I’m missing my Aggies already. My Lily of the Nile, also known as African Blue Lily, but often affectionately called “Aggies” due to their botanical name Agapanthus africanus, have come and gone. We had summer-like temperatures early this spring, so they bloomed earlier than usual around here. They also seemed to last longer — what a pleasant surprise. I always hate to see them go.
These beauties live up to their name which comes from the Greek words “agape,” meaning unconditional, sacrificial love (such as that between parent and child) and “anthus,” meaning flower. They bloom in clusters of small blue, violet-blue, or white flowers that look like tiny lilies. Those clusters are completely round, globe shapes, called “umbels”, that can a have anywhere from 30 to 100 tiny flowers. Mine typically have about 80 – 100. These plants perform best in Zones 8 – 11. However, I grew them successfully in Charlotte, NC, USA, which is in Zone 7. Although they did not multiply as rapidly there as they do here in Zone 9-A, they did multiply and thrive, coming back each spring, year after year.
Aggies need plenty of direct sunlight. Plant in partial shade or filtered light only if you live in intense heat. I have seen them growing in full-sun in commercially planted areas here, and they appear to be thriving. We have summer temps in the mid- and high-nineties, so mine are planted where they get direct sunlight from early morning until around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. The house shades them from the harsh afternoon sun.
They prefer rich, well-drained slightly acidic soil with a pH of about 6.5 to 7.5. Plant them no deeper than they were planted in the container they came in when you bought them. Plant them about 8 to 10 inches apart. I began with two plants that I bought at Lowe’s. They have multiplied like crazy. I now have enough to move some to other parts of our yard. This photo shows just a few of them.
The Seeds Are Easy to Collect
The upside of their going this year is that I got lots of seed from them to spread around my yard. These seed pods are still green. When they are ripe, they will be light brown, and will split open along the folds to reveal small elongated black seeds. I have already sown some new seed for next year.
These are some of the dried seeds and seed pods. Although they are tiny, the individual seeds are quite large compared to some seeds such as those little specks produced by petunias and lettuces. As can be seen here, the pods will split open and drop their seed on the ground around the existing plants. I prefer to harvest the unopened pods so that I don’t lose any of the seeds. Be sure to keep your seeds in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant them.
Beautiful Evergreen Foliage
As they begin to die down for the season, the tips of the deep green strap-like leaves will begin to turn brown. In a month or so, new green leaves will emerge, and, in mild climates, will stay all winter. In North Carolina, mine died down in winter but emerged in very early spring.
My Aggies are gone for this year, but I know they’ll be back next year, nodding their heads in the breeze.