PLANTS
Agapanthus inapertus P.Beauv.

Drakensberg Agapanthus, Drooping Agapanthus (E), Bloulelie (A), hlakahla (Sw)

Family : Agapanthaceae (Agapanthus Family)
The  drooping  agapanthus  is  an  attractive,  tuberous   plant  which  occurs naturally  in  open  grassland  and  on   forest  margins   through  Mpumalanga, Swaziland,  northern  KwaZulu-Natal,  Gauteng  and   the   Northern  Province.
It  often  occurs  in  mountainous,  rocky  areas  and  is  common  along   the Drakensberg Escarpment.

The beautiful, dark blue to violet (occasionally white) flowers are held in dense heads on stalks up to 1.5m high. The individual flowers are tubular and pendulous (hence the common name "drooping agapanthus"). Flowering takes place from January to March.

The plants form dense clumps after a number of years with 6-8 leaves per shoot. The leaves are narrow, strap-shaped, grey-green and form a stem at the base of the plant. They are usually arranged in a fan shape and may be up to 500mm long. Unlike the more commonly cultivated agapanthus, the drooping agapanthus is deciduous and goes completely dormant in the dry winter months.

There are 10 different species of Agapanthus in South Africa that are endemic to South Africa, occurring nowhere else in the world. The botanical name, Agapanthus, is derived from the Greek agape (love) and anthos (flower). The species name inapertus is Latin meaning "closed" referring to the narrow tubular flowers. There are five subspecies of Apagapanthus inapertus which differ from each other in the shape and size of the flowers. Various cultivars have also been selected which are particularly attractive such as Agapanthus inapertus subsp. pendulus 'Graskop' which has exceptionally dark blue flowers.

Growing Agapanthus
All of the species of Agapanthus are excellent garden subjects. They are popular throughout the world, some having been cultivated in Europe since the late 17th century.

They are generally easy to cultivate and require little attention once established. They grow well in most soils, but will thrive in a rich, well drained, composted soil. Agapanthus should be planted in full sun for best flowering. They are strong growing and relatively pest free.

The deciduous drooping agapanthus is ideal for a summer rainfall water-wise garden as it is dormant during the dry winter months and does not require any water during this period. However, it can withstand irrigation during this period.

This species is also suitable for cold areas as it will not be affected by frost.

Agapanthus are easy to propagate from seed. However seeds have a limited viability and are best sown as fresh as possible. Sow the seed in deep seedling trays in a well drained seedling mix and place in a semi-shade area ensuring that they do not dry out.

Large plants may also be divided but this should only be done once they have formed large clumps. After splitting, the plants may not flower for a season while they are re-establishing.

The drooping agapanthus is used traditionally as a good luck charm.

SHARON TURNER
Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden

preview                                                                         main page