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Top-End Aggies

We have given the global gardening world a rich gift of our plant treasures to love and to plant, and our agapanthus must be near the top of the very long list.

Due to the fascination of plant lovers with agapanthus, and the good breeding programmes that have been established, we can now kiss goodbye those days when agapanthus only flowered (albeit spectacularly!) for a month or two in mid-summer, leaving us with not much more than leafy clumps for the rest of the year. A bevy of modern hybrids (which are now waiting for you in garden centres!) are re-blooming plants that will start off their prolific flowering performance from late winter and continue through spring, intermittently throughout summer, and even up to next winter.

Hopefully these plants will end our local habit of treating agapanthus like stepchildren and banishing them to dry shade or other neglected areas of the garden! Underground, these herbaceous perennials grow from rhizomes with thick fleshy roots, indicating that they are fairly tough plants. Above ground are compact clumps of dark green, slightly curved, linear leaves – the hybrids highlighted here are all evergreen and fast-growing. When it’s flowering time, many smooth and fleshy stems are produced that are topped with large umbels of funnel-shaped flowers.

Best climate: Warm, temperate climates are best although cold climates without heavy frost will be tolerated. These plants grow equally well in both winter- and summer-rainfall regions. What they need Location: Plant them in full sun to light shade (meaning morning sun and afternoon shade) in very hot areas. Please don’t stick them into deep shade as this will adversely affect flowering! Use them as border and filler plants in mixed shrub beds and in rockeries. There is also no reason not to plant them in pots. Soil: The soil must be well-draining and enriched with compost and bonemeal for strong root development. You can also add organic Atlantic Bio Ganic All-Purpose fertiliser when preparing planting holes – it will help them to get established and will encourage good growth.

Water: Once established, agapanthus are medium water users and the soil can be left to dry out a bit between waterings. Young plants, however, must at first be watered regularly. Those in pots will require more water, but only when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch.

Feeding: Fertilise throughout the growing season with Atlantic Bio Ocean slow-release fertiliser at 6 – 8 week intervals.

Pruning: Pick the pretty flowers for the vase (where they can last for ten days) and deadhead spent flowers regularly.

Pest watch: Although agapanthus leaves are not a favourite of snails, they tend to shelter between thick clumps so be sure to clean between them regularly by removing old leaves and stems. Also put down snail bait between the clumps. Caterpillars like lily borers can be a problem, as they eat the leaves and bore into and destroy the core of the plants. If you detect possible damage (yellowing, rotting leaves on a flopping plant) drench the clumps and soil with a systemic insecticide such as Efekto’s Plant Protector.

Go for these Agapanthus varieties

‘Bingo Blue’

  • Deep blue flowers – the stems turn dark green in winter
  • Main flowering seasons from late winter to midsummer, with sporadic flushes at other times
  • Clumps are small to medium, growing 20 – 30cm high.

‘Bingo White’

  • Clear white flowers.
  • Main flowering seasons from late winter to midsummer, with sporadic flushes during the year
  • Clumps are small to medium, growing 20 – 30cm high. ‘Buccaneer’
  • Umbels with dark blue umbrella-shaped florets, each marked with a dark purple vein
  • Blooming from early to late summer
  • Medium-sized clumps up to 40cm high.

‘Great White’

  • Super large white flowerheads
  • Re-blooms throughout summer
  • Compact clumps of attractive foliage with a height of about 50cm.

‘Twister’

  • Creamy buds open up to intense blue and white bi-coloured flowers on slender stalks
  • Main blooming time from early to midsummer, with sporadic re-blooming
  • Small clumps at about 30cm high.

Background notes

There are six indigenous species of agapanthus, of which only A. praecox and A. africanus are evergreen. The common names are lily of the Nile or African lily, even though it is not a lily. In some countries, like New Zealand, A. Praecox is classed as an environmental weed, but calls to add it to their official pest-plant list have encountered strong opposition from gardeners. (wikipedia.org)