My Mangave Shoots Up A Bloom

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I like finding cool and unique plants for my clients’ balcony gardens every season, so when I spotted two rather large Mangave plants at a local garden center, I had to grab them despite the price. I was excited to plant them in two large upright planters and I asked my husband to take a photo of me standing right behind the planters.

Cathy Testa with Mangave in front planter

The mask wearing was on purpose, to show a timeline history of my plantings, and this had to be when masks for COVID were still required. Anyhow, I wore a pink mask and I loved how the photo came out. We were still required to wear masks at this time so I think it was 2020, or 2019.

Mangave is a Cross between Manfreda and Agave

I’m a big fan of Agaves, so when I spotted an article about the new Mangaves, which I read about prior to finding the only two available at a local garden center, it elevated my excitement of getting them and planting them as a unique and dramatic specimen at this location. I love the outlines of the plant, the speckling on the leaves (spines), and the fact it was not something commonly found at that time.

Here is some background information about it.

As stated in the article linked above:

Taking the best from both genera, Mangave have the accelerated growth rate, spotting and softer spines from manfreda, mixed with the durability and large architectural forms of agave. Mangave hybrids bring the potential of hundreds of new colors and habits not previously seen among agave in a product that’s more grower-friendly, with a quicker finish time and less prickly spines.

As the principal breeder of Mangave, Hans is the perfect source for the story behind the succulent, his experiences with the crop and how he sees it contributing to the world of horticulture.

Spines are not weapons, like with regular Agaves

It is true, the spines are less prickly than typical Agaves. In fact, spines on Agaves are so sharp, they could be used as a weapon! And the spotting patterns on these new Mangaves are very interesting on the spines, and it has a wonderful architectural form, and yes, they grow fast! My two specimens were already rather large so I knew they must have been growing somewhere at a growers for a while before making it to a local garden center in my area to be offered for sale. In fact, when I spotted them at the garden center, they were sitting on the floor in their large nursery pots under a bench, as if almost hidden from sight, near other succulents and cacti. I lifted them into my shopping cart at warp speed, let me tell ya. I knew I had to have them.

They served as wonderful candidates all summer long at the clients’ site, and I think the only downfall to these plants is the spines are extremely flexible and soft, thus with one bump, the tips break off. I don’t like that aspect because it feels like a break to the overall form and architecture of the plant, so they are somewhat difficult to move, especially when you are moving plants up to a high-rise, but the effort was worth it. When moving them, use caution to not break any of the spine tips when possible, as I did the more I experienced observing, growing, and using this plant. It turned out to be more useful than I had expected.

September 21

In September of 2021, I noticed a bloom coming up on one of the Mangaves, which I had returned home earlier from the client site. Sometimes plants are taken back, and in this case, one of the Mangaves at the client’s balcony had started experiencing growing issues, so I took it home, inspected the roots, and sure enough, there was some type of pillbug in the soil. Because I cherished this plant, I removed all the soil and repotted it in new fresh potting mix that is well draining and more on the coarse side. Agaves typically don’t like wet soil, and I suspected the soil was probably wet prior to even planting it. I watched it for a while outdoors to see if it would improve, which it did, then in the autumn season, before frost time here in Connecticut, I moved it into my greenhouse. It was around that time, in September, that it suddenly started to shoot up a bloom stalk.

A Bloom Stalk Surfaces in 2021

When the bloom started, I was super excited about this and posted a photo to my Instagram feed (seen above). As some plant people may or may not know, Agave plants do not commonly flower. Some will bloom after several years, while others may take as long as ten years or even a hundred years to produce a bloom; this is why Agave plants are referred to as century plants. And the flowers will grow on the tip of a very tall stem, solo rising up from the middle of the plant, and the stem/stalk will grow super tall, reaching for the skies, or in my case, reaching for the ceiling of my lean-to style greenhouse. Knowing this, I was pretty excited to see how long it would take the flower stem (referred to as a candelabrum or wand for Agaves) to grow and how high it would reach in my greenhouse before it would produce flower buds. The stem (or wand if you wish to think of it that way), has no leaves on it and to me, it resembled an asparagus stalk.

Photo Taken As It Kept Rising

September 27

Within 7 days, you can see from the next photo how much the stalk rose from the center of the Mangave. It was growing up, and every day, I’d walk in to take a look, and I started to have to move it around because as it got taller, it was reaching the lean-to style of the greenhouse’s roof. I wondered if it would soon hit the ceiling.

Mangave flower candelabrum or wand

It got to the point, the stalk was so tall, I couldn’t get the whole thing in a photo. Here is a photo (above) where I moved it in-front of an old silver locker I picked up at a vintage shop, and it was about as tall as that cabinet by this point. As you can see, it definitely looks similar to an asparagus stem.

