By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Also known as African lily and lily of the Nile but commonly known simply as “aggie,” agapanthus plants produce exotic-looking, lily-like blooms that take center stage in the garden. When is agapanthus bloom time and how often does agapanthus bloom? Read on to find out.
Bloom time for agapanthus depends on the species, and if you plan carefully, you can have an agapanthus flowering from spring until the first frost in autumn. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of the many possibilities:
With proper care, agapanthus flowering occurs repeatedly for several weeks throughout the season, then this perennial powerhouse returns to put on another show the next year. Agapanthus is a nearly indestructible plant and, in fact, most agapanthus varieties self-seed generously and may even become somewhat weedy.
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Read more about Agapanthus
On a mature agapanthus, rounded clusters of bell-shaped blooms in blue, blue-violet or white top long, bare stalks above leaves. The age of an agapanthus for first flowering depends on its variety, growing conditions and how it was propagated. Agapanthus orientalis, which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, commonly known as Lily of the Nile or African Lily, is native only to southern Africa.
Deadheading agapanthus and other perennial flowers involves removing the faded flowers before they form seeds, which offers several aesthetic and practical benefits. As well as prolonging the flowering season, deadheading can improve the appearance of the plant and the garden, and it prevents seed heads from forming. Generating seeds requires energy that the plant can use to create more flowers or divert to its roots to grow healthily and larger the following season.
Agapanthus grows as a dense mound of strap-like foliage, and in summer, its blue flowers appear atop fleshy stalks 18 to 24 inches tall. When the blooms begin to fade, you can deadhead the flower only and leave the stalk, or remove the entire stalk too. Snipping off the stalk at its base results in a neater overall appearance, but the plant misses out on the energy the green stalk generates from the sun. Any choice you make is not crucial to the health of the plant.
Before deadheading agapanthus, wipe the blades of your pruning shears with a cloth that's been dipped in rubbing alcohol to avoid introducing pests or diseases to the plant. Snip the stalk either at its base or directly below the flower, and place the plant debris on your compost heap. You can leave the deadheaded flowers and stalks on the soil beneath the plant, where they will decompose and return nutrients to the soil, but it looks less tidy. When you've finished deadheading your plants, wipe your pruning shear blades with rubbing alcohol again.
Q. Can you give me reasons why my agapanthus, lillies of the Nile, didn't bloom this year?
A. Many gardeners have found that agapanthus bloom best when the plants are slightly crowded in a bed or slightly pot-bound, but agapanthus flower poorly when truly overcrowded.
Flowering may be sparse, too, the year following division/transplanting. Divide every four or so years, in spring or fall. General bloom time is May through July.
Agapanthus thrives in a sandy soil enriched with humus. Good drainage is important. The tuberous-rooted plants adapt in sunny areas, those with morning sun and afternoon shade and those with winter sun and filtered summer sun.
Water well during the spring growing season, especially while the plants are developing flower scapes. After blooming, water well and fertilize with bone meal or superphosphate. Water moderately in fall and winter, and fertilize again in early spring.
Kathy Huber has worked for the Houston Chronicle since May 1981. She was Features Copy Desk chief before becoming the first full-time garden editor for the paper in 1988. She writes a weekly garden Q&A and feature stories.
A Texas Master Gardener, she's the author of The Texas Flower Garden, published by Gibbs-Smith in 1996. She's been a frequent speaker at various garden events.
A native of Moultrie, Ga., she graduated from Queens University of Charlotte, formerly Queens College. She did graduate work through the University of Georgia system.
She is married to photographer John Everett and they have one son.
Several years ago, I was given a potted agapanthus or African lily. After waiting all summer for my agapanthus to bloom, I had to finally admit that maybe it was time to repot it.
Also called the Lily of the Nile, the agapanthus is actually native to South Africa—nowhere near the Nile.
