Manihot esculenta 'Variegata'
Common Name: bitter cassava
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12 where best growth occurs in evenly moist, fertile, sandy, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants are evergreen in Zones 10-12. Plants may be grown in USDA Zones 8-9, but are intolerant of frost and will die to the ground at the first fall/winter freeze, sprouting again in spring. Plants generally require 8-9 months of frost-free weather in order to produce roots worthy of harvest. Where not winter hardy, this plant may be grown as an annual or in containers that are overwintered indoors. Propagate by stem cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Manihot esculenta, commonly known as bitter cassava, tapioca, manioc or yuca, is a milky-sapped tropical shrub that grows to 6-10' tall. Although native to Brazil, it has been planted as an annual root crop in tropical areas around the world for harvest of its stout, elongated, tuberous roots from which cassava, tapioca, starch and other food products are obtained. It features palmately lobed, medium green leaves (typically 3-7 parted) with each leaf lobe growing to 3-8" long. Small, apetulous, greenish-white flowers (corolla is absent but bell-shaped calyx is petal-like) in short terminal panicles bloom throughout the year. Flowers are unisexual. Fruit is an ovoid 6-winged capsule. Roots contain toxic hydrocyanic acid which must be removed prior to consumption.

Cultivated varieties are classed into two different groups: bitter varieties (primarily grown for starch) and sweet varieties (primarily grown as vegetable). Species plants and unvariegated varieties have little to no ornamental value.

Genus name comes from the Brazilian name, manioc.

Specific epithet means edible or good to eat.

'Variegata' is grown as an ornamental plant because of its attractive foliage which features bright green leaves variegated along the midrib/veins with yellow. Yellow variegation eventually fades with age to creamy white.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for red spider mites.

Garden Uses

Foliage annual or container plant for areas that are not frost-free.