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Agapanthus

Agapanthus Also called 'African Lily' or 'Lilies of the Nile', is a genus of flower plants with about ten species. Agapanthus are all herbaceous perennial plants native to South Africa with bulbous underground stems called rhizomes. Agapanthus are in the family Alliaceae but some botanist have placed them in a monogeneric family Agapanthaceae but they have traditional been placed in the Lily family, Liliaceae.

Agapanthus have funnel-shaped flowers, in varying shades of blue colors with white flowering forms occurring and because of plant breeding and hybridized, additional colors like rose and pink can be found in plants under cultivation. The flowers are produced in many-flowered cymes on long, erect upright growing stems called scapes, which can grow from 1 to 6 feet tall. The basal leaves are thick but flat and curved in shape and lanceolate growing from 12 to 30 inches long.

Plants are frost tender, evergreen or deciduous (in frost free areas Agapanthus are often evergreen). The fleshy rhizomes spread over the soil's surface producing a short, more or less tuberous rootstock. The rootstock produce clusters of attractive, long, shiny, strap-like leaves. The flowers are produced on the ends of tall scapes from late spring to early autumn. The flowers are clustered into heads like onions and each flower looks like a lily. Agapanthus can be grown in the garden and left in the ground in zones 9-11 or pulled a replanted where it is colder. Some forms are more winter hardy and can be grown well to zone 7. Agapanthus are also often grown as container plants and stored inside in colder areas or kept in a green house. Agapanthus does well as an indoor houseplant if given plenty of light from a large bright window. They make for long-lived showy flowering plants in the garden, in containers, and as houseplants. Agapanthus flower best when their roots are crowded in a container. The flowering stems make very nice cut flowers for use indoors and can last up to seven days in a vase. The dried seed heads also are used in decorative arrangements.

Generally plants are hardy in zones 7 to 11. They can be grown in colder zones if they are planted deeper and mulching well. Agapanthus can remain outdoors permanently where temperatures do not fall below 20F; otherwise they should be dug up, or if grown in pots, moved so they can be stored for the winter in an area above freezing. They are best grown in well-draining soils that have a fine to medium texture. When planting, the ‘roots’ should be covered with an inch of soil and each rhizome 18 to 24 inches apart. If you are growing them in cooler zones, plant 6 inches deep when grown in soil outside. In containers start with a single rhizome in a 12-inch wide pot or use three in a 20-inch wide pot. When in active growth, water and fertilize weekly. Plants do best when in full sun but do well in partial shade too, under very hot conditions use partial shade or give them shade during the hottest part of the day. After becoming severely root-bound they should be divided. This normally occurs after four or five years of good growth. Division is best in the spring and done by cutting the rhizomes with a clean knife so each section has some roots. Seeds can also be sown in the spring and the seedlings normal bloom the third year.