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Agapetes, branches arching over to display cute red bells

Row of agapetes flowers seen from the front view (Himalayan lantern)

Also going by the name “Himalayan lantern”, Agapetes bears red bell-shaped flowers on long, swaying stems.

Key Agapetes facts
NameAgapetes serpens
Family – Ericaceae
Type – Shrub

Height – 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.50 m)
Exposure – part sun, shade
Soil – rich heath soil

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – spring

Discover how to grow this cute little shrub.

Planting Agapetes

Agapetes is a not-so-hardy plant that grows well in coastal areas. It requires rich and acidic soil, much like forest underbrush. A great idea is to compensate this by using soil mix made from leaves, it’s the ideal substrate for this plant.

> Agapetes in the ground

As is the case for many frost-vulnerable plants, planting should take place in spring, after any risk of freezing has disappeard.

  • Dig a hole about twice as large as the clump you’re going to plant.
  • Mix garden soil with leaf soil mix or directly with a heap of dead leaves.
  • Make sure the root crown isn’t buried, it should be level with the ground.
  • Water abundantly after planting.

> Agapetes in pots

Growing Agapetes in a pot is a difficult project. Usually, potted specimens only survive for a few years, but it’s still worth trying! Best is to use heath soil with, again, dead leaves mixed in. Remember to layer the bottom of the pot with clay marbles for drainage. Agapetes is a plant that loves moisture and mild temperatures. A North-facing courtyard, sheltered from wind, is perfect to settle your potted plant into.

> Cuttings from Himalayan lantern

Preparing Agapetes cuttings is best in summer, around July-August. Cut 4-inch sections of stems. Remove leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. Plant the stems in a mix of heath soil and sand 50/50. Store your cuttings where it won’t freeze and not in direct sun. Wait until the next spring. Water often in order to keep the substrate moist. As early as April-May (depending on where you live), transfer to a pot or the ground.

Caring forAgapetes

Your main goal should be to make sure the soil stays cool for your Agapetes. You’ll thus have to water during drought, and add fresh mulch every spring to lock moisture in.

> Pruning Agapetes

Pruning agapetes leads to new fronds that are more plentifulAgapetes only needs a once-yearly pruning, right after the blooming.

  • Simply cut the tips of stems that just flowered.

This will trigger branching out of fresh new stems, making the whole shrub look more lush and dense.

> Caring for potted Himalayan lantern

Watering is the most crucial aspect of growing agapetes in a potFor those up to the challenge of growing it in a pot, watering is your prime concern!

  • Soil dries up much faster in a pot than it does in the ground, so you’ll have to regularly add water.

The substrate must remain cool, without getting soggy. During times of drought, a great option is to use an olla. This slowly releases water to the soil around it.

An original plant

Agapetes isn’t a very common plant in our areas because of the inhospitable climate. However, for coastal gardens, it’s a plant that will definitely stand out! Long, flexible stems arch out and are dotted with small, dark green oval leaves. At the end of each stem, tiny bellflowers appear. Aligned at the end of the stem, these flowers come in tones of red, pink or cream depending on the variety.

Three Agapetes varieties

  • Agapetes serpens : type species, the spring blooming boasts dark pink bells with red markings. Hardy to 20-25°F (-5°C)
  • Agapetes serpens ‘Nepal Cream’ : similar to the type species as regards bearing and leafage, but different due to its flower color. The ‘Nepal cream’ has a cream-colored flower.
  • Agapetes serpens ‘Scarlet Elf’ : same color and leafage as the type species, but this variety is more compact. This makes it easier to populate a shrub bed in your landscaping.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 2.0: Björn, Megan Hansen
CC BY 2.0: Maja Dumat
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