AGAPETES

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Pronunciation: (ag-e-pee-tees)
Family: (syn PENTAPTERYGIUM), Flame Heath, ERICACEAE

The Flame Heath, Agapetes serpens, is a decorative shrub known for many years as Pentapterygium and often sold under that name. Usually rather squat, it grows to 1.5m/5ft from a tuberous rootstock, sending out slender, weeping branches that are densely hairy and furnished with evergreen 1cm/1/2in red-tipped leaves.

The tubular flowers of vivid scarlet may appear any time from winter on, hanging loosely in pairs beneath the arching stems and sometimes bending them with their weight. Agapetes are propagated from tip cuttings which strike easily in summer and autumn in a sand-peat mixture, or at other times in a glasshouse with mist and bottom heat.

Sometimes epiphytic in nature, these decorative shrubs demand perfect drainage. Most effective as a container plant or set in a large rockery, Agapetes enjoy leafy, acid soil, plenty of water, and a light feeding with manure in autumn. They revel in partly shaded conditions with high humidity. Tip prune regularly to encourage a dense, compact shape.

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