A striking addition to a large container planting or border garden, the African lily (Agapanthus africanus) boasts clusters of funnel-shaped blue flowers on stalks 24 to 36 inches tall in July and August. Its daylily-like green leaves grow about 12 inches long. Native to South Africa, it's winter-hardy only in the warmest climates. In other regions, gardeners plant the African lily in containers.
Common name: African lily, lily of the Nile
Botanical name: Agapanthus africanus
Zones: 7 to 10, depending on cultivar
Height: 24 to 36 inches is typical, but some cultivars reach 40 inches.
- Sun: Full sun to very light shade
- Soil: Moderately fertile, fairly light, well-drained soil
- Moisture: Keep evenly moist, but not wet. Poor drainage causes root and bulb rot.
- Mulch: None needed in containers. A light, organic mulch in border plantings will provide winter protection and keep the soil evenly moist.
- Fertilizer: They are heavy feeders; fertilize every three to four weeks until they flower.
- Sow seeds when springtime temperatures reach 55°F to 59°F.
- Seeds from the garden often do not come true to the parent plant. Divide plants in spring to get consistent results.
Pests and diseases
- Slugs and snails
- Root and bulb rot in poorly drained soil
- Plants started from seed will take two to three years to flower.
- Plant rhizomes 1 inch deep and 8 inches apart.
- African lilies flower more profusely when their roots are crowded.
- Deadhead flowers regularly. Bloom production will decline if the plant sets seed.
- African lilies are attractive as mass plantings in the garden or as cut flowers.
- There are two types of African lily. Evergreen types (Agapanthus africanus, for example) can over-winter as container plants indoors in a cool, bright spot. Deciduous types (Agapanthus campanulatus, for example) have foliage that dies off before the winter. Store them in a cool, dark place (35°F to 45°F) for the winter.
- ‘Alice Gloucester' has white flowers and grows 36 inches tall. Hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
- ‘Elaine' has blue-violet flowers and reaches 36 inches tall.
- ‘Blue Triumphator' grows 36 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
- ‘Peter Pan' gets 18 inches tall and has blue flowers. Hardy in Zones 9 to 10.
All in the family
- Agapanthus campanulatus ‘Albovittatus' has strap-shaped leaves with white stripes and blue flowers. It grows 30 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
- Agapanthus Headbourne hybrids have funnel-shaped flowers in violet and light blue. They are more hardy and will do well in Zones 6 to 9.
- Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis has dark green leaves, medium blue flowers, and is hardy in Zones 9 to 11.
- Allium, Alstroemeria, Asiatic and Oriental lilies, Trillium, and Convallaria (lily-of-the valley) are all part of this family, which produces stunning and sometimes fragrant blooms for the garden.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Brent and Becky's Bulbs.