Agapanthus bloom looks like Independence Day.

It is no lily, but it does live on the banks of the Nile River. Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus, endures both long dry summers and winter flooding. While inundated, it clings to the silty soil with a sturdy network of rubbery roots. Densely mounding foliage regenerates as floodwater recedes. If conditions get exceptionally warm and dry, foliage may eventually shrivel after midsummer bloom.

Home gardens are certainly more hospitable than the floodplains of the Nile River. The luxuriant foliage of lily of the Nile is evergreen locally, even if irrigation is minimal. The rubbery leaves get as long as two feet, arching outward from basal rosettes. New foliage obscures deteriorating old foliage. Plants that get too congested to bloom well might benefit from division of individual rosettes.

Lily of the Nile blooms around Independence Day, with round floral trusses that resemble exploding fireworks. Each blue or white bloom stands about two to four feet high, on slim and bare stems. Individual florets are small and tubular. ‘Storm Cloud’ blooms with darker blue or purple. Agapanthus orientalis may exhibit bigger blooms and coarser foliage. ‘Peter Pan’ stays low and compact.


15 thoughts on “Lily Of The Nile

    1. Like many riparian species, they likely live considerable distances from water, but are ready if it inundates them. Although their roots are easily cut, they are not so easily pulled out. They can really take a beating, and hold the soil firm.


      1. I really don’t know. To me, it is more likely the soil – sugar sand. Never holds water very long. Though, I wonder what the banks of the Nile are like, sandy like the Sahara or muddy?? I have one Agapanthus at a low point in my garden that holds the most water and another in a sunnier, drier spot they grow to maybe 8 inches tall and just stop. Both of them?? Any ideas?

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      2. The Nile River Basin is actually quite fertile, and is replenished annually by winter flooding. It was the only agricultural land in ancient Egypt.
        Agapanthus are susceptible to fungal pathogens, but I have never witnessed it here. I have seen some that do not grow very well because of nutrient deficiency, which did not seem to bother the plants around the. It was odd. Only the agapanthus were affected. Does the soil there happen to be slightly alkaline? Do you see agapanthus doing well in other parts of the neighborhood?

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      3. If you happen to have some about, it might be worth a try. My old Agapathus orientalis did not seem to mind slight alkalinity, but Agapanthus africanus is supposedly more sensitive to it. Almost all modern agapanthus are Agapanthus africanus, or related. (Some insist that both are the same species.) Those that I noticed expressing symptoms of nutrient deficiency seemed to me to be more like Agapanthus africanus, while those that did not express such symptoms just a short distance away resembled Agapanthus orientalis.

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  1. I think my favorite variety is a bad pun- the “Black Pantha” type that is sold up at Sloat sometimes is just a gorgeous dark purple- You see Agapanthus all over San Francisco, they clearly do well in weird growing environments.

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    1. I think that one does better than it does here! lily of the Nile are supposed to prefer warmer climates, but it seems to me that the foliage of those that bloom dark blue or purple tends to fade in the warmth. I am not certain because I have not seen many of them.


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