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.
Update February 2021 - Other hardy agapanthus cultivars are now available.  I planted 'Blue Yonder' two years ago and it came through the winter, though it hasn't grown large enough to bloom yet.  It doesn't seem very vigorous in my garden.  Last spring I planted 'Galaxy Blue' and 'Galaxy White' and look forward to seeing if they come through this winter.  Both increased in size and bloomed for me in their first summer, so they seem vigorous as advertised.  I should also note that my area is now considered Zone 6, as we rarely drop below zero in winter.


  1. Hi VW, that is great news for us in zone 7 TN too. I love agapanthus, even though it is on some people's plant I love to hate list. We had them in Houston and they were fabulous. They are iffy here and I don't want to waste good money on something that might not make it. These culitvars sound perfect. Thanks. I will be watching them in your garden first year. :-)

  2. I grew up in Palo Alto, and Agapanthus are ubiquitous (but always lovely) there. Now I am in Zone 7 and am tickled that there is a white (golly), hardy (golly) one for us non-Mediterranean folks. They look so good with Naked Ladies too.

  3. I really like them too. They also remind me of Southern California. I tried growing them here years ago before I knew they wouldn't make it here. I'll have to see if I can make a spot for some.

  4. I like aggies too, but some varieties are terrible weeds here and have escaped into national parks. I thought they were really tough but the ones in the sun have died I think. And even the ones in the shade are sulking.
    Good luck with your once a week ambition.

  5. I remembering you confessing your love of Agapanthus on a comment on my blog! Tough as nails does not do they justice - I've been on landscape renovations where we dug them up, threw them in the corner (no pot, mind you) and replanted them with no ill effects 3 months later.

    Sometimes plant appreciation is situational. Visitors from other parts of the country or world are often floored by the beauty of plants a local takes for granted. Hope yours prosper!

  6. VW...they are gorgeous blooms! I hope they will grow well for you in your garden! I've never had either one of them. Another idea! PS I am adding you to my blogroll...don't know how I've neglected that thus far:) Hope things are going well for ya girl!

  7. A big pat on your back. It can't be easy being a mommy to little ones, taking care of a home and garden and blogging. I have some agapanthus one of my commenters gave me. She lives nearby and I met her thru the blog. Mine has not bloomed but hers did and it was wonderful. I have mine in a pot and hope it blooms this year. Everyone I know loves them, and you too I see.

  8. I love High Country Gardens. I think I've gotten three catalogs so far this year. LOL. I'm completely smitten with the genus agastache and salvia and HCG has a good selection. I grew agapanthus years ago. By spring it always looked horrid and needed to be cut back but it always survived. I'm in Zone 8b

  9. I love Agapanthus. Seems to me that a visit to a Californian gas station could be a real treat. Lines of true blue umbels as you approach the pump.

    I purchased a blue one last week. It was sold bare root and with little detail other than to be named 'Agapanthe bleu'. I've put it in a pot and hope it flowers this year.

    Great post, I'm going to click on the links!


  10. I just wanted to correct your impression of me: I'd always be happy to be supportive, etc...but girl, I hate to cook!! ha ha...and you thought I'd be there with a meal...

  11. I love Agapanthus and have some in my garden, so I hope they survive the snow!
    I've just come across your blog and have enjoyed reading it, so thank you for sharing it with us out here in blogland!

  12. I purchased a hardy Agapanthus at the Toledo Botanical Gardens last year, but I had my doubts as to whether it really would be. I can now say for sure that it IS! It was a little slow to emerge, but it did. It was listed as 'Hardy Blue.'

    How did yours fare?

  13. I have a 27 ft. long south facing planter and have planted them with agapanthus Blue Storm. In Colo. Spgs. we are zone 5, but plan to turn the planter into a hot frame with heating cable. Will this fail, or might they survive with a glass cover and heating cable?

    1. I am not familiar with Blue Storm or your specific climate conditions, so I don't think I can make a good guess about whether they will survive. I have heard that if you want plants in pots to survive the winter, they need to be 2 zones hardier than your zone. Pots get colder and have more temperature changes in winter, which stresses the plants out. If your hot frame with a heating cable can keep them above the zone 7 lows(or whatever zone Blue Storm is rated), then hopefully they will survive. Good luck!


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