Growing Agapanthus – How to grow this exotic looking plant
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This exotic-looking plant with vibrant flowers are one of the most beautiful perennial garden plants. Originating from South Africa, they produce strapped leaves and give a stunning display of often blue, white or violet coloured flowers. It is also commonly known as an ‘African Lily’. This perennial plant is available as evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous varieties, the latter usually being fully hardy whereas evergreen varieties are often half-hardy and so require some winter protection to protect them from frost.
Agapanthus look particularly stunning when planted in patio pots where they can be moved to sunny focal positions on patio or decking areas. They grow well in pots and more tender varieties are often best grown in pots as they can be moved into a cold greenhouse or conservatory over the winter giving them protection from the frost.
The stunning ball-shaped flowers are produced from around June onwards and can last well into August. When planted in borders they can look very attractive and make quite a show when planted in large clumps.
Agapanthus prefer a good quality, well-drained soil or compost which is moisture retentive and thrives in a sunny spot in the garden. They are best planted in a more sheltered position to give them some protection from the frost during winter. They are well known for growing well in seaside locations but will thrive in any garden in the right conditions.
Agapanthus photographed at ‘University of California’ – Source: Wikimedia.org
Many gardeners think that Agapanthus prefer to be root-bound in pots but this is actually not quite the case. Although they do like to have tight root systems, being root-bound can cause a lack of flowers just as a lack of water during the growing season can also reduce flowering.
When planting Agapanthus in beds and borders, it is best to choose more hardy varieties which are usually deciduous and die back for the winter. Once they begin to grow in spring, water regularly to keep the soil moist before reducing watering in winter.
In Autumn, after flowering, add a thick layer of mulch (approximately 6 inches thick around the base of plants), this helps to retain moisture and protect the roots from frost. Next add a good layer of straw over the top of the plants, this will protect them over winter, simply remove the straw when they shoot again in early spring.
Growing Agapanthus in pots
These make excellent plants to grow in pots as they are very easy to grow. Any varieties can be grown in pots but it can be the perfect excuse to grow one of the more tender cultivars, these are no less stunning in appearance.
When planting in pots they can grow best when planted in lots of three, (three plants in one pot). This will give the best show of flowers and the most beautiful display. It is always a good idea to stand your pot on legs or bricks to keep the pot off the floor to stop of the holes getting blocked.
1. Add a layer of broken pot or stone to the bottom of the pot, this will ensure the holes in the pots do not become blocked by compost and the compost remains free-draining.
2. Fill the pots with a good quality soil-based compost, John Innnes No.3 potting compost is perfect.
3. Plant the Agapanthus into the pot to the same soil level as they were in the original pots.
4. Water well and place in a sunny position.
They require very little pruning, after flowering (which is usually sometime after August) simply cut the old flower stalks back to the base of the plant.
Propagating Agapanthus is fairly easy and is best done by dividing the plants, this can be done in autumn after flowering or in spring. Simply split the plants with a spade, ensuring that each clump has two or three growing points and take up as much soil and root as possible and move to a new position. The same can be done with plants grown in containers. You should only divide established plants every 4-6 years.
Growing Agapanthus from seed
Growing them from seed is a lot more work and plants will take two to three years to flower but is fairly simple to do. Seeds should only be sown with species cultivars as they are the only ones that will grow true to seed, meaning the same variety as the plant you took the seed from.
Take the seed pods off the plants after flowering and allow them to dry, remove the seeds from the pods and store in a dry cool place. Sow in spring, they need temperatures of 15°C (55°-59°F) to germinate. Store plants in a cold frame or cold green house for the first winter before planting in their final positions.
They are generally problem free, and are rarely effected by pest or diseases, however gardeners do have problems with lack of flowers or worst none at all.
Agapanthus not flowering
One problem they are known for is sometimes they produce nice healthy foliage but no flowers. This is usually caused by a lack of water during the growing season although winter damage can also cause lack of flowers as well. Lack of sun is also another reason you may have a poor flowering plant.
Agapanthus not flowering – Image source: wikimedia.org
Follow these tips to help promote flowering
- Water regularly from spring when new foliage emerges and keep soil moist, but not wet.
- Provide winter protection to protect plants from cold weather. Wrap the pots in bubble wrap, move plants in pots into a cold greenhouse or conservatory. Mulch plants in the garden and cover with straw or fleece.
- Split plants in autumn every 4-6 years to provide more space for them. This has the added benefit of having more plants.
- Too much shade can cause a lack of flowering, so sunny positions are ideal.
- Lack of water after flowering can also cause a lack of flowers the following year.