February 3, 2009
New Hardy Agapanthus for Zone 5
So what if agapanthus graces the landscaping of every strip mall and gas station in California? Long-term gardeners in that region might be sick of this plant's sturdy, strappy foliage and the periwinkle flower balls that burst from long stems. But in my cold-winter corner of the world, this tender perennial had to be treated as a houseplant or an annual . . . until now. Last month I was delighted to open my copy of High Country Garden's Spring 2009 catalog and find 'Cold Hardy White' agapanthus (pictured above), rated for zone 5 winters, though it is deciduous and young plants must be heavily mulched. Finally! I've wondered many times if hybridizers would someday create an agapanthus hardy enough for my garden. At the HCG website I also found 'Kingston Blue Strain' (pictured below), another hardy agapanthus. Of course I promptly placed an order and can't wait to see how these two do in my garden.
I fell in love with agapanthus during the three years we lived in Santa Clara, California. Soon after we moved into a rented duplex, a couple of agapanthus seedlings sprang up in the backyard. No other agapanthus were nearby, so I guess these were a gift from the birds. At the time our budget was very tight - and of course I wasn't going to buy much for a rental garden anyway - so these small volunteers were a very pleasant surprise. Thanks to Santa Clara's loooong growing seasons, plus plenty of compost, fertilizer and water, the little seedlings grew quickly. By the time we left, they had been transplanted and one clump divided to make three large plants in the front garden.
Agapanthus are iron-tough plants. They'll grow in full sun or full shade (though they don't flower as much in full shade). After getting established, agapanthus are fairly drought tolerant. They don't seem to be troubled by pests or diseases. No wonder they're so commonly planted in mild climates!
I'll be sure to post on the progress of my new agapanthus later in the summer. By the way, this post was not solicited by High Country Gardens. I'm just excited about these new introductions. In fact, I solicited HCG for the use of the pictures in this post, and they kindly agreed. More information about these plants can be found on these HCG web pages:
Agapanthus 'Cold Hardy White'
Agapanthus 'Kingston Blue Strain'
And did you notice this post exceeds my once per week goal (set in my previous post)? I'm patting myself on the back.
Update April 2011 - Unfortunately, neither of my hardy agapanthus made it through the first winter. I covered them with bark mulch before the winter, but maybe that wasn't the best way to protect them. Anyway, my zone 5 is a harsh one with very long winters and lots of early and late frosts. These plants might work in other zone 5's or in microclimates. But if you're unsure about how they'll do in your climate, just order one or two to begin with and wait to see if they make it through the winter for you.