x

Type in what your trying to find.

Garden Design

Agapanthus bites the dust

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

February 23, 2014

In warm temperate to subtropical areas, agapanthus have been the gardener’s friend for decades. Cheap to buy and easy to propagate, drought tolerant, low maintenance and reliably flowering through November and December, agapanthus can be found in most suburban gardens through east coast Australia. But I’ve just removed the last of mine as this previous stalwart is now an ugly liability. What happened?

agapanthus4

First, of course, agapanthus has a weed potential in cooler climates, such as the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and inland areas. Although there are newer varieties that are said to be sterile, like ‘Black Pantha’, I’ve not had much success growing these in my Sydney garden. Unlike the species, they do not seem to be particularly vigorous.

But for me, the sad fate of agapanthus doesn’t lie with its weedy tale but a two-pronged attack that makes it a garden liability.

agapanthus2First, there is the persistent mealy bug attack that turns its leaves into twisted, deformed ribbons instead of the strong, strap-like shape they should be. My agapanthus over the past few years have shrunk from being lovely large clumps of architectural strap leaves into pathetic, pale echoes of their former glory. The leaves are short, narrow, thin and with wavy edges, exposing the white leaf base and the many shrivelled old leaves which used to be hidden by the newer foliage.

agapanthus3

To add insult to this permanent injury, the perpetual debilitation sends the agapanthus leaves, once seemingly bullet proof on even the hottest days, into melt down. I’m assuming that the constant sap-sucking of the mealy bugs compromises that ability of the leaves to translocate sufficient moisture to protect them in heat waves.

 

The consequences, which you’ll see all over Sydney, are acres of burned agapanthus, shrivelled and white from a few over 40 degree days this past summer. Our once reliable, clumping ground cover is gone forever.

agapanthusSad, but no doubt partly our own fault from planting so many monocultures of this, and other, plants. I remember being warned during my landscape design course about the dangers of planting monocultures – that they would be like a huge ‘EAT AT JOE’S’ signpost for any voracious beastie or disease, allowing it to proliferate to obscene, devastating numbers, eventually becoming a permanent and impossible to control pest.

Did we listen? No. Has it happened? Yes. Will something else like this happen to another favourite plant? It already has – next instalment – the demise of the lilly pilly hedge.

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Original creator of GardenDrum. South Coast NSW.
0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
22 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Peta Trahar
6 years ago

So sad……and definitely NOT happening here at Bilpin. Ours are thriving with Eastern Spinebills enjoying the nectar. “Purple Cloud” has been spectacular and the gorgeous species, Agapanthus inapertus with flowers that are almost waxy, is blooming now. Move on up.

Kaylene
Kaylene
6 years ago

The same is happening here in Brisbane. Can’t the mealy bug be controlled? If this is a result of monoculture, could you replant with clumps of other species of Agapanthus? Or would the mealy bug just move on to the new species grown in the same space?

Ambra Sancin
6 years ago

Yikes, I’d planted these at my mum’s house as I thought they were bulletproof, but mine too have succumbed to mealybugs the past few summers. I’ve also noticed that a once healthy gardenia – about three metres away from the agapanthus – is now getting mealy bugs. Would they be coming from the agapanthus?

Adam
Adam
6 years ago

All I can say is Thank Goodness. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Over planted and pretty boring for most of the year, I won’t miss seeing these gone from tacky fast food and discount store carparks. – there are far more interesting things to plant!

JenniP
6 years ago

You have my sincere condolences, Catherine. Here, in Western Victoria, we have many “missing teeth” in our aggie swathes following a series of searing 45 degree days some weeks back. They appeared to rally so well initially, but a week or so later simply collapsed and passed on. Gosh what a good lesson is the “Eat at Joes” sign; thank you for making us consider our mass-planting strategies in another light.

Julie Thomson
6 years ago

It’s been gnawing away at me, too, this summer, that my previously robust and glossy aggies, have lost much of their verve. Not mealy bugs, but definitely scorched and saggy yellowing leaves more abundant than previously noted. I love the damn things, weed or no, and will persist. I lhink the 40+degrees days we had here in January tested the toughest in the garden, and we will restore and return.

Bernadette
Bernadette
6 years ago

Thanks so much for the explanation! We moved to Bunbury, WA about six months ago and the whole front entrance was resplendent with lovely agapanthus. Now they are a sad dried out mess and very burnt looking. I’m thinking to clear them all out and plant something else but can I rescue these plants and relocate them do you think? I’ve taken away most of the dried leaves but they almost feel too moist so I’m not sure if my issue is mealy bug/heat/overwatering! My sister arrives from the UK in a few days and I’d love to have the place a bit nicer!

Binoz
Binoz
6 years ago

Thanks Catherine,

I’ll give it a go when it cools down ( 30 again forecast for today!)
Cheers

Brian Holt
5 years ago

Hi Catherine, I’m a professional gardener and have struck this problem in 2 of my customers gardens. I tried applying Pestoil combined with Confidor and then followed up with Seasol. The results were a spectacular recovery in all cases.

Vera
Vera
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian Holt

Hi Brian
Your treatment sounds encouraging; my Aggas have the same problem. Can you let me know what proportions of Pestoil and Confidor you use and how many applications? Also, when do you apply Seasol?
Thanks
Vera

michelle maher
michelle maher
5 years ago

hi i have just purchased my agapanthus from ebay they survived the post trip but i put in pots till i decide where to plant 1 lot are turning from green leaves to white and droopy ? my potting mix is normal with a handful of cow manure ? pots are a good size
i thought maybe i have over watered them or over fertilised them ? i can take a picture and send to an email adress if required thanks michelle of mudgee

James
James
4 years ago

Please don’t use Confidor which is toxic to bees and banned in Europe. There’s an now alternative available at Bunnings called Eco-Neem.

Monica Mitlaszewski
Monica Mitlaszewski
1 year ago

I am having a problem of leaves curling inwards so I read through all of the above problems and resolutions. I think neem oil seems to be best solution. A friend suggested water, vinegar and dish washing liquid (just a little) would this work on mealy bug? I’m in the east gippsland area.