Agapanthus is a summer-flowering bulb for Southern gardens. Sometimes called African lily and lily of the Nile, it is originally from South Africa. Agapanthus makes an elegant addition to any landscape. Its strap-like leaves make an excellent ground cover and its conspicuous flowers bloom all summer long.
Agapanthus can bring fresh shape to your cut flower garden. It will liven up a Florida-Friendly landscape by attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators. The blooms are absolutely unique and make a wonderful display in mass plantings. There are so many good reasons to add agapanthus to your garden.
Agapanthus orientalis is a perennial lily. It belongs to the same botanical family as amaryllis and daffodil and is just as striking. And though non-native, it is considered a Florida-Friendly plant. It is both low-maintenance and a refuge for wildlife.
Left undisturbed, this lily will multiply to form large clumps. These look wonderful when planted in groups in landscape beds but work equally well in containers. Individual plants seldom spread wider than 2 feet, but clumps can fill entire beds over time.
Depending on the cultivar, the flowers may be blue, lavender, purple, or even white. These blooms are perfect for highly visible spaces in a landscape. Positioned atop a single stalk, high above the leaves, they are difficult to miss. The flower clusters bloom 2-4 feet above the ground in summer. The seed pods that follow the flowering are almost as attractive as the flowers themselves.
Individual plants can reach up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, but dwarf forms are available. Both varieties make an excellent ground cover or accent plant for areas with full sun or partial shade. Available cultivars include: 'Albus,'with white flowers; 'Flore Pleno,' double flowers; 'Variegatus,' with striped leaves; and 'Nanus,' a dwarf, compact form. One cultivar with particularly stunning blue blooms is Ever Sapphire™, a semi-dwarf.
Planting and Care
Agapanthus grows best in USDA hardiness zones 9-11. Though visually delicate, it is a deceptively tough plant. It performs well in partial shade or full sun, drought, and even our sandy loam soil. It will tolerate occasionally wet, slightly alkaline, acidic soil, and clay soil. The best soil for this lily, however, is moist and organic.
Agapanthus may take two to three years to establish and reach peak bloom. To encourage flowering, remember the home climate of this non-native. Agapanthus’ native range in South Africa is sunny and experiences seasonal rains.
Gardeners in Florida should plant their agapanthus in full sun for the best blooms. Light irrigation between spring and fall is ideal. In most of Florida agapanthus is dormant during the winter months. Do not water plants during their dormant period. Other factors that boost blooming are improved soil and high "stand" density (agapanthus blooms best in dense, undisturbed clumps of plants called stands). If diminished blooming doesn’t deter you, divide the clumps in the fall as you would your other bulbs.
Although pests are not usually a major concern, gardeners occasionally find some chewing and boring on the leaves. As for disease, botrytis fungus can be damaging to plantings of agapanthus. In humid areas, particularly in the eastern U.S., we recommend planting only disease-resistant cultivars.
When planting, space individuals 18-24 inches apart. Propagate established plants by division of the clumps, or by seed.
For more information on agapanthus, contact your local extension office.