Agapanthus: African lily

Family: Amaryllidaceae
Common name: Lily of the Nile, African lily

African lilies are difficult to procure and bloom, but they are one of the most beautiful lily flowers. Their leaves are thin, strappy and long; growing to a length of about 2 feet. Like all lilies, the leaves grow all the way from the root and bend gracefully outwards, giving the lilies a beautiful rosette shape. The plants have rhizomes under the soil and white fleshy roots.

African Lily flowers grow on long stalks that stand tall above the leaves like spider lily flowers; but in blue, purple or white colors. The flowers are long and tubular with well-defined and beautifully-shaded petals. The stamens and style are also pronounced and very pretty.

As the name says, the species is native to Africa, but is now grown all over the world, especially in warmer climates. There are also many hybrids and cultivars with differences in colors and size of the inflorescence. They also produce capsules with tiny black seeds. The common species are Agapanthus africanus and Agapanthus praecox, the latter being more garden-friendly.

Flowering is mostly in summer. Since African lilies grow in clumps, there would be multiple stalks standing upright in an area, with clusters of flowers beautifying your entire garden. They are drought-resistant, and can also tolerate poor soil conditions.

Agapanthus is considered a magical and medicinal plant in traditional medicine, used in making antenatal medicines. They are used to treat cough, cold, chest pain, paralysis and also heart diseases. The long strappy leaves are used to hold medicines in place by wrapping them around hands or legs.

Propagation is from seeds, or by splitting plants at the roots.

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