The African lily (Agapanthus umbellatus) is a member of the family Alliaceae and a native of the Cape of Good Hope, from where it was introduced to Europe at the close of the 17th century.
The African lily has a short stem bearing a tuft of long, narrow, arching leaves 1/2 to 2 ft. long and a central flower stalk 2 to 3 ft. high, ending in an umbel of bright blue, funnel-shaped flowers.
Several cultivars are known, such as albidus (white flowers), aureus (leaves striped with yellow), and variegatus (leaves almost entirely white with a few green bands). There are also double-flowered and larger- and smaller-flowered forms.
The African lily is a handsome greenhouse plant and is hardy in the south of England and Ireland if protected from severe frosts. The plants are easy to cultivate and (in areas that have winter) are generally grown in large pots or tubs that can be protected from frost.
During the summer they require plenty of water and are very effective on the margins of lakes or by running streams, where they thrive.
They may be propagated from offsets or by dividing the rootstock in early spring or autumn.
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