Agapanthus inapertus P.Beauv.
Common names: Drakensberg agapanthus, drooping agapanthus (E), bloulelie (A), hlakahla (Sw)
The drooping agapanthus is an attractive, tuberous plant which occurs naturally in open grassland and on forest margins.
The beautiful, dark blue to violet (occasionally white) flowers are held in dense heads on stalks up to 1.5 m 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 500 mm long. Unlike the more commonly cultivated agapanthus, the drooping agapanthus is deciduous and goes completely dormant in the dry winter months.
Distribution and habitat
Agapanthus inapertus occurs 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.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
There are 6 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 agapé (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. These are subsp. inapertus, subsp. hollandii, subsp. intermedius, subsp. parviflorus and subsp. pendulus.
Various cultivars have also been selected which are particularly attractive such as Agapanthus inapertus subsp. pendulus 'Graskop', which has exceptionally dark blue flowers.
A. inapertus is used traditionally as a good luck charm.
Growing Agapanthus inapertus
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 Agapanthus inapertus 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.
Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden
6 February 2001
Plant Type: Bulb
SA Distribution: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer
Flower colour: Blue, White
Aspect: Full Sun, Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy