I couldn’t go a summer without a pot of Agapanthus growing on my deck. Large glamorous umbels of periwinkle blue flowers color summer days. Strappy, grass-like foliage remains attractive after flowers have finished their show.
Agapanthus may be commonly called lily of the Nile, but they are not native to land beside the Nile River and are not members of the lily family. Originating from Southern Africa, there are both evergreen and deciduous varieties that grow as perennials. Evergreen types grow where there is winter or year-round rainfall; deciduous species grow where winters are dry.
Here, in the Midwest, we enjoy them outside in the summer and indoors as houseplants when winter winds blow. Lilies of the Nile are perfect candidates for container gardens. They grow best in full sun in rich, moist but well-drained soil. Fertilize plants with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength every couple of weeks until they have finished flowering. Water them regularly during the growing season; reduce watering in winter.
Many sources state Agapanthus bloom best when they are pot-bound. Others believe being pot-bound causes diminished flowering. In my experience, plants seem to bloom better when their roots are tight in the pot. Some years, I have ‘planted’ them pots and all, cutting away the bottoms of their pots to ensure drainage while keeping their roots crowded. I was rewarded with a bevy of blooms. There can, however, be too much of a good thing and plants should be divided every few years to keep them happy and healthy.
There is a wide range of cultivars available at local garden centers, but my favorite is Peter Pan. It has a longer bloom time than many other varieties, beginning in early summer and continuing into August. Peter Pan grows up to 20 inches tall and about a foot wide.
If you want to over-winter Agapanthus, bring them inside before the first frost. Treat them like houseplants, positioning them in a bright, but cool location. Let the soil dry between waterings and do not fertilize. Wait until cold spring nights have been replaced by those with frost-free conditions before moving them back outside. Increase watering and begin fertilizing.
If you have not yet grown Agapanthus, consider trying them this year. I think you will love them as much as I do. Garden with me!