Agapanto - Agapanthus

Agapanto - Agapanthus

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Agapanthus or Agapanto is a plant with rhizomatous roots, native to southern Africa; in spring it produces long ribbon-like leaves, 4-6 cm wide and up to 50-80 cm long, which give rise to large bushes, the leaves are shiny, thick, slightly leathery, of a clear color. During the summer months between the arched leaves develops a fleshy, rigid, erect stem, up to 60-100 cm high, at the apex of which numerous tubular flowers bloom, of blue or blue color, united in a large roundish inflorescence. During the winter months the foliage deteriorates and dries, therefore the plant enters vegetative rest until late spring. These large rhizomes are easy to grow and can usually produce 2-3 inflorescences in a vegetative season; There are numerous cultivars, with compact or particularly bright colors, always in shades of blue and blue, some varieties have white flowers. They are difficult to settle in the borders, more often they are used in scrub, or as single specimens, very often they are also cultivated in pots.

Why choose agapanto

Among the geophytes one of the most loved is undoubtedly the agapanto: it is in fact equipped with very decorative leaves and, thanks to its vertical bearing, it can easily find collocations and combinations in the flowerbeds and borders. The characteristic that makes it particularly attractive, however, is the intense blue or blue color of its flowers. He manages to brighten up the garden in the moments in the hottest months, marrying perfectly with almost all the other colors (the pairings with yellow, red or pink are very beautiful). Given its scarce rusticity, it is more readily cultivated in the Center-South and on the coasts even if, with some precautions and carefully choosing the varieties, cultivation in the northern regions is certainly not prohibitive.


Type of plant

Flowering plant with rhizomatous root
Foliage Persistent to deciduous, depending on the variety and climate
Height From 30 to 150 cm
Width From 20 to 50 cm
Planting density From 3 to 5 per m2
Maintenance light
Growth Normal, the rhizome slowly expands
Water needs high
Rusticitа From rustic to delicate, depending on the species
Exposure Sun, South or East
Ground Deep, rich and fresh, but with excellent drainage
Use Borders, vases, Mediterranean garden
Propagation Division; seed (only for enthusiasts)

Origins and characteristics

Agapanto, a native of South Africa, is part of the Amaryllidaceae family; to its genus belong about 10 species characterized by rhizomatous roots that develop horizontally from which branch out the long and narrow dark green leaves. From the center of the plant, from July to September, the flower stems are produced with semi-circular open umbels on top. Each can also bear more than 100 campanula-shaped flowers, usually blue in color (but there are also cultivars in white, blue and even with pink shades). The final height is very variable: there are dwarf varieties that do not exceed 20 cm while others touch the meter and a half.
In gardens they can be used in many ways: generally they accompany and enhance the beauty of other essences, especially perennials herbaceous and shrubs. Depending on their final size, they can then be inserted in the first or second floor in the borders. They also combine well with succulents such as agaves or opuntas, in the Mediterranean garden or perennial grasses.


They prefer sunny locations, or with some hours of shade during the hottest hours of the day; during the winter period these rhizomes are in vegetative rest, therefore they can bear temperatures of some degrees below zero; in areas with very cold winters, Agapanthus can be grown in pots, so that they can be stored in a cold greenhouse during the winter. It is also possible to dig up the rhizomes in autumn, or mulch the soil near the rhizome with dry leaves, peat or straw, so as to prevent the soil from being subjected to excessively intense frosts.
It is a heliophilous and thermophilic vegetable: it is good to put it in full sun (with exposure to South or East). If we live in a windy area we reserve a well protected area: the strong currents can in fact cause the stems to break, thus irreparably compromising the vintage bloom.


The Agapanto is watered from April to May until September; it is watered only in case of very dry climate, avoiding excesses and water stagnation, and waiting for the soil to dry perfectly between one watering and another. During the cold months waterings are suspended. The Agapanthus is a plant that suffers a lot from the excessive amount of water and the undrained soils because this condition brings the formation of dangerous water stagnations because they cause root rot.
If the specimens of this particular plant are grown in pots they need more attention with regard to the water supply and the danger of stagnation.
The agapanto does not require constant care, if not a certain attention to irrigation. During the first two years from the plant it is good to carefully follow the plants making sure that the soil remains always slightly damp. The administrations will be intensified when the plant begins to emit the stems; we will reduce only when these begin to wither.

Division and propagation multiplication

The multiplication of Agapanto can also take place by seed, in spring; the plants obtained from seed take about 3-4 years to develop enough to be able to bloom. More often the propagation by division of the rhizome is practiced in autumn, taking care to maintain some well-developed roots for each portion practiced.
When deciding to plant new specimens of this genus it is good to prepare a sub-layer that has excellent drainage characteristics as the plant is subject to radical rot caused by water stagnation. It is also a good idea to prepare a mixture with soil and organic substance so that the plant can have all the nourishment necessary for good growth.
The agapanto should be left as quiet as possible: its root system, in fact, does not like to be handled. The division must be carried out at least every 5 years, at the end of winter (or in November, in the South). The rhizomes are extracted from the soil with a pitchfork and are divided with a well cleaned and sharp knife, making sure to leave at least one eye to each. The cuts are disinfected with sulfur or other special products before reassembling the flowerbed (the ideal would be to put in a vase for at least a year).


