Agapanthus x orientalis: African Lily

This section, begins with a genus that, though included in this group, is not really a bulbous plant, having instead a greatly shortened underground rhizome with fleshy roots. The genus embraces some 10 species native to South Africa, where they generally grow on bare mountain slopes or ones only sparsely covered with shrubs.

The leaves of the species are basal, strap-shaped, narrowing towards the end and ter-minating in a rounded tip. They are decorative in themselves for they are a vivid deep green. The flowers are borne on tall stems in umbels subtended by two bracts. They are large, bell-shaped, a lovely blue colour and very long-lived.

It is not easy to say exactly which species the cultivated plants, generally sold under the name A. africanus, belong to. At least three species are found in culture, namely the true A. africanus with leaves only about 15 cm (6 in) long and 1 cm (½ in) wide and dark blue-violet flowers; A. orientalis with large blue flowers and leaves up to 70 cm (28 in) long and 3.5 cm (1-¼ in) wide (the leaves of both species are persistent, evergreen) and A. cam-panulatus, with leaves smaller than those of the preceding species, which dies down for the winter. Naturally all three species, which readily interbreed, have given rise to a large number of widely grown cultivars. Because the flowers of even the type species are very similar it is difficult to tell which parent figures in the ancestry of a given cultivar. Nevertheless, most plants grown in Europe answer more closely to the description of A. orientalis.

Hardy cultivars, introduced in the United States of America, which die back for the winter and readily survive even harsh conditions without protection, are probably descended from A. campanulatus.

Agapanthus should be grown in good compost, such as John Innes potting compost No. 2, in a sunny spot; it may be put outdoors in summer. During the winter rest period it should be kept at the lowest possible temperature and watering should be reduced to the minimum. Propagation is by division and readily also by seed.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Agapanthus x orientalis: African Lily

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