agapanthus blue velvet

Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis ‘Blue Velvet’

Blue Lily, African Lily, or Lily of the Nile

Agapanthus, being a plant that is reliable, tough, enduring, very easy to grow and so rewarding when it bursts into bloom, is already used extensively, in all its different forms, in gardens across the country, but this new subspecies is an Agapanthus like no other we’ve seen before.

Strong growing and vigorous, with stout flower stems, it bears deep cornflower blue flowers that have the most beautiful velvet sheen. Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis ‘Blue Velvet’ possesses all the characteristics one would want for the perfect garden plant. It is neither too large nor too small, has year-round appeal, bears exquisite blooms and requires very little care and attention.

Agapanthus Blue Velvet is one of the prettiest of this species. Each petal of the beautiful, violet-coloured flowers has a darker stripe running down its centre. The flower heads are carried on stout stems that are about 1 m tall. Mature plant size about 80 x 80 cm.

During our festive season, we are lucky that the agapanthus plants are usually in full bloom and looking their best, filling our gardens with masses of their beautiful, sky-blue flowers and providing colour for the vases in the house too.

These indigenous plants are prolific bloomers and, along with the recognised species found in the wild, there are some lovely natural hybrids too; these come about because plants in the genus Agapanthus hybridise quite easily across species if they are growing in close proximity to one another.

These hybrids, like Agapanthus Blue Velvet can present a bit of a taxonomical nightmare to botanists who come across them, but there are some characteristics that help to determine their origin. Apart from these natural hybrids, local and international plant breeders have also been hard at work and the result is that these delightful perennials have been developed into spectacular plants that decorate not only our own gardens, but also gardens around the world.

These days it is not unusual to find 20 or more different agapanthus hybrids and cultivars, each one prettier than the next, in any grower’s plant catalogue. There are deciduous species that are dormant during winter while others, especially many of the new hybrids, are evergreen, with bright green (or even variegated) leaves that remain throughout the year.

Some are large plants, with flower stems that grow to over 1 m in length, while others are dwarfs, growing to 30 cm or less, flower spikes included. The flower colours vary from snow-white to light blue, bright blue, dark blue, lilac, purple and almost black. There are also bi-coloured blooms in white and blue. Agapanthus species are no longer only planted en masse, and they are certainly no longer planted simply to fill a space in the deep shade of trees and then forgotten.

Modern gardeners have realized their value and along with mass plantings, they use them to fill focal areas and pots on sunny patios – in fact, nowadays they are planted wherever their impressive flowering season can be enjoyed most.  

When does Agapanthus Blue Velvet bloom?

Agapanthus species bloom in summer, with some hybrids flowering intermittently.

Most suitable climate for Agapanthus Blue Velvet

There are very few places in South Africa where agapanthus won’t grow. In gardens that experience heavy frost, gardeners will be better off planting the deciduous species that rest underground during the cold seasons, but some of the newer hybrids that are not deciduous will also survive if they are planted in a sheltered area. In very cold countries, gardeners plant their agapanthus in pots and keep them in greenhouses during winter. When it warms up, the pots are moved outside for the blooms to appear and be admired, and then you should hear them brag!

What Agapanthus Blue Velvet needs

Location: full sun and light shade, but the plants produce far more flowers in full sun. The latest hybrids are also lovely in large pots that have enough space for them to form dense clumps.

Soil: any soil type is fine, but for lush growth be sure to work in liberal quantities of compost before planting.

Water: agapanthus species are usually recommended for water-wise gardens. However, while they can withstand periods of drought, they are not camels. For lots of flowers and lush growth, they need deep and regular watering, so regard them as medium water consumers.

Fertilizing: to encourage maximum flower production (and lush growth), feed them with a balanced granular fertilizer in spring and autumn.

Get more value

To increase your stock of plants, divide overgrown clumps every three to five years during autumn or early spring.

Watch out for this

Snails tend not to eat agapanthus leaves, but they do like to shelter beneath them so be sure to clean between the plants regularly, removing old leaves and any dead flower spikes, and also put down snail bait. Lily borers can be a problem, as they eat the leaves and destroy the cores of the plants, so react immediately by treating the plants with a suitable insecticide.

In a nutshell

  • Lush perennials that produce flower heads made up of many small, funnel-shaped blooms.
  • Easy to cultivate.
  • Can be water-wise, but medium water preferred.
  • Flourish almost anywhere.
  • Perfect for planting en masse

Read more about Agapanthus here.

The Gardener