Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips' - False Agave

Scientific Name

Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips'

Common Names

False Agave

Scientific Classification

Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Manfreda


Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips' is a small low-growing plant, forming a rosette up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall and up to 2 feet (60 cm) wide. It forms a low, spreading rosette with long green leaves with chocolate spots and wavy-edged margins. Manfredas typically flower annually once they are mature and unlike Agaves, they do not die after they bloom. The bloom spike can reach up to 8 feet (2.4 m) with interesting burgundy brown flowers.


USDA hardiness zone 7a to 10b: from 0 °F (−17.8 °C) to 40 °F (+4.4 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Manfreda is a tender perennial or "temperennial" succulent plant that grows best in full sun. Plant in well-drained, dry to average soil in containers just slightly wider than the width of the rosette or plant directly in the ground. Since the plant has a rather large root system, the container should be at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Manfreda is a slower grower, so it will not quickly overtake the space it is allotted in the landscape.

In summer when the plants are actively growing, they appreciate a bit of supplemental watering and half-strength fertilizer. During the winter months, the plants should be allowed to dry and should be stored in a cold room at 48°F (9° C). Plants are watered only enough to keep the foliage from shriveling.

Manfredas are propagated by the removal of offsets and from fresh seed. Fresh seed germinate in 7- 21 days at 68 to 72 °F (19 to 22 °C)… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Manfreda


Garden origin.


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Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips'

Item #: 8355

Zones: 7a to 8b, at least

Dormancy: Winter

Height: 12" tall

Culture: Sun

Origin: Mexico

Pot Size: 3.5" pot (24 fl. oz/0.7 L) ?

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.

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I nearly fell over when I first saw this amazing manfreda at Yucca Do Nursery. The 2' long, rubbery, lizard-like, very wavy, glaucous leaves are heavily spotted chocolate. Each Manfreda 'Chocolate Chips' clump lays flat on the ground, radiating out to form a starfish-like rosette. The winter deciduous 1' tall x 4' wide rosettes (in good soil) are topped with 3' tall spikes of alien antennae-like flowers in June. cool flowers and cool foliage. Well-drained soils are best for this new drought-tolerant rock garden or container gem. Manfreda 'Chocolate Chips' grows much smaller in drier, poorly prepared soils.

You Grow Girl

What a surprise when a flower stalk suddenly appeared on the Manfreda undulata ‘Chocolate Chip’ that currently resides in the jungle of potted succulents that is my office window!

Manfreda is closely related to the agave (Family Agavaceae), a favourite genus that I have mentioned here and there on this website. Like agaves, manfredas grow in a rosette formation with leaves that emerge from a central point. They have fleshy, succulent leaves that are much softer and less intensely fibrous than their cousin. Succulentish. They also lack spines. If you have an affinity for growing agaves you will know why this trait is appreciated.

This particular variety, ‘Chocolate Chip’ has fantastic foliage. It is wavy and crinkled along the edges with a dark green base that is coloured by deep mahogany splotches. That said, I do not have photos of the plant to share with you today. I will come back to that another time. Today is all about the flowers.

Unlike agave, manfreda is polycarpic, meaning it can bloom repeatedly without dying. This is fortunate as the plant was a gift from my friend Barry Parker. It is a nice, healthy size and I would like to keep it, thank you very much. I have two other manfredas from him. One sits right next to this one in my office. Both are hardy to zone 7 and can not live outdoors year-round in my zone 5b(ish) climate. This winter started off quite mild so I kept them in my sunny, unheated porch. By January it had started to freeze for stretches of time, so I moved them up to my office. They go outside (staying in their pots) once all danger of frost has passed. The third plant (Manfreda virginica) is much less flamboyant, but is supposed to be hardy(ish) here. Technically, it is hardy to zone 6 but I often try to push the zones when it is close enough. In early 2014 I planted it alongside hardy cactus in the dry bed (sandy, well draining soil). It survived through last winter’s hardship so there is no reason to suppose that it shouldn’t survive this one.

I really enjoyed photographing these wispy, spidery blooms. They were such a joyful and unexpected gift in these last days of winter.

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Chocolate Chip False Agave

Manfreda plants are closely related to the agave family, which explains why this variety of manfreda is sometimes called the chocolate chip false agave. Like many varieties of manfreda, chocolate chip doesn’t die after blooming as do agave plants. Planted outdoors, it blooms during June in the Northern Hemisphere or December south of the equator. The buds form on tall stalks in late spring, followed by fascinating wiry type blossoms.

The chocolate chip plant has a low-growing profile, only reaching heights of about 4 inches (10 cm.) tall. Its elegantly arched, spineless leaves bear resemblance to a starfish. The long succulent leaves give the plant a diameter of 15 inches (38 cm.) or more. This native of Mexico retains its leaves year-round but only in tropical climates or when overwintered indoors.

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