Out of Africa – Garden Plants – Agapanthus

Updated/Fact-Chacked on August 5, 2020 by John

Name – The name agapanthus is derived from the Greek ‘agape’, meaning love, and ‘anthos’, flower.

Description – huge umbels of blue or white flowers borne on stalks that can be three to four feel tall. Impressively architectural in structure.

Origins – The plants are native to South Africa and were brought back to Europe in the seventeenth century by the early European settlers who paused at the Cape to replenish their freshwater supplies before heading across the ocean to their homeland – the first recorded introduction was in 1679. Because this plant has its origins in the cooler and more temperature region of the Western Cape, it thrives more easily in Britain than many other imports.

agapanthus uk


However Agapanthus dislikes waterlogged, heavy soils or those that are prone to drying out during the summer and you need to avoid overly rich soils, as they promote sappy, moisture-rich growth which looks great but doesn’t tend to produce the impressive flower-heads and is vulnerable to frost-damage. Finally, ample water during the growing season is essential for success.

This all means that the more tender varieties should be grown in pots in a soil-based compost, and overwintered in a frost-free place indoors, such as a conservatory, porch or even a shed with a window. Keep the plants on the dry side during the winter. More robust varieties will cope well with outdoor winters given some protection.

A sunny spot under a deciduous tree is ideal as the soil will tend to be poor and dry and the plants will be protected from frost by the tree’s branches. The main season for agapanthus flowers is summer but some varieties are available as early as April or as late as December.

For decoration – cut the stems, giving plenty of length, and insert in a tall vase. These flowers often look best without foliage around them to distract from their stunning shape.

Africa Agapanthus photograph by John Wesley Barker, used under a creative commons attribution licence

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