Lily of the Nile, also known as Agapanthus or the African Blue Lily, is a genus of perennial flowering plants originating from South Africa. The name comes from the Greek words "agape," meaning love, and "anthus," meaning flower.
This genus consists of about 10 different species. Agapanthus plants may have 20 to 100 flowers depending on the variety, and from May through June, they produce beautiful clusters of blue, white, or violet-blue flowers that resemble lilies.
Depending on the species, they grow to be 2 feet high and 2-4 feet wide. There are both evergreen and deciduous types. They flourish in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11.
These plants are easy to maintain and are very popular because of their hardiness and attractiveness. Follow these steps to grow your own African Blue Lily and keep it in beautiful condition.
Step 1 – Choose a Healthy Specimen
Select a healthy looking plant from the nursery. Avoid plants that look dull and those that do not have many flowers or buds.
Step 2 – Find a Good Planting Location
An Agapanthus should only be planted in areas with full sun. Unless your climate is exceptionally hot, the plants need direct sunlight and plenty of space to thrive. If you are unsure of how your area’s sun exposure will affect the plant, keep in mind that this plant grows very well in containers.
If you choose to use a container, you will be free to experiment with full sun, partial sun, and shaded areas as you grow. Plus if the plant ever becomes too large and cramped, you will be able to move it to a more open area.
Step 3 – Prepare Your Soil
After choosing the planting spot, dig a hole that is not too deep. Mix compost or fertilizer with the dug-out soil. The soil must be rich and well-drained. This plant prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
Tip: Since proper drainage is important for the Lily of the Nile, consider adding a scoop of sand to the soil.
Step 4 - Planting
When transferring from a container, try to place the roots at the same depth as they were at in the pot or container. Even when planting directly, the roots should be placed no more than 1 foot from the soil surface. Once you’ve positioned your roots, fill the soil back, and fix the plant in place.
Tip: If you are growing more than one plant at a time, space the rhizomes (thick bulb-like roots that grow underground) about 8 inches apart with the pointy ends facing up.
Step 5 – Mulching and Watering
Apply a couple of inches of organic mulch around the plant. Water the plant thoroughly, taking care not to flood the roots since the rhizomes can rot easily when things are too wet. You want to make sure the soil is always moist but not soaked. Keep an eye out for yellow-tipped leaves, as this is an indicator that you’re overwatering.
Weekly watering is recommended, but if the summers and winters are unseasonably harsh, feel free to adjust accordingly.
Step 6 – Fertilization
During the growing stage, it is beneficial to fertilize the plant twice a month. For established plants, fertilizing is only required twice a year, once in the beginning of spring and again towards the end of fall. Apply a formula that provides equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, such as a 15-15-15 preparation.
Step 7 – Pruning
Every spring, prune the plant by removing any dead foliage and stems. Remove flowers that have bloomed and are beginning to wilt. If you regularly deadhead the flowers, you will see an abundant growth of newer flowers.
Clumps can be divided every three to five years by splitting the root ball in late summer or early fall. It will then take about a year for newly divided plants to re-establish themselves.
Protect your African Blue Lily from frost in colder climates. If you are growing the plant is a pot or container, you can bring it indoors and place it under fluorescent lights or keep it in a warm greenhouse. If the plant is in your backyard, you must mulch the roots to protect them during winter.
Lily of the Nile is generally resistant to most pests and diseases. However, they may become infested with snails, thrips, mealy bugs, or by certain fungi. Be watchful of the plant and spray an appropriate fungicide or pesticide when necessary. Snails can devour the stems of the plant, causing considerable harm. You can remove them by hand, or use some kind of bait to get rid of them.