Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Agapanthus praecox a floral Gem

Agapanthus praecox sups. orientalis

Agapanthus means love flower, the name agapanthus is made up of two Greek words agape love and anthos flower. The Zulu name for this plant is ubani.

Photo taken of a bed of Agapanthus praecox in flower at my home in Mount Moreland

Agapanthus belongs to the plant family Agapanthaceae which consists of only one genus that is endemic to southern Africa, meaning that Agapanthus occurs naturally nowhere else on Earth

This is one of the best known of our South African plants abroad having been first introduced to and grown in Europe since about 1652.

Agapanthus praecox is easy to grow and will even grow in poor soils provided it receives sufficient water in particular in summer. For Agapanthus praecox to perform at its best, it however requires a rich soil with plenty of compost and plenty of water year round in particular in spring and summer. Agapanthus praecox do best in full sun. 

Agapanthus praecox need to be lifted and divided every three to four years to keep them healthy and vigorous this being done just after they have finished flowering. They usually flower best in their first season after having been divided. When replanting reduce the foliage by a third to one half and reduce the roots by two-thirds. Replant immediately and water thoroughly.

Agapanthus are mostly free of pests but can from time to time be attached by the Agapanthus Borer Moth, Neuranethes spodopterodes which is native to South Africa. The larvae bore into the budding inflorescence and as they mature they tunnel down towards the leaves and rhizomes. The Agapanthus borer is often mistakenly referred to as Amaryllis borer Brithys crini pancratii which they are most certainly not. A severe attack can promote rot and may kill the plant.

The introduced exotic European garden snail can at times also do considerable damage if not controlled.

Agapanthus praecox with its neat growth habit and spectacular flowers is an asset and a must for every proudly South African garden and amenity horticultural landscape in the regions where they grow best.

For much of the year the Agapanthus plant does not attracts large numbers of insects or other creatures but when it comes to flowering time they attracts large numbers of bees in particular honey bees to the spectacular blue flowers. And along with the bees creatures that feed on bees such as crab spiders that wait in a flower to catch the fist unsuspecting bee that lands to take nectar and pollen as can bee seen in the photo below.

 A crab spider feeding on a bee that it has just caught.

No proudly South African garden or landscape should be without these most spectacular gems of our South African floral kingdom.

In addition to being spectacular garden plants Agapanthus praecox have many uses in traditional medicine and magic as well as being used as love charms. 

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