Use a good rich and soft, deep and very well drained soil. this is because the agapanto is a plant that suffers a lot from excessive humidity and water stagnation.
This bulb must be buried at a depth of at least 8 cm taking care to cover it well. For growing in pots we recommend a container with a minimum diameter of 20 cm in anticipation of the future development of the growth of the root system.

Pests and diseases

Usually they do not fear the attack by pests or diseases, this because this variety of plant has excellent qualities of resistance and good characteristics of rusticity. Not for this reason the plant is resistant to the presence of excessive humidity and stagnant water, which are particularly harmful because they quickly cause the formation of root rot. If not treated promptly they can lead to the death of the bulb itself.


Cultivation, in the right climatic conditions, is not at all difficult and gives certain results in terms of flowering. If we live in regions with harsh winters, we will have to pay more attention to it.
How to choose the plant
The ideal is to choose potted specimens: the roots of the agapanthus do not like to be handled and, in the case, they need a long time to recover and return to bloom. We opt for bare-rooted specimens only if we have no other options. In that case it is suggested to leave the plant in a rather narrow container for at least a year: this will stimulate its growth and we will then be able to insert it more successfully in the flowerbeds the following year.
Plant in the open ground
In the Center-North we proceed at the beginning of spring, when we are sure that there are no more frosts. We work in depth the soil incorporating abundant organic matter and making sure that the water is drained effectively. Otherwise we lighten the substratum with sand and soil for flowering plants; we create a layer of gravel on the bottom. We extract the earthen bread from the jar and absolutely avoid breaking it. Let us set it so that the root is about 15 cm deep while the "eyes" just below the surface. Depending on the final size of the cultivar we distance the subjects from 20 to 40 cm (in one square meter we can put from 3 to 5).
We compact well and irrigate abundantly.
Potted plant
The roots of the agapanto over time become very voluminous, but we will always have to try to keep them a little tight. The availability of space in fact pushes the plant to expand to the detriment of the production of stems. To get fast results the advice is to insert three rhizomes in a 40 cm diameter vase. We take special care of the draining layer on the bottom and choose a rich soil that is able to stay fresh.


In general it is good not to expose the agapantas to temperatures below 5 ° C. For a good result in the northern regions, even with plants in the open ground, we recommend first of all a good positioning in the South. It is essential to cure drainage (in winter the rhizomes rot very easily) incorporating a lot of sand.
We also prefer the varieties of the Campanulatus species, visibly more resistant to harsh winters. We absolutely avoid the delicate Africanus and Praecox.

Agapanto in winter

The plants in full earth must be mulched abundantly with leaves, straw or other material of destruction. The minimum required thickness is 20 cm.
The vases, especially in the northern regions, should instead be collected in a bright room, but not heated. The ideal temperature is about 8-10 ° C. Inducing a slight vegetative rest is essential because the plant, the following year, emits abundant flower stems.


Agapanthus need good nutrient supply.
In the open ground, in April and then in June, we spread a granular product for flowering plants (or tomatoes) with a good potassium supply. When the stems begin to wither we can instead pass to a fertilizer in which phosphorus is preponderant: the plant will store nutrients in its roots and will be ready to face the following winter and spring.
In pot we can instead opt for liquid formulations, similar to those described above. The administration, in this case, can occur weekly during irrigation.

Agapanto cleaning and pruning

It is necessary to eliminate the withered umbrella (but not the stems) avoiding that it goes to seed: they would unnecessarily steal energy for the development of the root system.
We remove any dried, rotten or compromised leaves by cutting them at the base.


In this respect the agapanto is very resistant. We only need to pay attention to excessive watering or stagnant humidity in winter: they could cause rotting in the rhizome.
In spring the leaves can be eaten by snails or slugs: we protect the plant with natural remedies or special granules.

Agapanto - Agapanthus: Variety of Agapanthus

In nature there are about 10 species of agapanthus, all originating in southern Africa. At horticultural level the only widespread and used to obtain hybrids are the Agapanthus praecox, the Agapanthus Africanus (once called “umbellatus) and the Campanulatus.
Early Agapanthus reaches 60-70 cm in height, but there are also dwarf varieties that do not exceed 40 cm. They have persistent ribbon-like foliage, very decorative. The flowers are arranged in dense umbels, up to 7 cm long, blue or bright blue. It is the most widespread and used species for crossbreeding: it is in fact appreciated for its elegance and long flowering season. Not at all rustic it can be grown in the open ground only in areas with mild winters; elsewhere they must be placed in pots before being sheltered in the bad season.
African Agapanto It is larger in size: it can easily exceed the meter in height. It has evergreen foliage, shorter and wider than the previous one. The flowers are arranged in large spherical umbels and are generally of a beautiful medium-delicate blue. It blooms in full summer (July and August) in a very scenic way. Also this is decidedly not very rustic and cultivation in flower beds is to be reserved only for the Center-South and the coasts.
Campanulate Agapanthus more dwarf than the others (rarely more than half a meter, including stems). It has deciduous, narrow and long foliage, of a beautiful greyish green, extremely ornamental even without flowering. The corollas are bell-shaped, pale blue. They are very dense with umbels. They are produced from mid-August to the end of September. It is the most rustic species and, with the due care of positioning and correct drainage, it is possible to try to cultivate it in the open ground even in the northern regions. In the right conditions it resists even at -12 ° C.
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All summer
Division November (in the South), March-April (Center-North)
Irrigation From April to September, to be intensified when the stems are released
Potassium fertilization March to August
Phosphorus fertilization August-end of October
Winter retreat Late October-April