  16. Loree says:

    Wow I am so jealous. Please post lots of pictures as it progresses.

    You can bet that I will, Loree. In fact, the latest update is already posted. —Pam

  17. Jenny says:

    The colors really are quite lovely. Have you noticed they have them growing outside Z Tejas? I saw some at BSN but they were miniscule and still no sign of the Whale’s tongue agave. They didn’t even have it in Phoenix.

    I haven’t been over to Z Tejas in a long time, but I have seen one growing down at Town Lake near the Opossum Temple and Voodoo Pew (do you know it?). I wouldn’t worry about the miniscule size. They grow fairly quickly. But if you’re patient, and if I can figure out how to separate the pups without digging the whole plant up, I’ll set one aside for you. As for the Whale’s Tongue, I know it is very hard to find right now, and it doesn’t produce pups so I have none to share. —Pam

  18. eva says:

    Pam,
    I’ve always heard that they died after blooming. My aunt had what she called a century plant–one of those huge ones that gets to be 6-8 feet tall and wide, although as a small child it looked to me to be 20 feet tall! I guess they’re related. Hers bloomed and (sadly) died. I’ve always heard also that if you didn’t sever the pups from the mother plant that they would die when the mother did, which makes sense to me.
    It’s beautiful. I hope you don’t lose it!
    By the way–I don’t blog myself, but I enjoy reading yours.

    Thank you for reading Digging, Eva! The century plants, Agave americana, are very common here in Austin. You are right—those die right after they bloom. But I’d be surprised if the pups died too, as that wouldn’t be conducive to successful reproduction in the wild. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the Macho Mocha. —Pam

  19. Gail says:

    Pam, It is a good looking plant..I love the architectural qualities without the sharp spikes. Just not a plant for up here! But it sure looks good in your garden and in the stock tank. gail

    Thanks, Gail. You’d have to haul this one inside every winter, but I’ve heard of gardeners who do that sort of thing. ;-) You’d have to really love it to go to such lengths though. —Pam

  20. Lori says:

    I can’t wait to see how tall that bloom stalk gets. There’s a house on a hill in my neighborhood with a giant agave next to the front door. It’s been sending up the most massive bloom stalk I’ve ever seen, and it’s at least 10 feet tall now. When it flowers it’s going to be spectacular.

    Take pictures, Lori. I always love to see the big American agaves in bloom. —Pam

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