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Agapanthus

Lily-of-the-Nile
Amaryllidaceae
Deciduous, Evergreen, Perennials

All of these South African natives form fountainlike clumps of strap-shaped leaves that are evergreen in some species and varieties, deciduous in others. Evergreen kinds grow in Zones 6–9, 12–31, H1, and H2. Deciduous types grow in Zones 4–9, 12–21, 28-31.

In summer, the clumps give rise to bare stems ending in spherical clusters of funnel-shaped flowers, each cluster like a burst of blue or white fireworks. Some nursery plants are labeled only as “blue” or “white.” Choose plants while they’re in bloom if you require a particular shade of blue.

Prosper in full sun or light shade where summers are mild; need some afternoon shade in hottest areas. Evergreen kinds need protective winter mulch in Zone 6. Best in loamy soil but will grow in heavy soils. Thrive with regular water, but established plants in the ground year-round can grow and bloom without irrigation during prolonged dry periods in most areas; need supplemental water in the low desert.

For mass plantings, space plants 1–1 1/2 ft. apart (use the tighter spacing for smaller varieties). Divide infrequently; every 6 years or so is usually sufficient. These are superb container plants. Good near pools. Protect from snails and slugs.

Names of species have been very much confused over the years, largely because the plants hybridize so easily. It has even been suggested that all agapanthus are merely forms of one species.

Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)
Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’ (photo courtesy of Monrovia)

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Agapanthus africanus

Evergreen. Leaves shorter, narrower than those of the more common A. praecox orientalis; flower stalks to 1 1/2 ft. high, with 20 50 flowers per cluster. Blossoms are deep blue. Often sold as A. umbellatus.

Agapanthus praecox orientalis
Agapanthus praecox orientalis

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Agapanthus praecox orientalis

Most commonly planted. Broad, arching leaves in big clumps. Stems to 4–5 ft. tall bear up to 100 blue flowers. There are white (‘Albus’), double (‘Flore Pleno’), and light to fairly dark blue varieties. Other varieties have striped leaves. Often sold as A. africanus, A. umbellatus.

‘Albus’

Deciduous. Grows to 3 ft. high, with drooping white flowers.

‘Blue Storm’

Evergreen. Abundant deep purple-blue flowers rise on sturdy 2 1/2-ft. stalks above foot-high foliage mass.

‘Midknight Blue’

Evergreen. To 3–4 ft. tall, with large flowers of deepest blue.

‘Peter Pan’

Outstanding free-blooming dwarf variety. Forms a foot-high foliage mass, with blue flowers held on 1 1/2-ft. stems. Evergreen.

‘Queen Anne’

Evergreen foliage clump grows to 1 1/2 ft. high. Blue flowers are held on stems to 2 ft. high.

‘Snow Storm’

Abundant snow-white blooms on stems to 2 1/2 ft. tall. Evergreen foliage clump is 1–1 1/2 ft. high.

‘Streamline’

Evergreen dwarf form to just 1 1/2 ft. high, with grassy leaves and grayish blue flowers. Blooms over a long period.

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