The Agapanthus plant – is the exotic name for the blue African Lily of the Nile. These showy perennials, native to South Africa, hold a strange beauty.
The beginning of agapanthus care started in Europe during the late 1600′s with Agapanthus africanus.
Africanus, hardy to USDA Zone 8, was the first of the Agapanthus genus to reach the U.S. where it made a striking debut. Africanus may be the least hardiest of the evergreen species, with its lavender-blue flowers rising above strappy basal leaves.
Two Groups – Evergreen and Deciduous
The Agapanthus genus can be divided into two groups: Four species which are evergreen and six deciduous species.
Generally, most people think of Agapanthus bulbs. In fact, they may be listed in catalogs under bulbs. However, these perennials are not bulbs they just have fleshy, thick roots.
Most of these blue perennials known as the “Lily of the Nile” would be considered hardy for planting in the ground, in USDA Zones 7 to 10 – new Agapanthus varieties are extending that range. In locations colder than Zone 7, Agapanthus plants in general, will need to be grown as potted plants.
Easy Growing Options – Colors and Heights
All too often if a plant is hardy and easy to grow it can find itself overused or not considered for use since it could be so “common.”
Many homeowners search for something new – get bored or lack excitement for a bloomer possibly found “next door.”
However, agapanthus plants like so many other excellent landscape flowers, when grown, used and presented right… they are a charmer.
One of their finest assets is their flowering. Deep blue to white flowers, show themselves from mid to late summer and in some areas all the way into October.
Plants also can be deciduous or evergreen, short or tall, variegated or solid green foliage, along with open flowers or dense tight heads. No matter the size, the flower stalks always appear to be weighted down from the “heavy” flowers sitting atop. The deciduous species – Agapanthus campanulatus, Agapanthus caulescens, Agapanthus inapertus – are generally consider hardier.
Growing Agapanthus in Pots
Some gardeners go to great pains for their plants to experience the flowers they will be rewarded with during the season.
For those growing Agapanthus in areas where the temperatures fall below freezing, they cheerfully haul their pots of Agapanthus in and out every year to enjoy their blue blooming beauty.
Agapanthus make excellent potted plants. They grow and bloom even when they pots become crowded. They also give you lots of flexibility in borders, patio or deck to mix and match with other plants.
Keep in mind when growing the bigger evergreen hybrids, they may require a container as big as half a whiskey barrel. This can make moving them for winter a difficult task. On the other hand. The smaller dwarf hybrids are easily movable and will do find in 8 – 10 inch terra cotta pots.
Just as Agapanthus grown in the ground during the growing season, potted Agapanthus need to be well watered and fed.
In the colder areas – Zone 6 and lower overwinter Agapanthus is a greenhouse or above freezing garage. Water wise… barely water just enough to keep the soil from being dry. In Zones 7 and 8 moving pots up against the house under the eaves should be fine for overwintering. However, keep the pots on the dry side.
Tips On Growing Agapanthus
Agapanthus likes a soil rich in organic matter and well drained. When the growing season starts, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer, and keep the soil well watered.
In areas where summer heat is intense, grow the plants in partial shade. In USDA growing Zones 8 through 10, Agapanthus can stay in the ground all year. In Zone 8 and the warm areas of Zone 7 mulch is a smart idea.
To keep plants blooming freely, divide the evergreen varieties every 3 to 4 years.
Deciduous varieties, should just be left alone, even in pots where they grow well when crowded.
Divide in spring, removing offsets and replant them.
- Origin: South Africa
- Family: Agapanthaceae (agapanthus family)
- Plant Type: herbaceous perennial
- Height: Depending on variety – 18 inches to 5 feet
- Leaves: Lance or strap shaped, narrow to broad, gray green to medium green
- Flowers: Dark blue through white, Upright, bell-shaped, tubular and pendulous
- Bloom Period: Mid-summer through October
- Hardiness: Outdoor Zones 8 through 10
- Exposure: Full sun, partial shade in hot summers areas
- Soil: Rich, well-drained, lots of organic material
- Water: During active growth, moderately heavy
- Fertilizing: Fertilize in spring with a balanced fertilizer
- Propagate: In spring propagate by division – growing agapanthus from seed is possible but rarely by homeowners
- Pests & Problems: Nothing major
The true wild species evergreen Agapanthus africanus is known as a difficult to grow plant. However, one of the cultivars is the well-known dwarf Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’, 18 inch stems with medium blue flowers.
Many of the agapanthus varieties today contain the word “Blue,” which is more of a color range of dark lavender to light blue.
Some of the darkest hybrids can be almost navy blue resulting from crosses with Agapanthus inapertus.
There are several white cultivars available.