Very Top of the Stalk

Then the next phase was starting to reveal. Side shoots on the top started to form with flower buds. I knew I was in for a big surprise soon. And fortunately, the very tip of the stalk was not touching the roof of the greenhouse. It appeared I had just enough space to keep it inside for the rest of the winter.

Flowers Opening

The flowers started to feel like a fireworks show to me. That is just how my mind works when it comes to nature’s surprises. The flower clusters started to form to the sides of the main cluster on the top and as they opened, pollen was visible and I thought it was a shame as it would not be pollinated inside my greenhouse during the winter months, but just the same, it was a fun experience to witness all the buds opening over time.

By December, 3 months after I first noticed the stalk rising from the center of the plant, it had buds and the stalk was about 10 feet tall. In reviewing some of the posts I was sharing, around December 11th, it was 6 feet tall. Later in December, it grew to ten feet. By the following spring, I decided to chop off about 1/3 of the stalk and it was time to get it out of my way so outside it went. I put it on my deck, and to my surprise later in the summer, more side plants formed at the top of the plant’s flower stalk (where I had cut it off). It also produced many pups on the sides at the base of the plant, which I decided to use to top off my succulent pumpkin centerpieces; it made a nice spikey looking thriller on the top of the pumpkins.

Mangave used on the Succulent Pumpkin Centerpieces

This plant ended up surprising me in many ways and kept on giving. It did not die off as some plants do after flowering for Agaves, and retuned to my greenhouse yet again this fall. Not only that, I repotted some of the pups earlier, and they grew rather quickly into larger plants (as noted by the breeder above, Hans, they grow quickly).

Agave and Mangave plants make wonderful specimen plants, are beautiful in larger pots, and they handle full sun and don’t require lots of fertilizer, and they may be kept inside the home over the winter, if not too large, or if they haven’t grown a major flower stalk of 10 feet tall, and they over winter well in a low-temp greenhouse too from my experience. It is pretty cool when you start off admiring something and witness many returns and uses which were unexpected, like how I used them on my succulent pumpkin centerpiece creations this season.

I like collecting various Agaves and now Mangaves and will continue to do so. I find they are easy care plants and you can obtain various sizes and styles if you keep your eyes open for special finds!

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook, CT

Date of Post: 10/26/2022

Five Random Plant Photos and The Story Behind Them

Cactus in Tin Cans

This was back in 2019. I used a hammer and nail to pound little drain holes in the base of the soup cans (easy peasy!), and put a cactus plant in each. I had started to do letter stamping on the cans’ sides prior for fun. These just ended up on a wood shed floor and a photographer (JMS Art & Photo) took photos of it when here taking other photos of my plants that day. Note: Only downfall of the cans is they start to rust – but that could be a good thing if you like a rustic look.

Table in the Greenhouse

I know that every square inch of my greenhouse should probably be used for plants only, but I can’t help myself. I like creating a mix of vintage or antique things to put around my plants. The table is a very old small draft table a retired engineer gave away for free one year (actually his daughter posted it for free) so I went to get it. The typewriter in the background was from my husband’s uncle’s typewriter shop. The vintage fan is from a farm in Vernon, which I picked up as part of their tag sale one summer. But of course, what is the most impressive is that succulent plant and the way the flower stems grew. It is such a beautiful photo, again by JMS noted above.

Succulent Blooms in Summer

Speaking of succulent blooms, here’s a beautiful photo of one which was outdoors in summer. It was growing in the shape of a heart! Hummingbirds visit these blooms a lot. They like them, so take note, succulent flowers are great for your little hummingbirds in summer and they last a very long time on long tall stems. This bloom was actually growing from a hanging basket filled with succulent plants, so the flowers were high up and the hummingbird was fun to watch.

Castor Bean Seed Pods

Castor bean plants are easy to grow from seed. I wrote about this plant and an artist’s depiction of them too via this post. This variety has red stems, reddish foliage, and red round seed pods which are spiny. You wait to harvest them at the right time when the seeds inside are mature, and crack the pods open. Gloves are recommended as the spines can be a nuisance when cracking open the seed pods. Keep your seeds over the winter and sow in the spring. These plants grow super tall and huge. I probably will sow more seeds this spring again. They make a tropical affect in the garden.

Morning Glories

Another photo by JMS (noted above). I love the way she captured the shadow of the morning glories growing along my garage wall. I wrote about morning glories last month, see here. Plants offer many artistic benefits and one being the way plants’ foliage and flowers capture light or twine and grow – this is why I am obsessed with plant photography!

Well, just 5 random photos to share today!

Hope you enjoy them.

Have a great weekend.

Cathy Testa
containercathy at
Container Garden Designer
Plant Enthusiast
Broad Brook, CT 06016
Zone: 6b
Written: 2/18/22

What’s Coming Up – Besides Your Seeds!

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Hey Everyone, just a quick hello and updates on what is coming up!

June 17, Saturday
South Windsor Farmers Market
Free demo – How to Grow Your Own Micro-greens (this topic is still very popular, and you may do this year-round, come learn how!) – 11 am demo time. Will also have plants for sale along with Starter Kits for the micros, hanging baskets, and more.

See the Flyer: SW Market Flyer 2017

July – Date to be Announced
New Terrariums Workshop at a New Location!
New Cidery in Stafford Springs, CT
Hop on over to to learn more, or check out their website. We will be offering another fun filled terrariums workshop. Details to be announced very soon. Stay tuned.

New Plant Arrivals
Thank you to all visiting me at the new shop where I have my plant showcases (address below), plant gifts, seeds, birdhouses, fertilizer, and garden decor for sale.

This week, we have new arrivals for plants – see for the newly posted feature – ferns, garden signs, and succulents continue. I am there every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm, and the shop is open every day of the week too.

It is a great place to pick up a book if you are an avid reader – I have met many there, as well as authors – it has been rewarding to meet the various people there – and new gardening plant lovin’ friends.

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Seeds – It is not too late to sow!
You still may sow many types of seeds, which we have quality, 100% Certified Organic seeds in stock at the shop right now. With this cool weather, maybe being a little late sowing will work out because the damp soil may rot tender seedlings if you put them in already and still need more to replace any – Consider our seeds by Hudson Valley Seed Co. See for more details.

Address: 869 Sullivan Avenue, South Windsor, CT in BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More. The plaza also has a pet store, chiropractors offices, nail salon, exercise place, and United Bank. Look for the plaza adjacent which has a Dunkin’ Donuts and Red Onion Pizza restaurant.

First Day of Summer
Is it true? Summer is coming? It better. This darn cold damp weather – We all want sun. The first day of summer is June 21st, only 2 days after Father’s Day on June 18th, it will be here before you know it.  We have had cool temps, lots of rain, and less warmth but I have faith it is coming – Be prepared, get your plants now if you haven’t already.

One big benefit of this cool spring, however, is my perennials outdoors are outstanding – the bugs haven’t been as prevalent, and the flowers are just gorgeous – but summer IS coming – Get your planted gifts, seeds, and decor from Container Crazy CT while supplies last – Many of our planted gifts are perfect for indoors too – consider them as a gift for Dad’s office or for birthdays, special occasions, graduations, etc – We offer Gift Certificates as well.

Happy first Monday of June everyone!

Cathy Testa

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Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’ is for the non-green thumb gardener

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Julia followed Clara into her kitchen before they were to have dinner with their husbands that evening. “Look, here’s the plant you gave me,” said Clara, as she held up a very sickly looking plant with a smile on her face.  She didn’t realize the plant was hurting.

“I told Mark to re-pot that immediately when I gave it to him for you,” replied Julia.  “This plant really needs well-draining soil.”

It was clear the plant was suffering and had barely grown since last summer when Julia gave it to him to replace a plant Clara had killed. And Mark, Clara’s husband, did not follow Julia’s instructions at all, which surprised Julia because he is an amazing outdoor gardener; he understands the requirements of plants.

But apparently, Mark just placed it on Clara’s windowsill that day to sit beside her many other houseplants.  He knew the fact he didn’t repot it would not be noticed by Clara, or perhaps he felt it was her job.  It is not that Clara does not adore her many houseplants, or that she doesn’t take some time to care for them, but she just doesn’t seem to understand or see the importance of the soil environment.  She overlooks the essential ingredients needed for the plants to thrive.

Clara could tell Julia was irritated by the thought of the plant looking sad, so she told Julia they would repot it after dinner, but she first gave her an enthusiastic tour of her other plants in their dining room.

Julia recognized them all – aloes, jades, African violets, Philodendrons, and Begonias – and every single one of them were growing in dry, poor, overrun soil and in small pots, some without drainage holes.  The white crusty edges on the soil’s surface representing a salt buildup from hard water or fertilizer not leached through was visible in every pot. Many were reaching for light sources and had stretchy growth, but rather than lecture her good friend, Clara, who obviously is a non-green thumb gardener, she took another sip of her Pinot Noir and listened with interest to everything Clara told her about her treasured plants.

Burgundy Ice Dyckia

Burgundy Ice Dyckia


Do you lack a green thumb like Clara?  If yes, a succulent, like Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ is an option for you.  Succulents store moisture in their leaves, one factor which helps the non-green thumb gardener because it enables the plant to withstand drought.  Dyckia is actually in the Bromeliad family, and it doesn’t store moisture in its leaves like typical succulents, but it is tough all the same and you can refer to it as a succulent in general.

It is accustom to growing on rocks or rough rocky soils and in areas lacking rainfall, so naturally it developed the ability to go dormant to survive dry periods of time.  This is the number one reason why it is perfect for non-green thumb gardeners, because of their practice of forgetting to water their plants.  When it finally gets some water, it pops back to life quickly so you will be relieved you didn’t kill it.

Dyckias also have ability to take cold temperatures, so if you keep the heat low in the house during the winter, it will adjust accordingly.

Heat tolerance is another bonus about these plants.  You can put them out in a hot part of your landscape or outdoor sitting area in the summer months, and pretty much ignore them, but you should remember to give them more watering attention (low to moderate), especially deserving after accommodating all your non-green thumb traits during a long winter.


When you look at the rosette style leaves of this Dyckia hybrid, it looks similar to the top of a pineapple (and pineapples are in the Bromeliad family too), but ‘Burgundy Ice’ has a beautiful and useful dark rich burgundy color with white spines, making it a wonderful candidate to contrast with other tough drought-tolerant type plants in container gardens or smaller pots.

You can find lots of succulents or cacti with spines, stripes and patterns, but not many with a rich darker almost black coloring, making it a little more dramatic and alluring. The rosette shape allows the plant to collect moisture and funnel it towards its roots, and this form gives it an architectural interest too.  Its physical attributes contributes to the visual appeal from a design perspective.

Incorporating this plant into a combination of succulents or drought tolerant perennials or annuals with a lighter or brighter color will give you a great visual contrast situation.

In the photo above, it is growing with a Portulacaria afra (dwarf jade plant or elephant bush/food).  If you look closely, the stems of Portulacaria afra are the same color as Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ so it “echoes” the color of the focal plant in this glazed blue pot. Additionally, P. afra has a spiller-type habit and smaller rounded leaves. This feature helps to soften the edge of the pot and provides a textural difference in this combination. Always think about mixing the textures; the softer texture will make the bolder texture even more noticeable.

The Dyckia leaves tend to rise up a bit and curve downward at the tips.  Notice the tips sitting above the Portulacaria afra.  This makes the burgundy color more apparent because the lighter color is filled in behind it. Another spiller plant that would work well with this is something like the temperennial called, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’.  It grows long thin stems with soft silvery fuzzy leaves; a silver contrast to the ‘Burgundy Ice’, or try something like, Helichrysum petiolare (Licorice Plant) with similar coloring, both cascading downward.  Delosperma cooperi or D. floribundum (Ice Plants), a perennial with fleshy shiny leaves is another example of smaller foliage with characteristics to make ‘Burgundy Falls’ stand out.  It has a trailing habit and produces daisy like flowers in midsummer.  Pick a Delosperma cultivar that has a flower color that will pop against the burgundy color of ‘Burgundy Ice.’

Dyckia‘ Burgundy Ice’ is a full sun to part shade plant, so when used outdoors in your container gardens, a full sun location is best because the rosette’s color will intensify. When you move it inside for the winter months, it can take a reduction in light but it will green up more.  Because we tend to get dreary, cloudy days during the winter, placing them by the sunniest window in your home is recommended, so they at least get some sun on the good days.

For the non-green thumb gardener

For the non-green thumb gardener


DY-kee-uh, DIK ee uh, or DICK’ea are three ways.  Just let it roll off your tongue, it doesn’t really matter how perfectly you pronounce it.  If you are a non-green thumb gardener, say it quickly and with confidence and no one will know the difference.  You can just call it ‘my tough succulent’ too if you want.  But because this plant was named after a Prince, you may want to give it a nickname, the “Prince”.  Whatever you name it doesn’t really matter, as long as you continue to enjoy it.


Habit: Clumping.  Blooms:  Mostly for foliage.  Size: 6-12″.  Hardiness/Zones 9-11:  It is treated as an annual here in CT.  Water:  Dry to normal, okay to let go through some periods of drought.  Light:  Full sun to part shade; okay to have low-light in house during winter. Care Level:  Easy – Perfect for the non-green thumb gardener.  Offered by:  Proven Selections.


Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473

P.S.  Clara did take Julia into her basement after an amazing dinner, where her potting bench and many broken pots were laid out.  Julia’s face had to be kept straight as Clara pulled out old dusty bags of potting soil, none filled with soil able to hold water anymore – they were very old and dried out.  Julia told her, “Those won’t do.”  So Clara held up a bag of African violet mix, and said, ‘How about this?”  Julia took another sip of wine, and replied with a sigh, “What the heck, give it to me.” 🙂