Patience will reward you with surprisesI have always said that patience will bring great things, when you are dealing with nature and plants. Sometimes these surprises come in a few months and other times it takes decades. But when you finally see the beautiful results, the time spent is always well worth the effort.
By: John Zvirovski , The Jamestown Sun
I have always said that patience will bring great things, when you are dealing with nature and plants. Sometimes these surprises come in a few months and other times it takes decades. But when you finally see the beautiful results, the time spent is always well worth the effort.
This past week, as I was sitting on the couch, I noticed something different in my sickly plants that I bring in for the winter each year. My agapanthus plant that I take in for the winter had set a flower stem. Usually these plants bloom from early summer through autumn in the heat of summer when they are actively growing, so I never anticipated it would happen indoors during the winter months. I have had this plant for three years, and it has never bloomed for me. I have babied it during the summer, always looking for that first bud stem with no results. Now it decides to send up a flower stem without any effort or nurturing on my part, and just decides to bloom during the cold months.
Flowers during the winter season are always an added bonus in our indoor environment. This event has just put a smile on my face as I watch it grow; two days ago it began to bloom. Its pretty lilac blue flowers resemble small lily blooms that cluster in a loose ball at the end of a 3- to 4-foot stem. In its native habitat of South Africa, it is known as the Lily of the Nile. Although not a true lily, its name comes from the shape of the flowers.
Very few flowers bloom in the shade of blue, but this one has a true baby blue shade to it that is absolutely soothing to the senses. It does not have much of a scent, but its ball of flowers definitely compensates for this deficiency.
Agapanthus are available in two different styles. They are either evergreen or deciduous. The evergreen varieties are subject to warmer climates and grow all season, with blooms appearing in summer and autumn. The deciduous variety will die back during the winter months and survive colder temperatures, then come back up from the root in spring to initiate blooms in later summer. Don’t be fooled by a cool and warm season plant when it comes to the agapanthus as a cool season plant is considered zones 6 through 10 and a warm season plant is a zone 8 through 11. Keep in mind that we are in a zone 4 and these will not survive our winters outdoors.
These plants grow from a root called a rhizome. As the plant matures with age, these rhizomes slowly divide and create new plants. The leaves grow from a central point on each rhizome and develop long, strap-like leaves that will reach about 18 to 24 inches in length depending on the variety you are growing. Typically flowers will appear on plants within three to five years of a plant being divided. If a plant is grown from seed, it can take anywhere from seven to 10 years.
They prefer to grow outdoors in a sunny and warm location with soils that are well-drained and slightly organic in nature. A wet soil that receives too much moisture will kill this plant as it is subject to drier conditions. A location that is too rich in organic matter will tend to produce more leaves and less flowers, so fertilize sparingly.
In our region, it is best to plant your agapanthus in containers, so they can be easily moved in and out depending on the season. Agapanthus do not like to have their roots disturbed too often, so container growing ensures a stable growing condition.
When the plant reaches maturity, it will send up one or numerous flower stems that arise from the center like an allium. As the top opens, small flower buds develop on thin stems to produce anywhere from 12 to 50 flowers. These blooms can open in shades of light blue, pink, white and deep purple with some even developing a two-toned striped coloring.
“Snowstorm” is a white flowering variety, while the “Headbourne’” selections create shades of violet blue. The “African” variety produces a deep blue flower and the “Peter Pan” selection is a dwarf variety that produces light blue and lavender flowers. All are great selections to try for something different.
Typically this plant likes to be somewhat root bound in order to go into bloom, but when grown in the ground it is more dependent on the age and size of the plant. Luckily, we do not have to worry about that around here, so plant your agapanthus in a container that is anywhere from 8 to 12 inches in diameter for best results, unless you have a very large plant. They should be divided every three to five years to keep them healthy and vigorous.
As I enjoy the first blooms of this plant, I await a few other’s plants in the house to surprise me with their beautiful blooms. I have a plumeria and a bird of paradise that I grew from seed that are both entering their 17th year of growing without ever developing a flower. I am sure in the next couple of years, they will also delight me with a flower stem that I can enjoy and make all this time well spent. The plumeria actually tried to bloom a few years back, but its flower bud failed to produce any flowers and dried up before it amazed me. I have not given up yet, as these plants both have a sentimental value to them, so I will continue to wait and nurture them until I see the results in which I am waiting. When they do bloom, I know the time will be well worth the wait as both produce the most incredible flowers around.