Botanical name: Most of the Agapanthus available today are hybrids or cultivars of the original Agapanthus praecox
Common name: African Lily, Lily of the Nile (erroneously), Blou Lelie(Afr.), ubani (Zulu), isicakathi (Xhosa)
Agapanthus, fondly called ‘Aggies’ by many gardeners, are most definitely one of the most loved and used indigenous perennials, not only in South Africa, but right around the world. With so many colour and size variants available and new hybrids coming onto the market each year, we’re absolutely spoilt for choice!
Agapanthus belongs to the monotypic family, Agapanthaceae, which means that the family consists of only one genus, namely Agapanthus – quite something! The name Agapanthus is derived from the Greek words agape (meaning love) and anthos (meaning flower) which could be interpreted either as ‘flower of love’ or ‘lovely/pleasing flower’ and pleasing and loved it certainly is.
Agapanthus fast facts
PLANT TYPE: Bulbous, perennial groundcover
SEASON: Evergreen – some varieties go dormant during winter.
HARDINESS: Semi-hardy /Hardy
PLANTING POSITION: Sun / Semi-shade (morning or afternoon sun)
SIZE: Many different sizes available from plants with up to 1,5m long flowering stalks to dwarf varieties with 30cm long stalks.
GROWTH RATE: Fast
GROWTH HABIT: Clump-forming with strap-like leaves
FLOWERS: Variations and combinations of blue and white
FLOWERING SEASON: Late spring to late summer
Agapanthus are low maintenance, easy-to-care for beauties.
Plant Agapanthus plants 30-40cm apart in composted, well-drained soil. Mulch well and water regularly until well-established.
Feed in September and again in December with an organic 3:1:5 fertiliser. Feed in March with an organic 2:3:2 fertiliser.
Remove yellowing and dead leaves when necessary. Regularly check in between leaves for lilyborer (a black and yellow caterpillar) and treat as soon as possible. For more on pests and diseases click |HERE|
Although Agapanthus will thrive even in the poorest of soils and is considered to be water-wise, its watering needs are often grossly misunderstood – this is evidenced by poor bedraggled plants gasping for water on barren sidewalks and traffic islands in the hot summer sun. These plants, especially if planted en masse, will survive on good, regular summer rain, but if that is absent, they do need a deep, regular drenching every week. During the winter months the evergreen Agapanthus varieties need watering every 2-3 weeks.
Agapanthus should be lifted and divided every 4-5 years to promote flowering. Divide the plants and cut the foliage and roots back by half. Plant immediately with a generous helping of compost and bone meal or organic 2:3:2 fertiliser and water well. Do this in late summer or autumn when they have finished flowering. You should be blessed with abundant flowers the very next season.
Uses in the Garden
- Agapanthus are incredibly striking if planted en masse in gardens, large landscapes and office parks and on pavements and traffic islands.
- The tall varieties can be used as backdrops in herbaceous borders with the lower growing and dwarf varieties planted along the front of the border and as edging or rockery plants.
- They are an essential element in woodland gardens.
- All Agapanthus can be grown successfully in large pots, which makes them suitable even for the smallest sunny balcony.
- They can be grown in windy, seaside gardens.
- They’re excellent planted along embankments to prevent soil erosion..
- Agapanthus offer very attractive cut flowers that will last long in the vase.
- Agapanthus will attract nectar-feeding birds and pollinating insects, like bees, to your garden.