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How to Grow Plant (Agapanthus) Lily of the Nile

Type of bulb: Rhizome with fleshy roots


Season of bloom: Summer Colors: White, blue

Grows to: 1 to 5 feet

When to plant: Spring or summer (from containers); early spring or autumn (from divisions)

Where to plant: Sun; part or light shade where summers are hot

How deep to plant: Juncture of leaf bases and rhizomes 1/2 inch beneath soil surface

Hardiness: Evergreen types to about 20°F/ — 7°C; deciduous types to about 10°F/ — 12°C; in colder regions, grow as a container plant


The blue or white blossoms of Agapanthus bring a welcome touch of coolness to the summer garden. Depending on the species and variety, height of flowering stems ranges from 1 to 5 feet, but all plants are built along the same lines: thick stems, each topped by a rounded cluster of tubular to bell-shaped blooms, rise from fountainlike clumps of strap-shaped leaves (ever-green, with two exceptions).

The two most commonly sold species are A. Orientalis and A. Africanus, both also offered under the name A. umbellatus. To confuse matters further, A. Orientalis is often sold as A. Africanus. If you’re intent on purchasing a particular species, buy blooming plants and check the appearance of the flower clusters carefully (see descriptions below).

A. Orientalis is the tallest Aga-panthus, with the broadest leaves and the greatest number of flowers (up to 100) per cluster. Some nurseries sell named selections in white and various shades of light to fairly dark blue; ‘Flore Pleno’ has double blue blossoms. More often, however, you’ll find plants labelled only as “white” or “blue.” If you’re after a particular shade of blue, choose plants while they’re in bloom. Narrower leaves, shorter stems (to about 11/2 feet) and fewer flowers per cluster (up to 30) characterize A. Africanus. Flower colour is deep blue. The deciduous species, A. inap-ertus, is as tall and as many-flowered as A. Orientalis, but the deep blue, tubular blossoms are pendant from atop the stems. For foreground plantings, choose from several shorter named varieties. Deciduous ‘Queen Anne’ has narrow leaves in clumps to 15 inches high; stems grow to about 2 feet. Flowers are medium blue. White-blossomed ‘Rancho White’ is in the same size range, but its leaves are broader. You may find it sold simply as ‘Rancho’ or ‘Dwarf White’. ‘Peter Pan’ is generally the shortest of the dwarf types, with foliage under a foot high and blue flowers carried on 1 to 11/2-foot stems. However, there’s some variation in height and in the size of foliage and flowers, since some ‘Peter Pan’ plants are raised from seed rather than division.

Uses. Both evergreen and deciduous kinds of Agapanthus are attractive foliage plants when not in bloom; when they’re in flower, their cool blue and white blossoms provide a refreshing contrast to yellow and orange summer-flowering plants. Use the larger kinds as accent clumps or in mass or border plantings. Smaller varieties are fine for foreground ac-cents and pathway plants.
Garden culture. Where summers are cool or mild, choose a planting area in full sun; in hot regions, plants need light shade all day (or at least some shade during the heat of the afternoon). Agapanthus tolerates heavy soils and will put up with in-frequent watering once it’s established, but for best performance, give these plants good, well-drained soil and regular watering throughout the growth and flowering season. Set out nursery plants about 11/2 feet apart, with the juncture of leaf bases and rhizomes 4`7 inch beneath the soil surface. (Agapanthus is sold only in containers.) Divide infrequently, only when clumps show a decline in vigour and flower quality—perhaps every 6 years. Early spring is the best time to divide all types, though evergreen Agapanthus can also be divided in autumn.

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