Beautiful, robust and extremely resistant – these attributes aptly describe the properties of the Agapanthus. The ornamental lilies, which are also known colloquially as love flowers, adorned the gardens and parks of the rich nobility as early as the Baroque period. Even today, the herbaceous perennial from Africa has lost none of its fascination. Its ability to go without water for long periods of time and the ease of propagation make the Agapanthus the ideal ornamental plant for hobby gardeners. Commercially available species are rarely homozygous, rather a large selection of robust hybrids with white and blue flower colors are available. The popular ornamental plants can only be cultivated as a container plant in our latitudes.


Almost all Agapanthus are real sun worshipers. The plants from South Africa need a sunny, warm location. African lilies can also cope with a few hours of sunshine, but their bloom suffers as a result. If the location is too shady, the flowers fade and the growth of the plant is also inhibited. It is all the better for the sensitive shoots and flowers of some species if the space also offers sufficient protection against wind.

The optimal ground conditions

The perennial does not make any special demands on the plant substrate. The following tips are helpful for the tropical plant:

  • The African lily planted in pots requires conventional universal soil.
  • Additionally added loam ensures a better binding of moisture and helps to improve the soil consistency.
  • Agapanthus is extremely susceptible to waterlogging – drainage at the bottom of the pot ensures that excess water is drained away quickly.

watering and fertilizing

Agapanthus easily tolerate longer periods of drought, the African heritage of the plant makes this possible. Large amounts of water are stored in the fleshy leading roots and rhizomes of the African lily and released to the leaves and shoots as required. If the agapanthus is not watered for a long time, individual parts of the plant can take care of and, in the worst case, die. However, the herbaceous perennial recovers from this state quite quickly and new leaves soon sprout.

The plant tolerates moderate watering – even in midsummer – better than wet feet. In the long term, waterlogging causes the roots to rot and dissolve, and in the advanced stage the ornamental perennial dies off completely.

All African lily species are also relatively undemanding when it comes to the supply of nutrients:

  • In spring and autumn, a thick layer of compost provides the plant with the important minerals.
  • If necessary – for example if the soil is poor in nutrients – fertilization with conventional liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks is sufficient for the African lilies in the bed.
  • Add normal liquid fertilizer for potted plants to the irrigation water during the main growing season.


Within a few years African lilies can reach a considerable size. If the plants are too heavy for the tub or if more Agapanthus are desired, the perennial can be divided without much effort.

  • Due to the massive root formation, a spade or a sharp ax is required for root division.
  • Carefully separate the African lily into different parts of the plant.
  • Plant the individual parts of the Agapanthus as usual.
  • This process is recommended in early spring, before the plant begins to sprout its flowers or just before moving into its winter quarters.
  • No special care is required for the separated plant parts.
  • Water the individually planted African lilies sufficiently in the first few days.


Agapanthus tend to form a dense network of roots. The motto of the African perennial seems to be “the tighter, the better”, because the plants only develop a lush bloom in a flower pot with full roots. But this is where a careful look is advisable: If the roots protrude from the container, they are no longer able to absorb important nutrients and water from the plant substrate and have to change the container.

  • The plant can be repotted either in autumn or spring.
  • Optimally, this is combined with a root division of the agapanthus.
  • The new planter only needs to be slightly larger than the one used previously.
  • Prepare a drainage at the bottom of the bucket and fill it with humus-rich substrate.
  • Clay pots or wooden tubs with steel rings work well, but must have drainage holes at the bottom for excess watering.
  • Before the African lily blooms in its lush splendor, it first has to root the new tub well.
Note: Agapanthus may survive prolonged periods of drought without suffering major damage, but they are more sensitive to waterlogging than many other ornamental plants.

Repotting puts a strain on the plant and it is possible that the agapanthus will hardly produce any flowers, if at all. At the latest, however, in the following year, when the plant tub is well rooted, the plant will recover and shine in all its bloom. For this reason, the lily is rarely repotted.


Die Schmucklilien sind nicht winterhart. In milden Winterregionen besteht eine geringe Chance, dass die Pflanzen auch im Freiland die kalte Jahreszeit unbeschadet überstehen können. Dennoch ist das Risiko zu groß, dass die Triebe und Wurzelballen der Staude auch zeitweilige Minustemperaturen nicht überleben. Für die erfolgreiche Überwinterung der Agapanthus wird zwischen den sich einziehenden und den immergrünen Arten unterschieden.

Einziehende Agapanthus

Diese Arten verlieren im Spätherbst das komplette Blattwerk und ziehen sich ins Erdreich zurück. Unbeschadet überstehen sie eine Überwinterung im Dunkeln, niedrige Temperaturen vorausgesetzt. Im Winter benötigen einziehende Agapanthus keine Versorgung mit Wasser oder Dünger. Je trockener der Wurzelballen und das Pflanzensubstrat sind, umso besser für die Staude. Durch ihren Rückzug ins Erdreich überstehen diese Agapanthus-Sorten auch kurzfristige Temperaturen bis zu -15°C.

