In search of … the lily of the Nile

an image of a plant with a large purple flower head
The large blue flower is held well above this Agapanthus plant

The Lily of the Nile, also known as Agapanthus, is a beautiful flowering bulb found on occasion in landscapes and garden centers in our area.  The seasonal globe of flowers in shades of blue, purple and white catch the eye and make a great show of themselves.  Are these perennials something you should have in your garden?

The first consideration should be how big do Agapanthus get in size?  While there are dwarf cultivars, most Agapanthus will grow up to four-feet tall and two-feet wide.  In mass plantings this flowering rhizome can form good sized clumps.  The strap-like leaves form the bulk of the plant with the blooms pushing through well above the foliage.  In summer, the large funnel-shaped flowers form a cluster of up to one-hundred individual blooms making a flowerhead of around four-inches in diameter.  The flowers are not fragrant, but more than compensate with color and use as a great cut flower.  The old seedheads are even attractive too with a pin cushion-like appearance.  Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees love these flowers as well.

The best planting site for Agapanthus is full sun although they can tolerate some partial shade.  Make sure the soil is well-drained and enriched with organic matter before planting.  Once established, this plant is moderate in drought-tolerance and does best on the dry side during the late fall and winter.  Install individual plants eighteen to twenty-four inches apart for mass plantings.  Be patient as it may take several years for the clumps (aka stands) to develop and be at their peak – crowding helps blooming to a degree.  Stands of Agapanthus may eventually get so large that division of the larger clumps in the fall is required to rejuvenate their flowering ability.

There are a great deal of Agapanthus cultivars to choose from based on size and color.  Beyond the standard blue cultivars, some other selections include: ‘Albus’, a white flowered variety; ‘ ‘Variegatus’ with striped leaves; and ‘Nanus’ a dwarf, compact form.  Another noted cultivar with blue blooms is ‘Ever Sapphire™’, a semi-dwarf variety.  Also check other dwarf cultivars such as ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘Peter Pan’.  There are many, many more that you will have to research on-line.

A couple of cautions to keep in mind.  One warning is that all plant parts of the Agapanthus are toxic, so take this into consideration with pets and children.  Another issue is that Agapanthus can contract a plant disease called botrytis – a fungus.   The literature indicates that there are botrytis-tolerant cultivars on the market.

Overall, Agapanthus, a Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved plant, can be a colorful addition to your perennial gardens that offers years of summer flowers and a horticultural treat!  For more information on all types of perennial suitable for our area, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or  .  Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.

UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions.  Agapanthus.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F.,  Klein, R. W. & Hansen G. (2018) AGAPANTHUS, AFRICAN LILY, LILY OF THE NILE.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Mahr, S. (2023) Agapanthus.  University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.
North Carolina – Extension Gardener – Plant Toolbox (2023) Agapanthus. NC State University.
WSU Clark County Extension PNW Plants (2023)
Keinath, A. P. (2023) TIPS AND TRICKS FOR GROWING LILY OF THE NILE. Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.
Landre, C. (2023) Agapanthus africanus
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.


ralph mitchell
Posted: May 23, 2023

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes
Tags: Agapanthus, Lily Of The Nile

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories