Agapanthus (African lily)
Agapanthus (African lily) is a very popular lily - grown for its showy flowers, it has many admirers. At present, there are more than 600 different species. This perennial is grown mainly as a cultivated plant, usually planted up into containers of all sorts and sizes. The natural varieties have eye-catching white or blue flowers, but one variety is truly exceptional - the agapanthus ‘Twister’, which has white and blue combined in the one flower!
Agapanthus: flowering and planting
Agapanthus prefers a nice sunny spot and flowers from mid-July into September. The agapanthus grows and blossoms beautifully when planted in a sandy and humus-rich soil. The agapanthus is a true sun worshipper and enjoys a sunlit place in the garden. It’s not actually hardy and is usually grown in containers in our colder climes because the flowers like to be nice and sheltered. For a rich bloom the agapanthus likes a tight root system when potted. However, if it becomes too pot-bound the lily can be transplanted to a pot or tub that is one size larger.
Not many people know this, but this plant doesn’t like to be continually moved from pot to pot - so if you think it necessary to move it, do make sure you use permeable potting compost. You also need to store it in a frost-free location. The plant’s fleshy roots contain (besides nutrients) a lot of water, so, once they’re indoors, you can water much more sparingly - weekly should suffice. Slowly-but-surely, the long slim foliage will die back and you can then cut it all off. A popular plant, the agapanthus likes a cool, unheated place; definitely frost-free in the winter. The shed would be ideal as the plant doesn’t need light.
Caring for your agapanthus
Refresh the top layer of potting compost annually to stimulate flowering. Regularly add fertiliser to the watering can before watering. You can divide and multiply an African lily by digging it up and splitting the root clump, as well as sowing seed. Be careful when splitting the plant though and try not to damage the little, fleshy roots. To start with, your new agapanthus might not flower too abundantly but once the new clump is sufficiently established, the plant will once again flower to its full potential.
After a period of time, more new leaves will appear. After winter, usually around February, you can pot your African lily up. Thoroughly loosen the soil around the root system and plant the whole thing into a new, slightly larger pot. From then onwards, you can feed it with liquid fertiliser.
The love flower
As the name suggests, the agapanthus originated in southern Africa. Due to its origins, the African lily is also known as the ‘Lily of the Nile’. The botanical Latin name agapanthus is derived from the scientific Greek word for love, ‘agapè', and ‘anthos', meaning flower. Agapanthus ‘Flower of Love’ is a wonderful and beautiful flower, really romantic to have around in the summer.