Also known as Lily of the Nile or African Lily, Agapanthus is an attractive perennial flowering plant that blooms during the summer months. Durable and strong, Agapanthus are often used as a border or for a pop of colour.
They can be planted directly in the ground or in potted plants. They are known for showy white or blue flowers and come in a multitude of varieties suited to any landscaping or garden. They attract butterflies and bees and are consequently suited to a bee and butterfly garden.
Choosing the Right Agapanthus
There are many types of Agapanthus, including both white and blue varieties.
The colours of Agapanthus can range from a very bright white to a blue dark enough to be confused with black.
There are dwarf plants that grow four inches tall, and larger Agapanthus that will grow up to 48 inches in height. Performing warm, well-drained soil, Agapanthus can grow in drought-like conditions.
There are some varieties that are more hardy to winter than others. Depending on how warm it is in your environment, you may need to choose a species better suited to it.
Where to Buy Agapanthus
Planting Your Agapanthus
Agapanthus is recommended for zones from 9 to 11. Some varieties are deciduous, while some are more fragile. It should generally be planted in areas that are warmer, and that has mild winters.
Agapanthus should be planted in well-drained, sunny soil, on a moderately fertilised site. Well-fertilised soil may promote too much growth for the Agapanthus, which will cause more damage during the winter. For hotter climates, partial shade is advised for an Agapanthus plant, rather than full sun.
When planting your Agapanthus, plant them 30 cm apart, with their crowns 5 cm below the ground. Agapanthus is a rhizome plant, and it will begin to split in two or three years.
If the soil is too moist, Agapanthus may rot away before blooming. Over-watering could also prohibit Agapanthus growth. Plants should be kept warm and growth watched closely.
Taking Care of Your Agapanthus
Agapanthus may take two or three years before they begin to flower. For the first growing season, it should be watered regularly and deeply so it can establish a root system. It should be watered whenever the top three inches of soil is dry. Overwatering can hurt it. Water plants at the soil level and not from the top, to keep leaves and blossoms dry, and to stave off potential mold and mildew.
Before winter, Agapanthus can be cut back to four inches above the soil. It can also be cut back in the spring, as long as it is cut back before additional growth. Mulching over the Agapanthus should be performed for more delicate varieties, with mulch a few inches thick above the plants. The plants will be particularly vulnerable for the first winter.
During spring, every two to three years, clumps should be divided. Agapanthus can be cut back as needed to reduce leaves and improve flowering.
When grown in pots, Agapanthus should be grown in fairly cozy pots, rather than larger ones. Smaller pots will encourage more flower production rather than leaf production. Flowers should be fed every week or two weeks during the growing season. Though smaller pots are recommended, the plants should still be moved if roots become too crowded. Agapanthus will need to be watered more frequently while in a pot, but also needs to drain well to avoid any rot.
A Note About Agapanthus
The oil from Agapanthus can be irritating to the skin. It’s recommended that you always wear gloves when handling Agapanthus, and you shouldn’t place it in an area where people will regularly come into contact with it.
They can be poisonous when eaten, and shouldn’t be in an area where children are known to play.
Agapanthus bulbs can also be dangerous for dogs and cats and should be buried with caution in areas where dogs and cats are known to roam.
Agapanthus bulbs can cause kidney failure in these animals, which may ultimately lead to death.
All these things aside, Agapanthus is a very popular plant — when treated with the caution and respect required.
Common Problems With Agapanthus
Agapanthus is a hardy plant when planted in the right location, which accounts for its popularity. Most gardeners, from beginners on, will not find it difficult to grow agapanthus plants. But there are some issues that could crop up with Agapanthus over time or when first planted. Here are some of the most common issues.
- Growing without flowering. If Agapanthus is growing and spreading without flowering, it may need to be cut back. This can happen if the soil is too well-fertilised, or if it is in too large a pot. Agapanthus may need to be cut back in this situation, especially in the event that winter is approaching. Fast-growing agapanthus can experience damage during the winter months.
- Spotted or eaten away leaves. Some pests are attracted to Agapanthus, despite it being dangerous for cats, dogs, and people to eat. Snails and bugs may try to eat the plant, which can affect its appearance and health. Standard pest control measures (such as garlic and water to repel snails) can help keep your plants healthy.
- Yellow leaves mean that the Agapanthus is likely being exposed to too much moisture. Either it’s being watered too frequently, or its soil isn’t draining well enough. Cut back on the watering until the first few inches of soil around the Agapanthus is completely dry. If it’s potted, move it to a better draining pot. If it’s the soil itself, you may need to try again with better draining soil.
- Gray mold appearing on blossoms. Neem oil spray can be used to cut down on gray mold, which generally occurs when there’s too much moisture. Avoid watering the plants from above, and instead water directly against the soil.
- Stunted plants that aren’t growing. Bulb rot or root rot could be occurring, and unfortunately, this cannot be resolved. If plants are beginning to rot at the root, they should be removed, and replaced. The area should be covered in mulch until any remaining roots have died off, and then the soil can be tilled and used again.
The Agapanthus will grow into a flowering, attractive plant that can brighten the colours of any garden. But despite being a hardy plant, it can have some challenges, especially if grown in an environment to which it isn’t well-suited. Keep your Agapanthus in sunny, warm conditions (that aren’t too warm), and keep it well-drained and moderately fertilised, and you shouldn’t experience any major issues.
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