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Agapanthus africanus (African Lily)

This is the big evergreen one. The leaves can reach 2 – 3 ft but the flower stalks can reach 6ft. It’s not as hardy as the lower growing ones but does well in a pot and can be wheeled into a shed or a greenhouse for the winter for some protection. In mild gardens (coastal and centre of very large cities) it can be left out – either in a container or in the ground permanently. If in a pot, select a tapered pot so it can be removed and put in a bigger pot or removed, halved and each half put in the same sized pot. This is one of the few plants we do mainly for the flowers. Not surprisingly – they’re Architectural Flowers.

The stress of being in a pot will encourage them to flower – up to a point. They’ll need potting on or dividing after a few years but they are terribly easy and magnificently impressive and seem little prone to disease. Tomorite (or any tomato food) is designed to encourage tomatoes (and therefore many other plants) to flower. Try it.

This plant is available with pure white flowers as well as blue.

It’s tough (the flower stalks are surprisingly difficult to break) and good in the wind – especially near the coast and apart from winter protection in cold gardens, require little mollycoddling. They used to surround (self seeded) the heliport on the island of Tresco where, apart from occasional 100knot winds off the Atlantic they had to cope with several daily visits from a huge Sikorski S-61.

Native to western Cape Province in South Africa. Propagated by division.

A comparative comment on Agapanthuses : The big one (Agapanthus africanus) and the little ones (Agapanthus ‘Blue Storm and ‘Snow Storm‘) cannot really be compared. It’s tempting because they’re both Agapanthuses and they both have green strappy leaves and either blue or white flowers but the big one stands alone and are so big that they can be used almost like topiary – a pair in pots either side of an entrance for example. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do the same with the smaller ones but the smaller ones really lend themselves to being planted in drifts – blue or white rivers wending their way through the garden. The point is, one’s not comparing like with like.


Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Red

Find out more

Hardy in Atlantic Seaboard gardens, The Channel Islands, gardens in Central London (and other large cities) and conservatories.

This is only meant as a guide; there are some plants with red labels that would only survive in extremely favoured spots such as The Isles of Scilly or coastal south-west Ireland.

We're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.