Scientific Name: Agapanthus
Common Names: Lily of the Nile
Plant Type: Perennial
Environment: Little to regular water; well draining soil; full sun to partial shade.
Bloom: Lilac, indigo, purple, or white flowers in summer.
Uses: Mass plantings or container plants.
Other: Because it lacks the compounds that give Alliaceae, the onion family, its characteristic onion or garlic odor, Agapanthus is sometimes considered unique enough to be in its own family, the Agapanthaceae. Modern DNA research however shows closer overall affinity to the onion family.
Agapanthus looks as regal as a lily, but it is not a lily, nor is it native to the Nile. Its original home is South Africa, though it now thrives in mediterranean climates across the world. As early as 1652 ships of the Dutch East India Company stopped at Capetown, for replenishment on their voyages to the Indies. Exotic plants were collected and brought back to the Netherlands. Agapanthus, the name meaning "love-flower," soon became widely popular in both public and private gardens. Today, even California freeways are adorned with Agapanthus, for its demands are few: full sun and regular watering.
It grows from a rhizome, developing clumps of shiny, strap-like leaves, out of which rise four foot stems with large thick buds. At blooming time, the bud scales fall away revealing a dazzling sight: dozens of umbels, where the flower stalks rise from one point like the spokes of an umbrella. Each umbel carries twenty to one hundred funnel-shaped flowers with "tepals", the petals and sepals looking the same, in colors of lilac, indigo, purple, or white, depending on the species. The color of pollen also differs with the species from purple to yellow. There are successions of blooms, as the flowers do not all open at once. Its long blooming period, tolerance to wind and sun, hardiness to disease, plus its exquisite beauty, makes Agapanthus a favorite with all gardeners. There are six species and many cultivars.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by David Kruse-Pickler; Additional photo courtesy of Far Out Flora.