by Adam Pasco

Knowing exactly how to care for plants is a matter of judgement and experience. Many plants need treating with tender loving care, but others can benefit from 'mean' treatment.

Removing an agapanthus plant, which as become pot bound, from a potKnowing exactly how to care for plants is a matter of judgement and experience. Many plants need treating with tender loving care, but others can benefit from 'mean' treatment.

Take my agapanthus. In their 'youth' agapanthus produce leaves and shoots, rather than flowers. Nothing surprising so far - many plants need to get established and fill their pots before settling down into a regular flowering routine. 

To get agapanthus to flower well you must almost ignore them. They need to become pot bound, so their thick, white, fleshy roots completely fill the pot. I'm never sure quite where the compost goes, but remove the pot from the rootball of an established plant and almost all you'll see is roots, with little compost remaining - just what's required to curtail excessive growth and to promote flowering. 

My agapanthus had been growing in this plastic pot for so long I had to cut it free in order to pot it on, which was clearly needed before it burst out of its own accord. (Surely it's verging on botanical cruelty to keep it in this pot bound state for too long?) Over time I want an agapanthus in an even larger pot, growing into an ever more impressive plant, and producing a greater number of flower-heads. 

When to pot on large plants is a judgement call we all have to make, and there really isn't a rulebook providing accurate timing. So, how can you tell? Well, checking the rootball is a good starting point. If little compost remains then there's nothing to retain moisture, and certainly no food. Potting into a slightly larger pot (about 1-2cm wider all round) surrounds the whole rootball with a layer of fresh compost for roots to grow out into. I just hope the extra compost doesn't prompt a return of those unproductive youthful habits, and I can look forward to more agapanthus flowers.

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Gardeners' World Web User 14/07/2009 at 21:33

I sowed some agapanthus seeds I saved last year and when I checked them yesterday I found that in spite of still being very small plants they were already becoming pot bound so I potted a couple on - probably a mistake but hopefully they will be interesting in the long run. Do you know if agapanthus come true from saved seed or will I have a surprise when they flower.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/07/2009 at 10:58

You may well have a surprise, especially if you are growing several different varieties and there is an opportunity for them to cross pollinate. Raising plants from seed always provides plants with an opportunity to produce offspring with different characteristics from their parents. However, this doesn't mean that offspring won't appear very similar to their parents. I'm sure you'll end up with something interesting, but do be patient, as plants can take three years or so before flowering for the first time.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/07/2009 at 18:16

Thanks for that Adam. Patience has become my middle name as my passion is growing plants and shrubs from cuttings. I only ever buy one of a plant then spend the next year or so propagating more from cuttings.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/07/2009 at 18:33

Hi Adam - Agapanthus' are brilliant plants, and I've got quite a few that have been growing for 4-5 years, and are now producing a lot of flowers. 'Enigma' is my current favorite. Apart from dividing & sowing seeds, can Agapanthus' be grown effectively from root cuttings?

Gardeners' World Web User 16/07/2009 at 09:07

Mike, despite agapanthus producing such a wonderful root system, I'm afraid they cannot be propagated from root cuttings. Division is probably your best way of raising identical plants to the parent, and plants can be raised from seed, although may look different from their parent. Root cuttings are not a common form of propagation, but can be used for propagating oriental poppies, Phlox paniculata, rhus, and other shrubs and perennials. Mint and other plants that spread by root runners can also be propagated in this way.

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