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The agarist genus has very few species, which were once gathered in the genus Andromeda or in the genus Leucotoe; It is native to North America.
It produces a large bush, which has numerous well-branched stems; the stems are thin, often prostrate or arched; shrubs can reach 2-3 m in height.
The foliage is evergreen, with a pointed shape; the color is dark green in the leaves already old, while the new foliage is often orange or reddish; the leaves are slightly leathery, shiny.
In late spring, starting in May, at the leaf axil, towards the apex of the branches, the Agarista populifolia produces small clusters of fragrant flowers; the flowers are in the shape of small bells, creamy white, delicately scented; they are followed by small dark berries that contain seeds.
Agarists are also used as hedges or garden borders, as they can easily withstand pruning. They particularly like the proximity of water, so they can be placed near the water gardens or streams.
The Agarista populifolia prefer shaded or semi-shaded positions; they can also withstand direct sunlight, but it is advisable in this case to shade them slightly during the hottest months of the year to prevent them from remaining too direct in the bright summer days. They do not fear the cold and endure without frost even very intense and persistent frosts. Even in very cold climates they can be planted in the ground, without problems due to frosts.
From March to September-October the Agarista populifolia must be watered with good regularity, keeping the soil cool and slightly humid, but not in water soaked as stagnant water can cause damage and problems for the health of the plant. Every 4-6 months provide slow release granular fertilizer for acidophilic plants, to be spread at the feet of plants; at the end of winter it is good to bury at the foot of the shrubs some mature organic fertilizer or earthworm humus. The same can be done when the plant is buried, so as to provide it with all the nourishment necessary in the rooting phase.
Like many other ericaceous plants also the Agarista populifolia prefer acid soils; for this reason it is good to avoid excessively calcareous soils and also in watering, as far as possible, we try to provide rainwater or purified limestone, to prevent the plant from needing greening over the years. The soil should then guarantee a good drainage, so as to avoid possible harmful water stagnation.
The multiplication takes place by seed, gathering the small seeds in the summer and using them immediately, directly in the dwelling or in the seedbed; in summer it is also possible to take semi-woody cuttings, preferring branches that have not produced flowers. A precaution is to let the cuttings root in the pot, before the final planting in the ground.
Agarista populifolia: Pests and diseases
If properly cultivated the agarists have no problems with pests or diseases; in the case of cultivation in a very dry place, or with soil that is always soaked in water, in the first case, various types of dry or scarce flowering may occur, in the second case radical rots that are very harmful to the health of the plant.