Agapanthus: From Africa to Indiana

This might be one of the warmest winters on record for the Chicago area. But to a bulb from Africa, it's not saying much. On a 65 degree day in February (yes, I'm talking the Midwest), I decided to check on some of the bulbs I'd attempted to overwinter in the garage.

I was amazed over how well the Agapanthus fared. It had grown and bloomed last summer in a pot that barely contained its bulk. I left it in its pot, cut back the leaves and tucked it into a cardboard box lined with more cardboard and put it on an out-of-the-way shelf in the garage. Just three months later, it's ready to start without me.
Newly repotted Agapanthus is raring to go.
Its new leaves were pale but perky, and seemed not to care that they didn't get any light. It's why they're nearly white--they can't photosynthesize without sunlight. I knocked the plant out of its confinement and, using a sharp knife, cut its root ball in half. Each half ended up the perfect circumference for my bloemBagz planters.   I've used fabric grow bags before and had mixed results, however, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I thought they'd be perfect to sink into a larger planter in order to be able to pull the plant in the bag out later. It didn't work, probably because the soil surrounding the cloth pot turned it into a non-breathable barrier, which led to rot.          
So this year, I'll be leaving the bloemBagz planter out on its own. If it starts to dry out too quickly, I can place it into a larger plastic, fiberglass or ceramic pot. I potted them so the soil level leaves about an inch of material all around.
Bloem has stepped up the fashion on their planters, which are made from recycled water bottles and other recycled materials. It's double-layered yet breathable, so it should be ideal for plants whose roots don't like to be constantly wet. I used two red planters for the split Agapanthus. After watering the plant in, the bottom of the pot became so saturated, and I had to find something to put it on before bringing it inside for the night (Wet roots + 40 degree temps = bad things). The pots eventually soaked up the saturation so that I could put them directly on the heat mat under the lights. 

Here in the Midwest, where winters are no walk in the park, Agapanthus would rather die than bloom.  I've learned that, unless you buy one that is in bloom and/or incredibly ready-to-pop-out-of-its-pot root bound, it will take another season or more before it's ready to give you some flowers. 

The Agapanthus I divided is the only one that has any chance of blooming this year. Dividing it will promote root regeneration and growth after it settles into its new digs. Which is where the bottom heat and indoor culture comes in. Thanks to the unseasonable weather, I was able to perform the really messy job of dividing and repotting it in mid-February. So it has at least a month's head start. 
Variegated Agapanthus in September, 2016.

Variegated Agapanthus in February, 2017
Another Agapanthus has been growing indoors since I potted three small plants up into a clay planter. It's called Agapanthus 'Neverland', and it's basically a short variety with variegated leaves. Last September, I was given three plants in 2" pots to try. I planted them all into a 12" diameter clay pot and have been growing the potted plants under lights all winter long. It hasn't grown that much on the surface, but judging by how quickly it dries out, its roots are busy bulking up for the next round. I will be very pleased if it gets pot bound in another seven months. Perhaps it will bloom in 2018. When you're growing a plant that comes from the other side of the world, you have to be patient.



2 comments:

  1. You seem to have good luck with these. There is a person in our town that plant out agapanthus every summer. They are so pretty. I haven't tried them since I first started gardening MANY years ago. I didn't even know they had to be brought in to survive. ha... Something I hadn't thought about in years. Maybe that is why to this day I think of them as difficult to grow.

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    1. Thanks Lisa. It takes a commitment, something I'm not known for with plants. From a small plant, it takes probably around two years--a long time to go without the reward of a bloom. Perhaps we become less impatient as we mature.

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