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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 are shorter and narrower than those of the more common A. praecox orientalis; flower stalks to 1 1/2 ft. tall, with 20 to 50 flowers per cluster. Blossoms are deep blue. Often sold as A. umbellatus. ‘Albus’ is similar to the species, but with lovely blooms of pure white.

Agapanthus hybrids

Types sold include the following. All are evergreen, except as noted.

‘Baby Pete’. Dwarf, compact grower to just 6–9 in. tall, with light blue flowers held just above foliage mass. Blooms for a long period; does not set seed. Ideal for containers.

‘Black Pantha’. Deep violet-blue flowers open from nearly black buds. The sturdy stems rise 2–3 ft. above gray-green leaves. One of the most cold-tolerant varieties.

‘Blue Storm’. Abundant, deep purple-blue flowers rise on sturdy 2 1/2-ft. stalks above foot-tall foliage clumps.

‘Elaine’. Large clusters of nodding dark bluish purple ­blossoms borne on 3–4-ft.-tall stems.

‘Ellamae’. Large dark blue flowers on stems to 5 ft. tall.

Headbourne hybrids. Deciduous. Flowers come in a range of blues and in white on 2 1/2-ft.-tall stems above fairly narrow, rather upright foliage. Some are quite cold-hardy.

‘Henryi’. Resembles ‘Peter Pan’ but has white flowers.

‘Midknight Blue’. Grows to 3–4 ft. tall, with deepest blue flowers.

‘Mood Indigo’. Deciduous. Hybrid involving A. inapertus, with deep violet blooms on stems that grow to 3–4 ft. tall.

‘Peter Pan’. Outstanding free-blooming dwarf variety. Foot-high foliage mass and blue flowers on 1 1/2-ft. stems.

‘Queen Anne’. Foliage clump to 1 1/2 ft. tall; blue blossoms on stems to 2 ft. tall.

‘Rancho White’. Foliage grows to 1–1 1/2 ft. tall; flower stalks to 1 1/2–2 ft. tall carry heavy clusters of white flowers. Also known as ‘Dwarf White’ and ‘Rancho’. ‘Peter Pan White’ is similar or identical.

‘Snow Storm’. Abundant, snow-white blooms on stems 2 1/2 ft. tall. Foliage clump is 1–1 1/2 ft. tall.

‘Storm Cloud’. Evergreen in warmer part of range. Developed from deciduous ‘Mood Indigo’ and an evergreen agapanthus. Deep blue-violet blossoms on 4-ft. stems.

‘Streamline’. Dwarf form to just 1 1/2 ft. tall, with grassy leaves and grayish blue flowers. Blooms over a long period.

‘Summer Gold’. Compact grower to about 1 ft. tall, with medium blue flowers held 6–10 in. higher. Its most striking feature is the variegated foliage: gray-green leaves are edged in bright yellow.

‘Tinkerbell’. Just 1–1 1/2 ft. tall, with light blue flowers and narrow, gray-green leaves edged in white.

 

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.

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