Common Names: lily-of-the-Nile, African lily, African blue lily
Family: Liliaceae (lily Family)
Perennial Can be Grown in Containers Has evergreen foliage Flowers
Useful for fresh and/or dried arrangements
There are about 10 species of Agapanthus, all native to southern
Africa. Agapanthus praecox, A. africanus and various hybrids are
most often grown in American gardens. African lily grows as an ever
expanding clump of evergreen strap shaped leaves around 12 in (30
cm) or a little more in length. There are up to 18 leaves, arranged
in two ranks. The dark blue flowers are trumpet shaped, 1-2 in
(2.5-5 cm) wide, and borne in rounded umbels containing as many as
30 blossoms. These flower clusters are 6-12 in (15-30 cm) across,
and held above the leaves on scapes 2-3 ft (60-75 cm) tall. Flowers
appear in late summer and are long lasting. The African lily
cultivar 'Peter Pan' is a dwarf, with its scape reaching little more
than 18 in (45 cm) in height, but what it lacks in stature is
compensated for by its profusion of long lasting deep blue flowers.
'Albus' is a white flowered cultivar. The Headbourne Hybrids (aka
Palmer Hybrids) include several cultivars that are hardier than the
species and available in various shades of blue and violet as well
All species of the genus Agapanthus, including A. africanus, A.
praecox, A. campanulatus, are native to southern Africa.
African lily is a strong evergreen perennial that tolerates neglect,
poor soils, and salty coastal conditions.
Light: African lily does best in full sun, but can take some
Moisture: Water African lilies regularly in summer, but reduce
watering during the winter dormant season. Well established
plantings are fairly drought tolerant, but may not bloom if not
given plenty of water during spring and summer.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-11. African lily is moderately frost
tolerant, but when grown in exposed locations in zone 8, the roots
should be mulched in winter. The Headbourne Hybrids are hardy to
zone 6, tolerating temperatures considerably below freezing.
However, even these should be mulched in winter to protect the
Propagation: It's easy to propagate African lilies by dividing the
clumps of thick, fleshy roots. This is best done in spring, at the
start of new growth. Bury them 2-3 in (5-7.5 cm) deep. Plants grown
from seed will take 2-3 years to flower and may not resemble the
African lilies are usually grown in borders or as edging along a
driveway or path, but I like to see them in irregular clumps in
perennial beds. They seem to do best when a little overcrowded, and
are therefore well suited to container cultivation. In cooler
climates African lilies are grown in containers that can be moved
indoors in winter. They are popular as potted plants at poolside,
and on decks and porches. The flowers of African lily last quite
long and are great as cut flowers. Even the seed pods are attractive
and can be used in dried arrangements.
The most popular lily-of-the-nile grown in America is A. praecox
although it is often sold as A. africanus. Not to worry, though as
they are very similar to one another and every bit as desirable. If
you live in zone 8 or warmer, you should definitely have some
Agapanthus in your garden!
The plantsman, Lewis Palmer, of Headbourne Worthy, U.K., created
many cultivars and hybrids of Agapanthus during the 1950's and 60's.
Many of his hybrids are popular today and still used in the breeding
of newer cultivars.