How to Grow African Lily

african lily and hummingbirdafrican lily and hummingbird

African lily definitely makes a statement in a garden. With its shiny, strappy leaves and luxurious globe-like flowers, it’s a bit like an ornamental allium on steroids – except this foliage won’t die back in spring. Instead, it will continue to make that statement long after the flowers are gone.

African Lily can be tricky, and must be overwintered inside in zones north of Zone 7, but with a little patience, a sunny site, and adequate water, you too can grow this azure beauty in your borders, containers and garden beds.

When & Where to Plant African Lily

Plant bare root divisions in the spring when the threat of a heavy freeze is past. The crown should be planted one inch below the soil surface in a loamy, moisture retaining soil that drains well.

Light: African lily benefits strongly from a full-sun position. It can tolerate part shade positions, but blooming is lessened and flowers may reach toward available light.

Soil: African lily does fine in average soil as long as it is well-draining, but amending your average soil is a better idea. Adding organic amendments such as compost or leaf mold will help keep soil moist but not wet, add nutrients, and allow the plant to thrive.

Dry soils during the growing season might be tolerated, but are not recommended and will affect flowering. Constantly wet soils will kill the plant.

Spacing: Space 18-24” apart.

In warmer climates, agapanthus clumps will spread and will need dividing in time. In cooler climates where agapanthus is overwintered indoors, growth happens much more slowly.

Planting: Plant in spring when danger of a hard freeze is past.

How to Grow African Lily Throughout the Season

Growith Habit: African lily is a clump-forming plant with long, glossy, strap-like leaves reaching a height of 2-3’, with a spread of 18-24”. Blue flowers appear in mid to late summer and are held above the foliage at the end of long, sturdy stems. These flowers are arranged in an open, globular pattern much like an ornamental allium, but without the density, allowing the gardener (and pollinators) to appreciate the trumpet shapes of individual flowers.

Staking: Staking is not necessary unless light levels are low and flowers are forced to reach.

african lilyafrican lily
<a href="/perennials/unique-perennials/african-lily">African Lilies</a> have strong statement foliage that makes a long lasting impression on any garden-lover.

Watering: During the growing season, African lilies are heavy drinkers and benefit from regular watering. During the winter months, it is best to keep them on the dry side if possible. If kept inside (zones colder than 7), water just to prevent desiccation.

Fertilizing: African lilies benefit from an early spring top dressing of well -rotted manure which naturally contains a high level of nitrogen for strong foliage during the growing season. Mid-season, a fertilizer with a higher potassium level (such as those used for tomatoes) can benefit flowering.

Trimming & Pruning: Foliage naturally dies back in the fall and can be cleared away. Deadheading will not promote further blooming, but cutting the dried flower heads is often done for inside arrangements.

Mulching: Mulch is an excellent idea to retain moisture during the season and to help with overwintering if you live in a borderline hardiness zone.

  1. Red Hot Poker Alcazar, Kniphofia

    'Alcazar' Red Hot Poker brings warm, fiery color to the garden with its vibrant flower spikes. Each flame-like bloom is formed with dangling red-orange buds that open from bottom to ...

    Learn More
    Red Hot Poker Alcazar Alcazar Torch Lily, Poker Plant Kniphofia Alcazar
    $16.98 Sale $8.49
    Per Bag of 3
    'Alcazar' Red Hot Poker brings warm, fiery color to the garden with its vibrant flower spikes. Each flame-like bloom is formed with dangling red-orange buds that open from bottom to top, revealing faded yellow interiors. A favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, this unusual plant is easy to grow, perfect for beginner gardeners. Requires full sun. (Kniphofia)
    Learn More
  2. Primrose Blue Zebra, Primula acaulis Blue Zebra close-up

    Primrose Blue Zebra has unusual blue and white striped petals with a bright yellow center that are sure to catch your eye. Blue Zebra lives up to it's name and makes an incredible w...

    Learn More
    Blue Zebra® Primrose Blue Zebra® Primrose Primula acaulis Blue Zebra®
    $12.98 Sale $6.49
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Primrose Blue Zebra has unusual blue and white striped petals with a bright yellow center that are sure to catch your eye. Blue Zebra lives up to it's name and makes an incredible woodland boarder, or line a path that wanders through the woods. Flowers will bloom in late spring and summer. (Primula acaulis)
    Learn More
  3. White Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria

    One of America's most famous wildflowers, Dutchman's Breeches is a small, wild version of Bleeding Heart, with creamy white flowers so named for their resemble to a pair of upside-do...

    Learn More
    Dutchman's Breeches Dutchman's Breeches Dicentra cucullaria
    $18.98 Sale $9.49
    Per Bag of 3
    One of America's most famous wildflowers, Dutchman's Breeches is a small, wild version of Bleeding Heart, with creamy white flowers so named for their resemble to a pair of upside-down, hung-to-dry pants. Blooming in early spring, the delicate fern-like foliage lasts on, changing from a gray-green to pale yellow. A simple yet striking addition to the shade or woodland garden. (Dicentra cucullaria)
    Learn More
  4. Catmint Walkers Low, Nepeta faassenii

    'Walker's Low' Catmint is known for its easy going nature - it can thrive in a variety of soil and sunlight scenarios, though it does prefer things on the sunny, dry side. Beautiful ...

