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Agapanthus: Cool Beauty For Sweltering Summers

Agapanthus: Cool Beauty For Sweltering Summers

Get ready for a botanical love affair, or as the legendary UK gardener Alan Titchmarsh puts it, "Sex on stalks" - his way of charmingly describing Agapanthus praecox. Forget the elegant common names like African Lily or Lily of the Nile; these floral beauties aren't lilies at all. Agapanthus, derived from the Greek words for 'love flower,' adds a touch of romance to your garden when it flowers in spring and summer. Who can resist falling for a plant tough as old boots but way better looking?

2023 Plant of the Year

Hold onto your gardening gloves because one of South Africa’s top grower's hybrids, Blackjack, earned the coveted Plant of the Year title at the 2023 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Clearly, it's not just South Africans swooning over this blooming sparkler. These plants are the crackerjacks of the flora world—water-wise, resilient, and boasting evergreen leaves that strut their stuff even in winter.

Agapanthus is the Chuck Norris of plants—undaunted by wind, salt, or poor soil. They play the wet or drought conditions card with poise, standing tall and unfazed. They're basically the cool, laid-back celebrities of the garden world. 

Colours and Sizes

Agapanthus comes in all sizes and a selection of colours. Blue and white bicolours are the rockstars, but there are purples, mauves, and the BlackJack, that is a purple so deep it's practically flirting with black. A pink variety might be introduced in the near future, along with a droopy-headed creation from A. inapertus. 

From the petite ‘Tom Thumb’ at 10–50cm to the towering 'White Giant' at 1.5m or more, there is one for every corner of your garden. Some hybrids even put on a repeat flowering show, making your garden a year-round colour extravaganza.

How to Grow The Best Blooming Agapanthus 

Get ready to kick your garden up a notch with this indigenous beauty! When it's planting time, give these floral superstars their personal space – 20-75cm apart, tailored to rhizome size and variety. They should be planted with their necks just below ground level. Too much shade will reduce flowering, so find a semi-shaded stage for optimal flowering, and let them showcase their beauty in fertile and well-drained soil. Water them deeply every 3-4 days during those dry stretches.

Easy to Love and Easier to Care For 

Agapanthus maintenance? Piece of cake. Dividing and replanting every four or so years keeps them happy, and they are cool with a bit of neglect. Just ensure each piece has roots and foliage. The best time to divide them is in March.  

For an evergreen border in scorching sunlight, Agapanthus is your go-to. The dwarf varieties play nice at the front, while the larger ones show off behind them. Imagine a full row of blue or white along your property – it's like a clean design statement straight out of a gardening magazine.

The only drama in Agapanthus' life? Lily borers. These pests can be party crashers, so keep an eye out. 

Otherwise, Agapanthus packs heaps of flower power that you (and bees) are bound to love.

The Legends of Agapanthus

Wait, there's more! According to South African legends, Agapanthus has protective powers and can even ward off thunderstorms. Move over, rain dance—here comes the flower power. They are traditionally used in medicine, while Xhosa brides wear roots as necklaces so that they give birth to strong and healthy babies. In Zulu tradition, they are the go-to remedy for chest ailments.

For those wondering about the myth of colour-changing flowers—sorry to burst your bubble. It's not a magical transformation. What in fact happens is that if you’re growing from seed, they may revert to another ‘ancestral’ colour, but the mother plant will always stay true. 

So, gardeners, choose your love: True Blue or Pure White?

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