Plant of the month July 2012
Agapanthus (commonly known as African lily) are summer-flowering perennial plants, grown for their showy flowers, commonly in shades of blue and purple, but also white and pink. They thrive in any well-drained, sunny position in the garden, or grow these beauties in containers.
Agapanthus are herbaceous perennials originating from Southern Africa. Both deciduous and evergreen, some have thick, strappy leaves and others grass-like foliage. They range from fully hardy to half hardy, with the evergreen varieties generally the most tender.
Agapanthus thrives in fertile, well-drained, but moisture-retentive soil in full sun. Plant crowns in spring, 5cm (2in) below the ground and avoid planting in shade, as plants will either grow poorly or develop a mass of lush foliage at the expense of flowers.
Both deciduous plants and the more tender varieties with evergreen leaves are best protected over winter with a dry mulch of straw. Apply a 15-22cm (6-9in) deep layer around plants in autumn or early winter and remove in spring before growth starts. A few layers of horticultural fleece can also be thrown over the leaves of the evergreen varieties.
For the best flower displays, feed weekly or fortnightly with a balanced liquid feed during the growing season until flowers begin to show colour. Water agapanthus plants regularly during the growing season, but only sparingly in winter.
If your soil is prone to winter water logging, or you live in a cold area and want to grow tender varieties, try growing agapanthus in large containers. Choose pots 20-23cm (8-9in) in diameter and fill with John Innes No.2 or No.3 potting compost. Place in a light, dry, frost-free place in late autumn - a cold frame, greenhouse or conservatory is ideal.
Agapanthus plants have many uses. They can be used for cut flowers, planted as a specimen in containers or can be planted in borders with other herbaceous plant and shrubs.