Though agapanthus originated in South Africa one of its more common names is “Lily of the Nile”, suggesting its history emanates through Egyptian or Sudanese culture. Not to be confused with the Blue Lily of the Nile Nymphaea caerulea agapanthus is not a narcotic but just a humble garden plant.
The varietals of agapanthus that most people grow in their gardens are clumping perennials that flower in late spring on protruding stalks that reach up to 2m (6.5ft) or more. The most common colour is blue but today many gardeners are opting for dark purples (‘black’) or white flowering versions and they are being combined in garden beds to great effect.
While agapanthus are very easy to grow the trick is actually keeping them from devouring your garden space. Their tuberous root system is very shallow and can be quite invasive if they’re not looked after well. Agapanthus will continue to spread smothering any plant that dares to withstand its onslaught. For this reason, many gardeners have opted against planting them in their gardens or have ripped them out completely.
There is another alternative though – dwarf agapanthus. Growing to a maximum 50cm (20in) they add a desired dimension and make a great border plant. Dwarf agapanthus is still invasive and need to be monitored each season but as they are much smaller than their predecessors are easier to maintain.
We’ve had these as a border plant for the past two growing seasons and they truly are a wonderful addition to the garden. Their deep green foliage that weeps over the garden wall through the colder months is enough of a reason to use them in small bed plantings. But then as spring starts its journey to summer spears begin to protrude from the plant reaching their maxim and then bursting open to show a glorious umbrella of trumpet shaped flowers.
How to Grow Dwarf Agapanthus
Agapanthus can be purchased either bare-rooted or potted in soil. If they’re bare-rooted then they will need to be planted out in late winter or early spring in a pH neutral soil that drains well. Potted agapanthus can be planted out at almost any time and will need a minimal dose or liquid fertiliser to help them transplant well.
Once growing, agapanthus requires little in the way of maintenance enjoying a feed of fertiliser prior to spring and removing yellowing foliage throughout the year. Once your agapanthus have flowered remove the stalks before they begin to produce seeds as this will drain them of much needed nutrients for flowering the next season.
Agapanthus requires a good source of water.
How to propagate agapanthus
The best way to propagate agapanthus, whether it be dwarf agapanthus or the larger varieties, is to divide them at the end of their flowering season as the weather begins to cool. Using two gardening forks in the same way as you would salad servers, prise the tuberous roots from the ground and shake of the excess soil.
Then, with a sharp knife, begin dividing the agapanthus into smaller plants and position them apart in the garden bed or discard excess stock. Agapanthus can be grown very well in containers and they make great neighbour plants.