THE SA FLOWER OF LOVE: AGAPANTHUS

THE SA FLOWER OF LOVE: AGAPANTHUS

THE SA FLOWER OF LOVE: AGAPANTHUS

The name Agapanthus originates from the Greek ‘Agape’ which means Love and ‘Anthos’ means Flower therefore the Flower of Love.

Common South African names include:

ENGLISH: African Lily, Blue Lilly, Lily of the Nile (however they are not lilies, and all are native to South Africa)

AFRIKAANS: Bloulelie, Haaklelie

XHOSA: Isicakathi meaning ‘antenatal/postnatal’ medicine 

SOTHO:  Leta-la-phofu meaning – ‘saliva of the eland.’

ZULU: Ubani (oluncane) uhlakahla – ‘saliva on your pillow when you wake up.’

Agapanthus is of the Amaryllidaceae family which consists of 470 different plant species of which only about 10 are agapanthus. It is a popular, versatile and much-loved plant and one of our South African indigenous botanical gems. It is a clump forming, rhizomatous perennial with strappy-shaped green leaves. There are several varieties with variegated foliage of green with cream or white stripes running down the leaves. In summer, Agapanthus produce large clusters of trumpet shaped flowers at the end of a long stalk. The flower buds are protected in a green bract until it is time to open and share the beauty of its flowers with admiring onlookers. There are also dwarf & grass like varieties called the ‘nana white’ and ‘blue or purple’ that flower all year round.

Agapanthus is indigenous to Southern Africa, it occurs naturally in KwaZulu Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. This versatile plant has spread around the world and naturalized where the climate is favorable.

Agapanthus in the Home Garden

Agapanthus or affectionally known as “Aggies”, are a great addition to any garden.  

  • You can mass plant them next to your driveway or pathway, companion plant them with highveld grasses or plant them in your rockery garden or mixed garden beds.
  • Plant some in containers and they will be sure to beautify your patio.
  • The praecox (early flowering) Agapanthus can handle strong winds and can also be planted on banks as they will assist with prevention of soil erosion.
  • The flowers make excellent cut flowers that last up to 10 days in a vase of water.

Agapanthus use for Medicinal and Traditional Properties:

Agapanthus varieties are used for Traditional and Medicinal purposes in South Africa for fertility and pregnancy, these include the following:

  • Agapanthus africanus
  • Agapanthus campanulatus
  • Agapanthus praecox

A decoction (extraction of the essence of plant) of the rhizomes and the roots can be used alone or in a mixture include (DISCLAMER PLEASE NOTE: Only to be prepared and administered by suitably qualified Health practitioners.  Information supplied for interest only.)

  • For fertility and pregnancies, as a primary antenatal and postnatal, it is administered orally, rectally as a decoction and in some cases the plant is grown in water and the water is then administered medicinally.
  • Pregnant women to induce labor and delivery of a healthy child and post-delivery to ensure expulsion of the placenta (said to increase the tone of the uterine muscles).
  • Treat body rash on infants
  • To alleviate menstrual pain for women
  • Assists in functioning of the kidneys
  • Made into a paste and used to treat swollen legs
  • The leaves are also used to sooth sore and tired feet (hikers)
  • Used for chest pains, chest tightness and coughing as well as high blood pressure
  • Infused powder as sun dried roots are taken orally to treat cancer

Popular Agapanthus Varieties:

Thanks to the skill, passion and hard work of internationally acclaimed plant breeders such as Andy De Wet and Quinton Bean from De Wet Plant Breeders (CND Nursery) in Gauteng, this indigenous treasure is found in a stunning range of colors from blue and purple hues to white and blue combinations, varying sizes from dwarf to medium and large, exquisite varieties like the ‘Queen Mum’ variety.

Agapanthus large white
Agapanthus 2
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  • Agapanthus africanus is a common, evergreen agapanthus that grows up to 80cm in height and produces dark blue flowers in late summer
  • Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’ is a dwarf A. africanus version that produces light blue flowers in summer
  • Agapanthus praecox is a large variety which produces large white flowers at the top of the stalk.
  • Agapanthus praecox ‘Blue ice’ & ‘White ice’ are clump-forming plants. ‘Blue Ice’ has a dark blue base, which fades to white at the base while the ‘White Ice’ is a white flowering plant that flowers from spring to the end of summer.
  • Agapanthus ‘Twister’ is one of the beautiful new hybrid varieties. It is a very showy medium sized, semi-evergreen plant which produces bicolored umbel flowers with blue to white throats at the end of the petal. Depending on the local climatic conditions, it flowers from mid to late summer.
  • Agapanthus ‘Summer Gold’ has attractive variegated leaves that are edged in yellow. It produces lilac-blue flowers on a long stalk.

Taking Care of your Aggies:

  • Agapanthus is not a fussy plant but will benefit from being planted in a fertile, well-drained soil or growing medium.
  • They thrive in full sun: 7-8 hours a day
  • In very cold climatic areas, apply a layer of mulch around the plants just before winter to maintain warmer soil temperatures
  • Dead heading (removing dead flowers) will encourage new growth and divert the plant from using all of its energy to produce seeds
  • Agapanthus are drought resistant plants, their thick fleshy roots enable them to store water and nutrients.
  • Deep watering should be done at least once a week in dry periods during spring and summer.

Lift and divide your Agapanthus:

Agapanthus do eventually grow into big clumps and buy dividing them every few years you are encouraging new growth and stimulating flowering. The best time of the year to divide your agies is in March/April when they have just finished flowering. Evergreen agies should be divided once every 4 years while the deciduous varieties should be divided once every 6 years.

Re-pot or lift and divide your Agapanthus on a regular basis to prevent crowding and loss of vigor as follows:

Use a spade and two garden forks to dig and divide the clump and cut it into smaller pieces. Make sure that each clump has sufficient roots and then prune the roots if they are too intertwined or too long. Cover them until they are ready to be re-planted.

Cut the leaves at about two thirds of the length. After planting them, water them thoroughly.

WARNING: Caution must be taken when handling this plant as it is poisonous if ingested and can irritate sensitive skin. Cover up with long sleeves and hand gloves

Transplanting Agapanthus in your Garden Beds & Containers:

  • Prepare new planting areas soil per 1 m2: Incorporate 1 to 3 Liters of good quality compost together with 100g per m² Talborne Organics Vita Grow 2.3.2(16), or 5 to 10ml (adjust for plant size) per plant hole
  • Planting in Containers: Talborne Organics Vita Grow 2.3.2(16) at 1ml per L size of container, mix in with or till into potting soil.

Fertilize your Agapanthus:

  • Fertilize with Talborne Organics Vita Fruit & Flower 3:1:5 (18) at 100g per m2 or 5 to 10ml per plant in early spring to promote continuous flowering and re-apply after flowering season to strengthen plant cells for healthy, resilience of plant against disease and pest attack.
  • Follow up feed with Vita Fruit & Flower as above every 4 months thereafter

Talborne Organic Products available in our store at Garden World!