Growing & Propagating
All Agapanthus originate from the Cape of God Hope, South Africa, the first reaching Europe via Dutch settlers in 1652 and reaching the UK in 1687. They have now spread to many parts of the world.
Agapanthus belong now to the family Amaryllidaceae, the name comes from the Greek agape which means love and anthos which means flower, hence the name 'flower of love'. They are also commonly known as African Lily or Lily of the Nile.
The Botanical Nomenclature is still a little confusing, I rather prefer the views of F.M. Leighton in her monograph (1965). This work refers to ten species and ten sub-species, some are evergreen and some are deciduous. They all have fleshy roots which are produced from a rhizome not a bulb. The leaves vary in shape and colour from rich green to grey green, several white/yellow variegated forms are now readily available.
Flower colour varies greatly from the palest of blue to dark violet blue too pure white and all the shades in between. Enigma, Queen Mum & Silver Baby are the best known bi-coloured varieties.
Over the past 25 years deciduous varieties have proven hardy in the Yorkshire winters. When the leaves have gone yellow and died off in late autumn, cut them off just above ground level along with any old flower stems. A mulch 15cm deep of composted bark can be applied, this protects the already developed flower bud.
Evergreen Agapanthus in the north are not as hardy and are best grown in containers and protected in the winter. In the south most evergreens can be grown in the garden or containers.
All Agapanthus grown in containers are best given some protection in the winter, a cold glass house, conservatory or cold frame is ideal. Plants can also be placed next to the house wall well wrapped in fleece. Water the plants well mid-November and give very little water until early March. Evergreen varieties need light through the winter and can also be put in a garage or shed near the window for protection. Deciduous varieties can be kept under a bench in the glasshouse or anywhere in a shed/garage as light is unimportant until early spring when grown commences.
Agapanthus grow well in a sunny position, although partial shade a few hours a day has no detrimental effect. They are not sensitive to acid or alkaline soils.
Agapanthus do grow well in containers but they need a well-drained compost, so always add 1-part horticultural grit or sand to your compost. John Innes No.3 is ideal and gives stability. Remember to water regularly and feed with a high potash feed every 2-3 weeks April to September.
Agapanthus do not suffer from any major pests or diseases, slugs, snails, rabbits, deer & weevils do not trouble Agapanthus. Occasional mealy bug can be a problem, but a systemic insecticide normally offers a quick cure for these.
Agapanthus are easy to propagate by division to obtain plants identical to the parent plant, this is best done between spring and early summer. Avoid splitting plants too often as this will reduce flowering. Large clumps in the border should be lifted in spring every 4 - 6 years and replanted. Plants in containers should be potted on every 2nd year. Pot into a containers 10cm (4") larger for a further 2 years. Once the plant fills a 30-40cm (12-15") pot it can be split into 4. Pot the divisions back into individual smaller pots and start the process again. When plants are in large pots i.e. 60cm (24") they can be left for years until the number of flowers declines.