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AGAPANTHUS praecox ssp. orientalis

Image of Agapanthus praecox ssp. orientalis

Gerald L. Klingaman



Botanical Name

AGAPANTHUS praecox ssp. orientalis

Plant Common Name

African Lily, Blue Lily, Common Agapanthus, Lily-of-the-Nile

General Description

The naturally occurring African lily subspecies, Agapanthus praecox ssp. orientalis, is tall, has longer more arching leaves than other variants and shorter more open-faced flowers ranging from medium blue to white. Flower clusters and plant clumps also tend to be larger and denser. Lots of cultivated varieties exist.

Queen of the African lilies, Agapanthus praecox is a large-flowered beauty with lustrous, strap-like, evergreen foliage. Long leafless stems topped with rounded clusters of variable violet-blue or white, liliaceous flowers appear in profusion, especially if plants are well-tended. Each funnel-shaped bloom has six tepals (petal-like sepals) marked with dark blue lines down their centers. This tender perennial is native to the rocky slopes of the eastern Cape of South Africa where winter rainfall is plentiful. Bloom time is variable; in South Africa plants bloom from December through to February, during their summer and fall, but in North America they can bloom from late-winter through fall, depending on the local climate and water availability.

African lilies are clump-forming plants that spread by rhizomes. Their terminal clusters of broadly funnel-shaped flowers are lightly scented and most profuse in summer. Bees pollinate the flowers. In North America, hummingbirds are also known to visit them. Small seed capsules, which turn from green to brown, follow pollination. Plants can self-sow and are known to be weedy along the California coast. Cut spent stems back to keep plants looking tidy, encourage further flowering and deter seedlings.

Agapanthus clumps grow quickly and require regular division if they are to be contained. They grow best in full sun and average, well-drained soil. Slightly acid, rocky or sandy soils are best. Established plants withstand substantial periods of drought. Where marginally hardy, grow them in sheltered locations and protect with mulch in autumn. Overwinter indoor specimens in a cool bright spot and water sparingly from fall to midwinter. African lilies are best planted as border specimens, container plants or groundcover. They are quite carefree; pest and disease problems are few and deer do not feed on them. The showy umbels make dramatic cut flowers.


  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tender Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Width

    3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall

  • Native To

    Southern Africa, South Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    White, Blue, Blue Violet

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor, Striped

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Cutflower, Edging, Foundation, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Attracts

    Hummingbirds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing