Popular Flower Types
Add color to your garden with these easy-to-grow perennial flowers. Choose from yellow, red, orange, bronze and white varieties, adding height and texture to borders, kitchen gardens and natural landscapes.
These showy flowers bloom in early spring and provide a pop of color well into fall. They are easy to grow and attract pollinators.
According to Garden Guides, Agapanthus is derived from the Greek words: agape, which means love, and anthos, which means flower.
Taken together, the agapanthus is the flower of love. It’s also known as African lily and Lily of the Nile, tributes to its African origins.
Of course, a lot of flowers, such as carnations, gardenias, lilacs, orchids, and tulips, want to be called the love flower. But the red rose remains the reigning champ.
The regal Agapanthus is a colorful herbaceous perennial that blooms in blue, violet or white, depending on the variety. Their trumpet-shaped blooms are highly attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
According to Flowers.style.com, the “African Lily and Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus flowers are not lilies!” And knowing that botanists like to mess with us, we all should have seen that coming. These flowers are related to onions. They belong to the Amaryllidaceae gang, whose members include the notorious amaryllis, daffodils, and snowdrops.
Originating from South Africa, Agapanthus today thrive in Mediterranean climates around the world. In the mid-1600s, ships of the Dutch East India Company stopped at Capetown, for supplies, including exotic plants, and brought them to the Netherlands. I’m not sure how they made it to America, but my guess was via Teleflora. Or Amazon. Or DoorDash. Or…well, gee whiz making this stuff up gets confusing.
Agapanthus are either deciduous or evergreen. The deciduous varieties are hardier than the evergreens and grow well in pots. Some reach just 12” high, making them especially suited to containers; others can reach 5’ tall.
The general specs: soil should be well-draining, loose, and organically rich. Soil pH: 5.5 – 7.5. Full sun.
Bloom time: June through September. Space 2’ apart. Height & width: 2’ – 4’. Time to maturity: 2 – 3 years. Cut back in October and November. Remove dead leaves and deadhead spent flowers (or just leave them if you want to collect the seeds).
In the spring, administer a dose of slow-release 5-5-5 NPK granular fertilizer, and then again 2 months later. Mulch annually.
Good companion plants: birds of paradise, coneflowers, dianthus, hydrangea, Shasta daisies or wisteria.
Most gardeners start with purchased plants, divisions, or bare-root rhizomes, which yield flowering plants
in just one or two seasons. Plant them in the spring or fall in a sunny spot. Many tolerate a little shade.
Dig a hole deep and wide enough for the root ball. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
Water one inch per week, until you see new growth. Use drip irrigation instead of overhead watering, which can lead to fungal infection.
If planting rhizomes, place them pointy side up, root side down, and cover with 2” of soil. If growing in containers, start with a pot that’s 18+” in diameter.
Agapanthus can be propagated either from seed or by root division.
When planting from seed, it’ll take 2 to 3 years for them to flower. Slow and steady will still get you there. To speed up the germination process, place a heat mat underneath the seed tray. The ideal temperature for germination is 70-80°F.
Use a seed tray filled with potting mix, and cover the seeds with 1/8th of an inch of sand or perlite. When the seedlings each have three to four leaves, you can transplant them to larger pots filled with sand and rich potting soil. Keep in mind that seeds saved from an existing plant won’t necessarily produce true to the parent plant. May nice and sweet surprises come your way.
Planting root divisions is a faster way to produce blooms than seeds. Only divide after the plant has bloomed.
Deciduous varieties should be divided every six to eight years; evergreen types every four to five years. In the springtime, divide the roots by digging up the entire plant. Using a knife, carefully cut the root ball in half between the shoots. Take each of these sections and cut them in two.
Punching those numbers into your calculator, you should now have four new pieces. Each should have one or two shoots attached. Leave the new divisions outdoors, uncovered and out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours to allow the roots to stop bleeding sap. Cover the root ball, but allow any shoots to poke up above the surface.
Occasionally, fungal diseases will damage foliage; simply remove the affected leaves. If you see white spots (powdery mildew), silvery coating (botrytis), or brown spots (anthracnose), remove affected leaves and spray with a copper fungicide. If you have root rot, ensure the soil is well-draining. Watch for slugs and snails. Some varieties get the collywobbles, better known as upset tummies.
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, agapanthus rhizomes (roots), leaves, and sap are toxic if ingested, and the sap can irritate the skin. Keep children and pets away from these plants.
Wear gloves when handling.
Some other varieties to consider: ‘Galaxy White’ (5” white flowers, can reach 40”); ‘Jacaranda’ (blue flowers in June through to August; height of 3’); ‘Peter Pan’ (dwarf with blue blooms)’ and ‘Midnight Cascade’ (dark blue flowers from August to September; grows to 2’ tall);
Whatever you call the Lilies of the Nile, they’re all flowers of love. But so are carnations, gardenias, lilacs, orchids, tulips, and roses.
Schmidt is a Poway resident with over 40 years of gardening experience.