There are seven species of agapanthus, which are in the same family as the amaryllis—another South African native. Most have similar strap-like leaves and the flowers consist of a large ball made up of small trumpet-like florets, each one like a tiny amaryllis. Some, like mine, are evergreen while other are deciduous, their leaves dying off in winter. The deciduous ones are the hardiest.
In areas of the country with mild winters, agapanthus are hardy enough to be grown outside. Here in the frozen north we have to grow them in containers and bring them inside to winter over, putting them back outside in the spring after danger of frost has past.
After waiting all summer for my agapanthus to bloom I had to finally admit that maybe it was time to repot it.
I heard they liked to be potbound but this one was extremely cramped. They should be split and repotted every 4-6 years to keep them blooming well and mine was way overdue. Even though the experts recommend repotting in the spring I knew it was now or never. The best time for me to do any garden chore is when I have the time.
Needless to say it put up quite a fight so I had to call on Tom to provide the muscle necessary to get it out of the pot.
There was no delicate way to divide this mess so I brought out the trusty hand saw and cut it up into several pieces. One of my gardening friends has an electric carving knife that has never seen a turkey—it is used only for dividing plants! I suppose a reciprocating saw could do the job too.
The pieces are cozy in their new pots. They will overwinter in our greenhouse where it can get down to 40 degrees on cold nights. This will give them a chance to rest and be ready for spring. It will probably be another year or two before they start to blossom again but it will be worth the wait!
This is a genus of 6 plants native to southern Africa and grows in upright clumps from fleshy rhizomes that produce short, tuberous roots. Tufts of strap-like arching leaves are produced on short stems and are 12-24 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. Most are evergreen and stay attractive even when not in bloom although there are deciduous types. Flowers are produced in clusters held above the foliage and are tubular or bell-shaped in shades of blues, purple or white with a darker stripe down the center of each petal. Bloom time is summer and in frost-free areas will bloom into fall.
Plant in full sun to partial shade in sandy-loam well-drained soils. The rhizomes should be planted 1 inch deep and 8 inches apart. If growing in a pot allow the plant to become rootbound as it will bloom best under those conditions. Use in the border or on the patio in a container.
Evergreen types should be grown year-round, treating them as houseplants during the winter in areas that receive frost. The deciduous ones can be stored in a cool, dark place in above freezing temperatures in areas north of zone 7. If leaving the deciduous types in the ground provide with mulch for protection and do not plant in an area that stays wet.
This plant can be propagated by seed or dividing the rhizomes. Starting from seed can take up to 5 years before blooming occurs so division is best. Divided plants may not bloom in the first year. This plant is seldom damaged by deer. Cultivars are available.
See this plant in the following landscape: Cultivars / Varieties:
What are reasons why my agapanthus may not be blooming? Thanks!
I tell people not to give up until the end of June. This is the very beginning of the blooming season, and some varieties bloom later than others. So, I would not be concerned at this time.
Consumer Horticulture Specialist
I just talked to the gardener and he told me that the agapanthus he has blooms white but very sparse - he said this has been going on for several years. Do you have anything to add to your original comments?
Thanks, Gerald R.
An agapanthus that has bloomed (what this gardener considers) lightly for years is probably doing all it can. This is likely just the way this agapanthus will bloom for him in that location. I can’t imagine flowering habits changing after the plant is established for several years.
Many people think their agapanthus plants should bloom more or would like them to bloom more. But, agapanthus plants will produce the number of flowers they will regardless of our wishes. Most clumps produce what I would call a “light” blooming (even a large clump may only send up 3 to 5 flower stalks). All we can do is give them the appropriate care and enjoy the flowers that they do provide.
White is a color sometimes seen in agapanthus, although the blue types are more popular. Occasionally a white agapanthus will show up in a planting of blue plants. This likely occurs during potting up by the grower, or indicates a spontaneous mutation, or the possibility of a seed dropping to the ground and producing a plant genetically different from the parents (white, for instance, instead of blue).
The dark bloom varieties, like Ellamae, tend to bloom later than the light blue types. Sometimes that is an explanation for why a clump is not blooming now.
Consumer Horticulture Specialist