The blooming of Agapanthus - sometimes known as the lily of the Nile - means Christmas must be near. When I was growing up, we always seemed to have big vases of them in the house at Christmas time, often mixed in with some stems of NSW Christmas bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum)- a pretty combination! Perhaps because we received some good rain in winter and early spring, this year seems to have been an exceptionally good one for Agapanthus, as they are everywhere at the moment, and our long driveway (which is never watered or fertilised) has a mighty battalion of their nodding blue and white heads. Passing schoolchildren (and bored louts prowling around at night) seem to enjoy decapitating the blooms with sticks.
They are a classic easy plant for Sydney and shouldn't be just relegated to hopeless, horrid places in the garden where nothing else will grow. They flower best in a sunny place and look most effective when massed. They grow quickly to form big clumps. Even in semi-shade, they may bloom and if not, the foliage still makes for lush greenery. Try them in colour-themes gardens: white Agapanthus are lovely nearby white variegated foliage (such as Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus' or when teamed with sultry purple-black flowers or foliage: Hemerocallis 'Black Ambrosia' or Euphorbia cotinifolia, for example. Blue versions look beautiful grown beneath Jacaranda trees (where they will cope well with the root competition), or with the lime-green fresh foliage of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold' or the yellow-striped leaves of Canna 'Striata'. They are also effective grown nearby to yellow or orange Dahlia cultivars .
In recent years, hybridisers have developed some exceptional forms of Agapanthus, such as the miniature blue 'Peter Pan', the tall, purplish-blue 'Purple Cloud', and midnight blue 'Guilfoyle', which all seem to have the same vigour of the original species. 'Queen Mum' is a gorgeous and robust cultivar with white flowers that have a blue-tinged centre. To avoid problems of their seeding into bushland, always deadhead your Agapanthus plants as soon as the blooms have faded. I think they do best if divided up and replanted every few years, digging in some compost to improve the soil.
This blog first posted 18 December 2008; updated 6 December 2020.
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