Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Agapanthus theory and practice

The bulbs of the African lily the Agapanthus (Liliaceae) requires a planting position in full sun; if the bulb is to mature and produce those striking architectural balls of flowers on long slender stems high above their clumps of rather strap like leaves. Those leaves of the plant can look insignificant beneath the showy blooms and are often best hidden if the Agapanthus is to be planted within a mixed border: whilst in a contemporary planting scheme a grouping of the bulbs emphasises the form of the plant. 

Though the Agapanthus demands sun light it also needs a richer soil than we have here in north eastern Spain, the addition or organic matter will be a requirement. Pam down in the Costa De Luz wondered whether the bulbs might benefit from being placed in the shade though I think, as I said earlier, that the bulbs need sunlight to mature. 

Some forms of Agapanthus are frost hardy and generally the narrower the leaves the tougher the plant. Here we have cold dry winters and have managed to get our Canna Lily plants through successive winters with a layer of mulch for protection. (We recorded temperatures down to -12C couple of years ago!)  Reading garden blogs from round the world it is apparent that many gardeners go through an Agapanthus stage; and although many people grow them successfully they also seem to tire of the bulbs as planting fashions change, though that is equally true of other garden plants.

 In our young Mediterranean garden we have planted only a couple of small Agapanthus but will propagate others in future years by dividing the crowns. Division is the method of choice if you want your young plants to come true to type, whilst hybrid seed will of course produce plants which vary from the parent plants.


 I took this photograph of Agapanthus in a garden centre to remind me of how well a group of the bulbs could work. Down in nearby Figueres city centre a roundabout has been planted with a host of Agapanthus bulbs though the flowers had passed before I found them. It will be interesting to see how the civic gardeners deal with the faded plants whether or not this is to be a permanent display or just a seasonal highlight. 

It is claimed that the Agapanthus bulb is tolerant of atmospheric pollution; and given the smoke filled sky that tonight signals the beginnings of the local wildfire season that may be a desirable quality to have.


  1. Thanks Colin and Carol. They are so beautiful with their full mopheads of blooms that I'll keep trying.

    Maybe the soil wasn't good enough, I'm rotting down some more horse manure and will work that in in the Autumn. We had one tiny golf-ball size half bloom in blue but plenty of green.

  2. Agapanthus is such a lovely plant. I have some in my front garden. Beautiful.

    1. We are about to buy our first agapanthus: had them in Tanzania and saw them in SA planted along the motorway central reservation. They are said to be so tough that they will come back even after being smashed by lorries. Here in Andalucia I guess the difficulty will be keeping them moist in the summer months - maybe this is why they do well in pots locally, easier to irrigate well. Love them to bits! MN

  3. love agapanthus, especially the blue ones! when would you recommend planting them? (I live in southern spain)