Agapanthus orientalis (Lily of the Nile)


Arabic name: زنبق النيل

Although known as the Lily of the Nile, the Agapanthus plant is not native to the river basin of Northeastern Africa, but in fact is a native of southern Africa.  The name Agapanthus comes from Greek and means ‘love flower’.  One can agree that it is a flower to love.

Agapanthus is an evergreen perennial that grows to a height of 0.5m with a spread of 0.4m.  It is fast growing, taking six months to one year to reach its mature size.  Its flowers bloom in summer, from June to August.

Requirements: Grows in full sun, and part shade. It grows well in any well-drained soil, although it does better in soils rich in organic matter.  

Water usage: Little watering (once a week).
Appearance:  The Agapanthus plant is a showy perennial, with strong erect stems that carry large dense terminal clusters of tubular-bell-shaped or trumpet-shaped flowers, with six petal-like parts.  The flowers come in various shades of blue or white.  The stems are excellent for cut flowers, which bloom in summer when there are not too many other flowers in bloom.  The strap-shaped leaves are long and slender and grow in a clump of dark green.
Notes on use: It can be planted in a sunny border, or in front of a south-facing wall, as it likes shelter, warmth, and sunshine.  It is ideal in pots and near pools, and provides a tropical effect.

Plants increase slowly but may be propagated by division in early spring.  They also may be raised from seeds in autumn or spring.  Seeds will bloom in 4 years.
When the plants become too crowded, they should be divided and replanted in good fertile soil, which they need since they are heavy feeders. The best time to separate the plants is when they are more or less dormant. This usually is done in midwinter or early spring, before new growth begins.  After dividing them, place the crowns of the new plants about five centimeters below ground level, water well, and let them get established.

Maintenance:  The plant should be fed three times a year; in early spring, early summer, and fall.

Notes: The sap in the leaves is toxic and can cause temporary skin irritation.

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This article is part of a series of articles prepared by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) on water conserving landscapes.  

For additional information on water conserving gardens, visit the CSBE web site at

Support for the CSBE project on water conserving landscapes is provided by WEPIA (Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action), a program being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).