Agapanthus africanus Blue Lily of the Nile

South Africa has not produced a more popular garden plant than the Agapanthus africanus. The African lily’s strap-like, evergreen foliage and dark blue to white blooms are beloved of gardeners the world over.

Blue Lily of the Nile in full bloom.

Did You Know?

Lily of the Nile Growing on a New Zealand Beach

Agapanthus is salt tolerant and grows quite happily near the sea.

The 2-3 foot plants will grow and bloom in sun or bright shade. The bloom season lasts for about a month and can commence anytime from late spring to early fall. There is an 8-12 inch tall dwarf variety ‘Peter Pan’ that many people love.

This tender perennial is hardy into the high teens F. It may die to the ground when temperatures fall into the lower end of its range, but will come back in the spring. A blanket of mulch is good insurance here.

Blue Lily of the Nile is being hybridized in England for greater cold tolerance. The deciduous ‘Headbourne’ hybrids are said to be hardy into USDA zone 6b.

In colder climates, African lilies make fine pot plants. Having their roots restricted by a container encourages heavy bloom.

When growing it indoors, give it plenty of light, regular water and feed it monthly with a bloom boosting fertilizer.

There are several named selections. Most are easy to grow. But not all are easy bloomers–at least not outside of a few areas. Agapanthus africanus flourishes in California, Texas, Australia, and, of course, in its South African homeland.

Gardeners in other corners of the world report some difficulty in getting it to flower on a regular schedule.

White Agapanthus.

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I have seen it growing well and blooming itself silly right here in central Florida.

This plant blooms best when root bound.

My advice it to buy the largest plants you can find to plant. Mix some time release fertilizer into the planting holes. Feed again every three months until late fall.

Do not divide the clumps until you begin to notice a decrease in bloom each year.

Agapanthus africanus bloom stalk.Agapanthus africanus bloom stalk.By then the clump will be so thick that it may take some doing to break it up.Don’t be afraid to chop the root mass up.It’s a tough plant.

You won’t do it any permanent harm.

Lily of the Nile is often planted in median strips where its foliage remains green and glossy no matter how hot and dry weather.

Where Agapanthis africanus thrives it can become invasive. Spent flower heads, left in place, will drop seed. Remove the stalks after the plants are finished blooming to avoid this problem.

Blue Globe AgapanthusBlue Globe AgapanthusImpressive flowers on an even more impressive plant.

*The sap of Agapanthus africanus is reputed to be a skin and eye irritant. Use caution when working with it.

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