Langfristig gesehen haben sie unseren nasskalten und frostreichen Wintern jedoch dennoch nichts entgegenzusetzen. Spätestens im Oktober oder nach dem ersten Frost sollten die Schmucklilien jedoch in ihr dunkles Winterquartier umsiedeln. So spät, wie sie eingezogen ist, so früh muss die Pflanze ihren geschützten Platz jedoch auch wieder verlassen: Ende Februar bis Mitte März müssen alle Agapanthus-Sorten zurück ans Sonnenlicht. Das fördert das Wachstum von Blättern und Blütenständen. Um Frosteinbrüchen vorzubeugen, werden die Blumenkübel mit einem wärmenden Spezialvlies umwickelt. Eine dicke Schicht aus Humus schützt die Wurzeln und liefert zeitgleich die ersten wichtigen Nährstoffe.

Immergrüne Agapanthus

As the name suggests, these African lily species keep their leaves all year round. For lush flowering in the following year, the evergreen perennials must overwinter in a bright, frost-proof room. In order not to promote the growth of the plant in winter, the African lilies need an ambient temperature between 0°C and 6°C during the hibernation phase. Evergreen agapanthus should vacate their place outdoors before the first frost in autumn. In the spring, get used to the sun again as early as possible.
Tip: Half-shady, wind-protected locations are well suited to getting evergreen and leaf-wedding Agapanthus used to the sun’s UV rays in spring.

In the trade and also in internet forums there is always talk of “hardy” Agapanthus varieties. The specially bred variety “Agapanthus africans”, for example, is conditionally hardy. The same applies to herbaceous varieties whose roots can withstand temperatures of down to -15°C. But it’s not so much the cold that bothers the South African plant. Rather, the cold, wet winters in our latitudes can lead to frostbite in the root ball of the African lilies. Even a sheltered place in the garden and a thick layer of humus only offer insufficient protection here. It is therefore not recommended to cultivate it outdoors all year round.

To cut

  • None of the numerous Agapanthus varieties require a clearing cut.
  • Withered or dead leaves are gently torn off with the fingers.
  • Only withered inflorescences can be removed with sharp scissors. This prevents seed formation and encourages the plant to sprout new flowers.

care tips

Robust, hardy and also able to survive a dry period of up to two weeks – what more could you ask for from an ornamental plant? There are still a few useful tips for the distinctive African lily:

  • Avoid avoiding using the sap. This can stain clothing and irritate the skin.
  • Agapanthus flowers are suitable as vase decoration. To do this, cut off the flowering stem at an angle to the desired length as soon as the first 2 – 3 individual flowers have opened.
  • Do not move African lilies cultivated outdoors into dark rooms during the flowering period.
  • Choose sturdy flower pots, because the roots of the plant exert immense pressure.
  • More than 500 different varieties are commercially available. Ideally, the ornamental perennial is bought during its flowering.

Recognizing and correcting maintenance errors

As robust as African lilies are, problems can still occur with this plant if it is not cared for properly.

African lily does not bloom:
The temperature in its winter quarters was too high – the ambient temperature must not climb above 15°C so that it can form inflorescences in spring.
Freshly transplanted plants must first root through the entire flower pot before they bloom again the following year.
In places that are too shady, the flowering can also be less or not at all.

Yellow leaves:
Is there waterlogging or the water cannot drain properly from the substrate? Plant immediately in dry soil or at least ensure that the water that is present can be drained off.
Also a possible indication of over-fertilization. For some time without the supply of nutrients.

The leaves of evergreen African lilies turn yellowish in winter quarters that are too dark due to the lack of light.

Brown leaves and shoot tips:
are there pests? Spider mites rarely colonize African lilies, but an infestation of these pests causes brown leaves, which slowly dry up completely.
A longer dry period can also cause these symptoms. Immediately water the plant sufficiently and remove the dry leaves.

Evergreen Agapanthus need to be slowly acclimated to direct sunlight again in spring. Young leaves in particular are extremely susceptible to UV light and “burns” occur on the leaf surface.

diseases and pests

The tropical immigrant is extremely rarely attacked by diseases and pests. Other annoying pests, such as mice and snails, also avoid the leaves and shoots of the perennial.

Only waterlogging and the associated root rot can damage the roots of the plant if not cared for properly. Drainage helps to drain excess moisture directly and avoid waterlogging in advance. Not only does root rot make itself felt through a visibly dying plant, but a putrid odor straight out of the plant soil is another clear indication of it. The Agapanthus needs new, dry soil immediately. Cutting off rotting roots is not always successful and should only be done with care.

All evergreen and also herbaceous varieties of Agapanthus are extremely robust and easy to care for. Reasons that make the African perennial the ideal beginner plant for hobby gardeners. The plant forgives possible care mistakes immediately, apart from the right location, it does not make any further demands on its owner.

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