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A pain in the agapanthus

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

July's pest plant of the month

A dense stand of wild ginger in flower
Agapanthus spreading and surrounding a native tree

Difficult to get rid of, spreads easily, and stops our precious native plants from establishing is why agapanthus is a real pain. So why is it so bad? Is it a problem if people still grow it? Unfortunately, the plants prevent native bush regeneration, which in turn hurts our native birds and other wildlife. Get rid of agapanthus if you want to support our native birds.

Do you have kids or pets running around your backyard agapanthus? The sticky sap can be an irritant for skin or eyes and parts of it are toxic if eaten! So help your native plants and birds, protect yourself, and get rid of that agapanthus as soon as possible. The good thing is, New Zealand has some beautiful native plants which can be planted in place of agapanthus, and these will be long-lived and help native wildlife at the same time. Read on to find out more.

What does it look like?

  • Umbrella-like clusters of large, tubular white/blue/purple flowers - typically flowers December-February

  • Thin, papery black seeds

  • Long, dark green leathery leaves curve away and down from center of the plant

  • Form dense masses or clusters of foliage and roots (rhizomes)

  • Long, thick, white rhizomes (roots) forming dense mats

Agapanthus growing on a roadside verge
Agapanthus growing on a roadside verge preventing native plants establishing

Why is it weedy?

  • Dense clusters prevent any other species growing

  • Loss of biodiversity where it grows, outcompetes native species and other garden plants

  • Will eventually take over and becomes the dominant species where ever it grows

  • More difficult to remove once established

  • Spreads through root/rhizome fragments, especially from dumped garden waste

  • Also spreads through wind-dispersed seeds

  • Not a food source for native species and some parts are toxic

An area of Agapanthus being controlled, revealing the dense roots and rhizomes
An area of agapanthus being controlled, revealing the dense roots and rhizomes

For established plants more time is needed, but read on to find out how to control it.
Agapanthus taking over a slope

How you can help:

Recognise - Learn what it looks like

Report - ​Use our new EcoNet CAMS Weed App​ to repor​t locations

Remove - Find out how to control the plant and get supplies from our Community Tool Shed

Restore - Plant natives in its place, to stop it coming back, and to support our native wildlife.


Agapanthus - Pests in Auckland (Auckland Council)

See page 7 of the Plant me instead booklet

Check out the Weedbusters: agapanthus page for lots more photos.

What can I plant instead?

A volunteer controlling wild ginger
Volunteers cutting down and pasting agapanthus with herbicide gel

What can I do to get rid of it?

  • Dig up roots and rhizomes

  • Dispose of roots/rhizomes in a container of water with a lid or in a heavy duty weed bag to rot down over a number of months, dry them out, or burn them

  • Cut down stems and foliage and leave on site to mulch down.

  • The cut stems can be pasted with Metgel (Metsulfuron gel) if they are NOT close to valued plants or water, otherwise use Bamboo Buster (double strength glyphosate)* which may be less effective

  • Return and retreat any regrowth after 1 or 2 months, or dig up remaining clusters.

  • Talk to your friends, family and neighbours about how bad agapanthus is and encourage them to take action too

See all our pest plant disposal information on our website.

*always read the label before using any herbicides. Other herbicide treatments are possible.

If you have a significant area of agapanthus threatening an area of bush or a reserve, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.

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