    Learn More
    Walker's Low Nepeta Walker's Low Catmint Nepeta faassenii Walker's Low
    As low as $9.98 Sale $4.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Walker's Low' Catmint is known for its easy going nature - it can thrive in a variety of soil and sunlight scenarios, though it does prefer things on the sunny, dry side. Beautiful purple flower spikes appear in early summer and continue to bloom and release their sweet fragrance for up to 3 months. Very showy and very low maintenance, 'Walker's Low' is a great choice for planting in swaths, lining walkways, or adding to pollinator gardens. Deer resistant. (Nepeta faassenii)
    Learn More
  5. Green Flowering Spurge Ascot Rainbow, Euphorbia martinii, Flowering Spurge

    'Ascot Rainbow' Euphorbia PP21401, also known as Flowering Spurge, has colorful, variegated foliage that lasts from spring to fall. Green leaf blades trimmed with creamy yellow edges...

    Learn More
    Ascot Rainbow Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow Flowering Spurge PP#21401 Euphorbia martinii Ascot Rainbow PP#21401
    $13.98 Sale $6.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    'Ascot Rainbow' Euphorbia PP21401, also known as Flowering Spurge, has colorful, variegated foliage that lasts from spring to fall. Green leaf blades trimmed with creamy yellow edges transition to deep pink as cooler temperatures arrive. Its foliage is topped with petite, variegated lime green flowers that feature crimson red centers. Flowering Spurge is easy-to-grow, drought tolerant and unappealing to deer. (Euphorbia martinii)
    Learn More
  6. Jack In The Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

    Jack in the Pulpit boasts unusual, hooded green blooms with burgundy-striped interiors that surround an upright spadix, known as the “Jack” inside each flower. Blooms evolve to ...

    Learn More
    Jack in the Pulpit Jack in the Pulpit, Cobra Lily Arisaema triphyllum
    $18.98 Sale $9.49
    Per Bag of 3
    Jack in the Pulpit boasts unusual, hooded green blooms with burgundy-striped interiors that surround an upright spadix, known as the “Jack” inside each flower. Blooms evolve to produce brilliantly-red berries. A truly stunning, unique plant for the shade garden, Jack in the Pulpit can reproduce and spread over time in moist soils. (Ariseama triphyllum)
    Learn More
  7. Blue Sea Holly Blue Star, Eryngium alpinum, Sea Holly

    'Blue Star' Sea Holly has unique, electric-blue flowers with feathered petals that surround erect, thimble-like center cones. Delivering loads of exotic texture and color to the gard...

    Learn More
    Blue Star Sea Holly Blue Star Sea Holly Eryngium alpinum Blue Star
    $25.98 Sale $12.99
    Per Bag of 3
    'Blue Star' Sea Holly has unique, electric-blue flowers with feathered petals that surround erect, thimble-like center cones. Delivering loads of exotic texture and color to the garden througout the summer season, the blooms can be cut and enjoyed in arrangements, both fresh and dried. Deer resistant and tolerant of poor, sandy soils. (Erynigium alpinum)
    Learn More
  8. Stachys monieri Hummelo, Hummelo Betony, Photo Courtesy of Walters Garden Inc.

    Award-winning Hummelo Betony brings a vigorous burst of spiky violet blooms to your late spring garden while providing a strong mounding groundcover during the rest of the growing se...

    Learn More
    Hummelo Betony Hummelo Betony Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo’
    $11.98 Sale $5.99
    Per Plant - 3" Pot
    Award-winning Hummelo Betony brings a vigorous burst of spiky violet blooms to your late spring garden while providing a strong mounding groundcover during the rest of the growing season. Masses of two-lipped flowers cluster on the top of strong stems and are a favorite for pollinators in a sunny garden. Deer resistant. (Stachys monieri Hummelo)
    Learn More

African Lily: End of Season Care

Overwintering: In Zones 7 or 8, plants should be heavily mulched fairly late in the season. Remove all leaves first to discourage rot. Putting plants in a cold frame or unheated hoop house is also recommended, as this keeps soil warmer and keeps moisture levels low.

In cooler climates, plants should be dug and overwintered indoors, keeping them just above freezing. Don’t keep them too warm - agapanthus need a period of cold to flower well.

Dividing & Transplanting: If you live in a warmer climate, your African lilies will soon require division, as clumps will become congested and flowering will suffer. After flowering, dig the entire clump and wash the roots free of soil so you can make good cuts with a sharp knife, including some roots and foliage/new buds with each division. Immediately replant in the garden for large divisions, and in pots for smaller ones (where they can be closely monitored). Water well and keep moist.

Pests/ Disease: African lily is for the most part not bothered by garden pests, but can occasionally suffer from viral infection. Signs of viral infection become evident when flowering is lessened and light colored stripes appear on the leaves (of non-variegated cultivars). American Meadows ships virus-free plants, but if plants become infected after time in the garden, they should be dug up and discarded in a garbage pail, not in a compost pile.

African Lily: Extra Info

Companion Plants: As African Lily is a mid to late flowering plant, it pairs beautifully with tall sedums such as Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy' or with later flowering daylilies such as ‘Autumn Minaret,’ whose yellow-orange flowers provide strong contrast to its blue globes. Yellow perennials and hardy annuals are a terrific choice in general, such as the bright gold varieties of Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum spp.) and Yarrow (Achillea spp.).

If you’re looking for a monochromatic scheme with incredible texture, consider pairing it with the frothy blue spires of Russian sage (Perovskia spp.); and for a bit of tropical foliage fun – how about a bit of variegated canna in the background, such as ‘Pretoria?’

african lilyafrican lily
<a href="/perennials/unique-perennials/african-lily">African Lilies</a> delight in the same way as Allium with their bold tall blooms.

Additional Uses: African Lily flowers are well-visited by pollinating insects and make a lovely addition to a sunny, warm-climate pollinator garden.


To learn more about the plants we sell and how to grow them in your garden beds and patio containers, sign up for our inspiring emails.

© 2020 AmericanMeadows.com All rights reserved