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Agapanthus africanus – An Essential Perennial For A Mild Winter Climate Garden - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Agapanthus africanus is an evergreen perennial that is ideally suited to an herbaceous border in a Mediterranean and mild winter climate. Although its flowering period is brief, the plant looks good virtually all the year round. This makes it especially useful as a bedding plant, as it provides some stability between the annuals that have to be frequently replaced, and those perennials that require cutting down every so often.

Agapanthus, which is sometimes known as Lily-of-the Nile, forms clumps of narrow, fountain-like leaves. Like ornamental grasses and grass-like plants, it provides a vertical accent at a low height. This is considerably accentuated by the tall flower stalks that rise up to some 40cm above the plant. The spherical clusters of flowers are usually a deep blue, although white varieties are also available.

While Agapanthus africanus is most commonly used dotted among more prostrate plants, a large mass in bloom, can create a most stunning effect. I created a garden a couple of years ago for a customer who happens to be an artist. It was her idea, to which at first I strongly objected, to mass the Agapanthus in a long, narrow border. Needless to say, she was right and I was wrong, as the sight of the mass of blue, flower stalks is absolutely dramatic.

This is one more illustration of the benefits of bold planting. Admittedly, there is some risk involved in using one species and one color in a single bed, but on the other hand, it is one of the surest ways of creating a clear, bold composition, not to speak of an unusually exciting one.

Agapanthus africanus is one amongst several closely related species. Native to South Africa, they can grow in most soil types providing there is adequate drainage. The plants will rot in poorly drained soil, particularly in the winter. It is worthwhile therefore, to add well-rotted compost or worm castings to the soil on a regular basis. From my experience, there is little need to add chemical fertilizer, at least with established plants.

Although requiring some additional water during the dry season, Agapanthus grows satisfactorily under a water-conserving regime. It is therefore better for Mediterranean and dry climate plant groupings than tropical ones. It flowers best in full sun, but can suffer in very hot locations. It is advisable therefore to keep the roots cool by means of an organic mulch around the plants. It is also important to divide the clumps every 3-5 years or so.


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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach

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