Plant Common Name
African Lily, Agapanthus
Agapanthus is a small genus of some six species of tender or frost-hardy herbaceous perennials from temperate and subtropical southern Africa. They are grown for their summer display of showy violet-blue, purple or white flower clusters on tall stems.
These evergreen or deciduous perennials have attractive green strap-like foliage that grows from thick, fleshy rhizomes (underground stems). The rhizomes spread to form dense clumps. The dome-shaped, umbel-like clusters of flowers stand tall atop leafless stems. The individual flowers, or florets, may be tubular or trumpet-, bell-, or funnel-shaped, and are sometimes pendent. Each cluster can have between 25 to 100 florets, depending on the species or cultivar. They commonly bloom in summer, though some species produce a few flowers intermittently throughout the growing season. Flat, winged, charcoal-black seeds follow the flowers.
Most garden Agapanthus grown today are hybrids. They may be evergreen or deciduous, tall or short and have variable floral characteristics. Most evergreen Agapanthus are native to the Cape region of South Africa, where summers are dry and winters mild and relatively moist. Most evergreen species and hybrids derive from A. praecox, which has large full flower clusters. It and its hybrids are tolerant of most conditions, but typically require relatively mild winters. Agapanthus africanus is an evergreen species with thick leaves and large dark or light violet-blue flowers. It is a fire-tolerant plant and blooms profusely after a fire event. It requires very well-drained soil and prefers areas where summers are hot and dry and winters moister and mild. Plants sold under its name usually belong to A. praecox.
Deciduous Agapanthus hail from areas north of the Cape where summers are moist and winters dry. They are generally more moisture- and frost-tolerant than their evergreen kin. Some deciduous selections and hybrids (especially of A. campanulatus) are remarkably cold-hardy, succeeding into USDA Hardiness Zone 6.
Cultural requirements vary by species, but most cultivated Agapanthus prefer rich well-drained soil, full to partial sun and moderate moisture. They are drought tolerant once established but grow and flower best with regular water. The plants are fast-growing and their clumps should be divided every few years. Agapanthus make lovely cutflowers, can be planted as a large groundcover and are amenable to containers if upgraded or divided regularly. Container-grown specimens have been known to grow so aggressively as to break pots. Despite the African origins of Agapanthus, their flowers are attractive to hummingbirds.
Some Agapanthus can self-sow aggressively in favorable climates such as parts of eastern Australia.
Container, Cutflower, Edging, Foundation, Houseplant, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Tropical
Sharp or Has Thorns