Plant Common Name
African Lily, Blue Lily, Common Agapanthus, Lily-of-the-Nile
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 summer and fall, but in North America they may 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.
Most evergreen Agapanthus in cultivation are A. praecox hybrids. Several distinct subspecies and variants exist in the wild. 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 also tend to be denser. Agapanthus praecox ssp. minimus is shorter, has fewer leaves and flowers, which vary in color from dark blue to greyish-white, and blooms earlier than other A. praecox variants. Agapanthus praecox ssp. praecox is tall, has fewer more upright leaves and its flowers are medium violet-blue.
AHS Heat Zone
11 - 1
USDA Hardiness Zone
7 - 11
H1, H2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade
2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m
3'-4' / 0.9m - 1.2m
Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall
Container, Edging, Feature Plant, Foundation, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Tropical
Sharp or Has Thorns