While Hosta are often called “hosta lilies,” they are in fact more closely related to agaves (those spiny succulents) than they are to daylilies or true lilies. This last summer Yvon and I decided to give perennial newcomer Mangave a try on our front deck. Mangave is a relatively new phenomenon, a cross between the genus Manfreda and Agave. These rare hybrids combine the best of both worlds: the better growth rate and the interesting patterns of Manfreda, and the habit and refinement of Agave. Our deck, which receives the hot mid-afternoon sun, does have some potted heat/sun tolerant hosta but we were curious to see if Mangave would perform here in Ontario and if we could overwinter them successfully indoors. We potted 3 or 4 varieties up in basic clay pots and sat back to admire them in the evenings after closing the nursery for the day. Mangave will never replace our beloved hosta but we certainly have caught "Mangave Fever". What started out as just 3 or 4 varieties in May has now led to a collection of over 35 different varieties of Mangave (there are currently only about 45 Mangave varieties in existence). Excellent for full sun locations these wonderful plants give structure to any garden and make great container companions for sun loving annuals. Mangave can be planted directly into your garden....however we suggest keeping them in pots so they are easier to move indoors when the temperature starts going under 7C at night. Although, not winter hardy, they do overwinter well inside the house or in a bright and heated garage . Mangave require very little care during their winter stay indoors but should be placed in a bright area free from drafts. Watering during their stay indoors is minimal...less is better but never let them go bone dry. We don't suggest anyone in Canada get as "Mad about Mangave" as Yvon and I have but, if you have a space you can overwinter them in, we would suggest coming by Hosta Choice Gardens this coming season and see for yourself how special these perennials can be.
Photo of Mangave 'Falling Waters' courtesy Walters Gardens, Inc.