Lily of the Nile Care: How To Grow Like a Pro

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lily of the nile care guide

Lily of the Nile care isn’t so complicated. 

If you’re new to these popular perennials, you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re some of the most low-maintenance additions you can make to your garden. 

But, in order to get the most out of them, you still want to make sure you’re giving your plants every opportunity to thrive.

This comprehensive gardening guide will ensure that you know everything you need about growing Agapanthus successfully.

We’ll be covering general care tips for all Lily of the Nile varieties. Keep in mind that there may be slight variations depending on your specific breed.

Which USDA Zones Do They Grow In?

First things first with Lily of the Nile care, you’re going to make sure you’re selecting varieties that survive in your USDA Zone. 

You can plant Agapanthus as annuals but they really shine the most when they can grow into your landscape. 

perennial lily of the nile care

There are both deciduous and evergreen varieties. Traditionally, you’ll only be able to grow the deciduous varieties in Zones below 7.

If you’re in or below Zone 7, look at:

  • Agapanthus campanulatus breeds, such as Hardy White. These are hardy down to Zone 5. This species is rare though. 
  • The Headbourne series of Lily of the Nile is hardy down to Zone 6. They won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • The Midknight Blue Agapanthus is a popular cultivar that is perennial down to Zone 6 as well.

Most of the varieties you’re going to run across in a garden center will range from Zones 7 to 11. Some of the more tender evergreen varieties will only go down to Zone 8.

If you’re above USDA Zone 7, consider these:

  • The Ever Series of Agapanthus from the Southern Living Plant Collection is great. I’ve planted several Ever White Agapanthus for various family members, and they love them. They bloom repeatedly over the growing season, starting in spring (which is early for these perennials). The main downside is that they are not very cold-hardy. 
  • The Queen Mum Agapanthus is another Southern Living variety. This is a large-and-in-charge Lily of the Nile. The leaves are thick and strappy and the flower clusters are HUGE! These flowers are also long-lived, which is a good thing because this variety doesn’t rebloom like the Ever varieties.

Lily of the Nile Care: Overwintering

USDA Zones 8 or below, you’ll want to consider some sort of winter precautions for your Lily of the Nile plants.

When I was in the plant sales game, I had this conversation with numerous gardeners that couldn’t understand why their plants would die if they were in an appropriate USDA Zone.

USDA Zones are more of a guideline, than a rule. Plants can still die over the winter, even in the zones that they’re cleared to grow in. 

It has a lot to do with external factors, such as:

  • When were they planted?
  • Were they planted in favorable conditions?
  • Was it a sudden cold-spell?
  • Are they guarded from harsh winds? 

There’s no shortage of things that could lead to your plant expiring due to extreme weather. 

Lily of the Nile are native to South Africa, so keep that in mind. They can handle some cold, but it’s best to provide a little extra care.

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

  • You can cover them with a blanket or freeze cloth overnight during hard freezes
  • You can pile pine straw or mulch around the base of the plants (if they’re deciduous, wait until they die back to the ground and then cover them to protect their roots and rhizomes).

Once your Lily of the Nile clumps have a few winters under their belts, they’re much more capable of handling winters in your area. They’ll really only need any supplementary coverage during uncharacteristically extreme cold spells in your area at this point.

How To Care for Agapanthus in Pots Over the Winter

You have additional options/considerations for Lily of the Nile care over the winter if your plants are in pots.

  • If they’re deciduous, wait until they go dormant (foliage dies/wilts). Then, you can place them in a cool basement or garage. It’s important that the room isn’t heated. If it is, the plant may begin to come back. You can also just place them somewhere that they will be protected from harsh winds, for instance, next to a wall, a large shrub, or another structure. Once spring returns, return them to their original location.
  • For potted evergreen varieties, it’s important that they still receive some sunlight. You can leave them wherever you normally have them. Simply move them inside overnight during hard freezes. You don’t need to bring them into your home either. In fact, it’s better to bring them into an enclosed porch or a garage. Just somewhere where they’ll be protected from extreme temperatures. Furthermore, they’re toxic to pets, so you want to avoid bringing them indoors where a pet could decide to chew on them. Return them back outside in the morning.

