Agapanthus, the only genus in the subfamily Agapanthoideae of the Amaryllidaceae flowering plant family.
The name of Agapanthus means love flower (agape-Love, anthos-Flower) in Greek
Even though Agapanthus are not lilies and all of the species are native to southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique), they are commonly known as Lily of Nile.
Today, some Agapanthus have become naturalized in places around the world such as Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, etc.
The Agapanthus we commonly see in the flower shop and in our garden is Agapanthus Praecox.
Agapanthus is an herbaceous perennials plant that mostly bloom in summer time.
The plant has a very basal, long leaves that could grow up to 60 cm (24 inches) long with rhizome root.
The color of the flowers is either purple nor white.
The genus Agapanthus was established by L’Heritier in 1788.
There are six different species of agapanthus. Agapanthus species are variable, and many subspecies and cultivars are recognized. Agapanthus also hybridize freely, resulting in many hybrids.
Agapanthus is a perennial plant that has both deciduous and evergreen kind.
It is considered a hardy plant that can be grown within USDA Plant hardiness zone 9 to 11(not lower than -6.7C or 20F).
Dry winters and moist summers areas are more suitable for Deciduous species to grow.
Evergreen species are better in areas with winter or year-round rainfall.
Agapanthus will do great in full sun as it will either grow poorly or grow a lot of foliage instead of flowers if plant in shade.
Fertilize the plant with well-drained soil.
Cover the root with dry mulch over winter to avoid frost damage.
One may propagate Agapanthus by division and the best time to do so is between spring and early summer. Warning, splitting plants too often will reduce flowering, it is suggested the plant to be split once for every four to six years.
There had been a long debate of which family the genus belongs to. In the Cronquist system, a taxonomic classification system of flowering plants developed by Arthur Cronquist, Agapanthus was placed to the Liliaceae family along with other Lilioid monocots.
In 1985, Agapanthus was classified as Alliaceae, close to Tulbaghia by Dahlgren, Clifford and Yeo, which their vision of Alliaceae got transferred to Themidaceae.
In 1996, Themidaceae was resurrected by according to a phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequences of the gene rbcL.
Agapanthus was transferred to Amaryllidaceae family which the Angiosperm phylogeny Group disagreed.
In 1998, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group published the original APG system (first version of a modern, molecular based, system of plant taxonomy), shows the clade consisting only 63% bootstrap support between Agapanthus and Amaryllidaceae. There are three separate families recognized by the APG system, Agapantaceae, Alliaceae sensu stricto, and Amaryllidaceae sensu stricto. Agapanthaceae consisted of Agapanthus only and Dahlgren’s idea that it is close to Tulbaghia was rejected.
In 2003, APG II system was published and suggested to combine Agapanthaceae, Alliaceae sensu stricto and Amaryllidaceae sensu stricto together as a large family.
In 2009, APG II was replaced by APG III and Agapanthaceae was treated as subfamily Agapanthoideae of the larger version of Amaryllidaceae.
Armen Takhtajan, in 2009 recognized the three smaller families allowed by APG II, instead of combining them as in APG II.
As mentioned on top, the name of Agapanthus means “love-flower” in Greek, therefore, Agapanthus means love.
Agapanthus in some places can also be a symbol of female fertility. The Xhosa, a tribe in South Africa, will dry the Agapanthus roots and wear them as a necklace in wedding to ensure extra fertility.
In South African tribes, Agapanthus is believed to be both medicinal and magical. For medical used, this flower has been known to aid in troubles with heart disease, fevers, paralysis, coughs, chest pains and chest tightness; nevertheless, it is also worn by people who fear thunderstorms and it is believed to ward off thunder. Interestingly enough, in the magical used, Agapanthus is used for prenatal care and as a method to induce labor. The African tribes believe by using agapanthus during pregnancy can helps to bring a strong healthy baby.