Garden Gate: Agapanthus, or Lily of the Nile

Joette Reger of Garden Gate

Oh so attractive are the blooming Lily of the Nile lining the front garden beds of many of the homes in the Golden Triangle. The name agapanthus is translated from Greek as the “flower of love,” and I can see why. The ball-shaped blooms of gorgeous blue or white attract hummingbirds and other pollinators from late June until August or September.

The agapanthus is a prolific bloomer. One plant can spread through the years into dozens. You can place these stately plants in a group or clusters, or space them along sidewalks. I’ve even seen these beauties planted into containers. If you go the container route, be sure to use a large container with good drainage holes.

The Lily of the Nile shown here (top right) is planted in huge lovely beds at Lamar University. The Lamar landscaping is excellent, well executed and well taken care of all year round. And a trip to campus this time of year is sure to please with large planting beds just covered in huge, tall, globe-like blue and white blooms partially shaded under huge oak trees.

The agapanthus is in the Liliacea plant family and is found naturally in South Africa and Mosambik. They can be seen growing along the Nile River from western South Africa to Egypt. This elegant plant has 10 species that take on colors from white to violet blue to cobalt blue. Some varieties lose their foliage, but most retain their deep green or variegated foliage all year long. Due to their popularity and much hybridizing, there are currently more than 600 different varieties. You can see the differences in agapanthus by studying the flower form as funnel, trumpet, star or tubular, the foliage color, the foliage width and length and the blooming period.

They will grow in moist areas and will even tolerate salt water. They are flexible but do appreciate being grown under partial shade trees. They do their very best in areas with morning sun and afternoon shade. Does your neighbor have a stand of these stunners and you are “jelly”? Remind them that they can divide a few root clumps and share.

You can find Lily of the Valley in area nurseries in small pots and you can also plant them from rhizomes. Plant them 1-2 inches deep in moderately fertile soil that drains well and space them 1-2 feet apart. Keep well watered for the first few weeks. My friend and avid gardener Cookie puts Epsom salt on her plants in early spring and waters when needed, and her plants look fabulous. If you truly want to experiment, consider taking the seeds from the inflorescence (complete flower head of the plant) when seeds are beginning to open. Good luck!

Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”