Sun Exposure

When considering Lily of the Nile care and where they will grow the best, most varieties need Full Sun to fulfill your expectations in the landscape.

What I mean by this, is that you want your Agapanthus to grow in nice full clumps (like the image I shared earlier in this article) and you want them to bloom nicely. 

They’re going to need plenty of sun for this to happen. 

Aim for at least 5 hours of direct sunlight. 

As always, there is some wiggle room.

For instance, you could probably get away with 4 hours of direct sun if you live in the deep south. Locations that are closer to the equator receive more intense sun.

Does it get 3 hours of direct sun and then lightly filtered sun the rest of the day? This may work as well. 

The most important thing is that you’re realistic with your planting location. Just don’t try to kid yourself that one hour of direct sunlight will be enough. 

Plants use sunlight to make flowers, so if they don’t get enough sun, they won’t bloom like you want them too. This is twice as true for reblooming varieties

Lily of the Nile Care: Water Needs

Agapanthus mainly need supplementary water after they’re first planted. 

Unlike some herbaceous perennials, these plants hold onto water well. They don’t wilt rapidly in the summer heat. 

After you first plant them, a good rule of thumb is to provide supplementary water 2 or 3 times per week. 

This depends on environmental factors though.

  • Is it hot and dry? Aim for at least 3 waterings per week. Maybe even 4.
  • Is it cool and dry? See how they do with water twice a week.
  • Has your area been receiving rain multiple times per week? Don’t water at all.

It’s important to avoid over-watering, as Lily of the Nile commonly fall victim to root rot. Root rot occurs when soil stays wet for too long. Root rot will kill your plant if untreated.

Once they’ve gone through a season in your landscape, you should only worry about providing extra water during dry-spells. 

You’ll know if they aren’t getting enough water because their foliage will start to droop and they’ll take on a less lively, washed-out green shade.

Soil Requirements

Lily of the Nile are surprisingly adaptable when it comes to soil needs. 

For best results, you should supplement the soil in your planting location with organic matter. You can use peat moss, composted manure, or some good quality garden soil.

Good drainage is important to avoid root rot. If you have a very dense soil, such as clay soil, you’ll need to mix something in to improve drainage. 

We recommend mixing in pine bark. This will give your plant more room for its roots to breathe. Additionally, as the bark breaks down, it will improve the quality of the soil. 

Don’t mix sand in with clay soil. It seems like it would make sense because sand is nice and gritty. 

But if you mix sand and clay, you’ll get a concrete-like substance. 

Soil pH

Lily of the Nile care doesn’t usually include worrying about soil pH. They really aren’t picky. However, they generally prefer their soil to be on the acidic side.

If your plant’s leaves turn yellow over time, there is a possibility your soil pH is too high. 

This is because a high pH makes it so that your plant cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. 

Test the soil around your plant with a soil test kit to find out if this could be the problem. 

When To Plant Lily of the Nile

Lily of the Nile are best planted in spring or fall.

USDA Zones 7 & Below

USDA Zones 7 and below should plan to plant them in Spring. This way, they’ll be well-acclimated to your zone by the time winter comes around.

Heat is generally milder in these areas so you can also usually plant them during Summer. Keep an eye on them to ensure they’re not drying out during the summer heat, though.

USDA Zones 8 & Up

Gardeners in USDA Zones 8 and up can plant in Spring or Fall.  

If you plant them in Spring, make sure they’re getting enough water and aren’t getting obliterated by the heat during summer.

Lily of the Nile Care: Wrapping Up

Thanks for taking some time to read our Lily of the Nile care guide today. 

Don’t overthink caring for these hardy beauties. They really are some of the easiest perennials that you can grow. 

Just remember:

  • Pick varieties that grow in your zone
  • Provide Winter protection for at least the first winter
  • Aim for at least 5 hours of sun
  • Water your new plants 2 to 3 times per week
  • Supplement your soil with rich organic matter
  • Plant in Spring or Summer for USDA Zones 7 and below, and Spring or Fall for USDA Zones 8 and up.

Happy gardening!

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