There’s something special about the fabulous blue-purple blooms of these flowers, the colour is reminiscent of bluebells to me, although they aren’t related. These are a sun-loving plant that blooms from midsummer onwards with a large dramatic flowerhead that towers over its fleshy leaves, growing from a rhizome below ground. They can be grown directly into the ground or in pots. Easy to grow, low maintenance and virtually trouble free - what more could you ask for! With the right care, flowering occurs repeatedly for several weeks throughout the season, then this dynamic perennial returns to put on another show the following year.

Some are quite small with a height of 20-60cm, while other species can reach a height of over 1m, and both would make a perfect border with the shorter ones towards the front, with colours ranging from deep blues, through to pale blues, purples and even white - the choice is yours.

These plants are happy to cosy up close together, and in fact, congestion is not a major concern, as they tend to respond quite well to this – apparently when the roots have too much space, the plant will dedicate itself to leaf growth, rather than flower production.

They also go by the common name of Lily of the Nile, sometimes African Lily, which gives a hint to where they originated. In South Africa itself, they are called blue lilies, isicakathi by the Xhosa people, and ubani by the Zulu. In its native areas, it is said to be both magical and medicinal, and that the Zulus use agapanthus to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, chest pains and tightness. It is also said to be used with other plants in various medicines taken during pregnancy to ensure healthy children or to augment or induce labour, but I don’t think it would be wise to try this yourself! Although not a true lily, and doesn’t share the same high level of toxicity, they can cause minor illness if the roots or rhizomes are eaten, and the leaf sap can cause skin irritation, so handle with care.

Established plants are easy to care for - when the bloom is finished, just snip the whole stem out from low down where the leaves are, and if any leaves start looking brown and dry, you can just tweak them out.

Growing Agapanthus

If you want to propagate them yourself, sowing seeds will take some years for them to flower, so unless you have the patience, root division would be a better option and should be done in the autumn or spring.

You will need to wear gloves, and your first step is to dig the whole plant up, drastic as it sounds, by digging 6-8 inches around the plant, and with a sharp knife cut the tuberous root in half between the shoots, so you don’t injure any new growth. Each of these halves can be cut in two again, effectively giving you 4 plants, each with one or two shoots attached. Instead of repotting or replanting straight away, leave them uncovered and out of direct sunlight for 24 hours, which allows the roots to stop bleeding sap, and start to heal the cut sections. It is recommended to divide each plant every 3 years to maintain its health and performance.

Agapanthus plants require well-draining soil and full to partial sun to grow happily. Deadheading will prevent seeds from forming, so if you want to control the slow spread, you would be wise to trim the dead flowers as soon as they start wilting. They are pretty indestructible and would likely survive without much maintenance, but a few minutes of trimming and cutting back will ensure strong healthy plants in the future.