Summer time is agapanthus season at Kirstenbosch, when the Garden
is festooned with masses of these beautiful plants that come in
many shapes and sizes and in all shades of blue, and white. It is
a tough choice to pick just one, as they are all deserving of a
place in any garden.
coddii is one of the lesser known agapanthus. It is deciduous,
losing all its leaves in autumn, lying dormant during the winter
months and producing a new set of leaves in the spring. This species
comes from the Waterberg in the Northern Province (former western
Transvaal). It is robust and free-flowering, with attractive upright
foliage reaching a height of 0.8-1m and a dense umbel of bright
blue flowers on a 1-1.5 m high stalk. The rootstock is rhizomatous
with perennial fleshy roots. The leaves are broad, strap-shaped,
3-5 cm wide and 15-45 cm long, with blunt tips and are held in a
decorative fan with a distinct stem. In December the flower stalks
tipped by the buds appear out of the foliage, like an arsenal of
spears pointing skywards. By early January the flowers start to
open. The buds are quite a dark blue, opening to a paler blue, and
each perianth segment has a distinct dark blue stripe down the middle.
The perianth segments open quite widely, exposing purple tipped
stamens. The fruit is a capsule containing many flat, black, winged
The genus Agapanthus was established by L'Heritier in 1788.
It used to be included in the Liliaceae (lily family), was then
moved to the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllus & daffodil family), moved
again into the Alliaceae (onion family) then back to Amaryllidaceae
and now resides in its own family, the Agapanthaceae. It seems to
all be about whether its umbellate inflorescense is considered to
be of greater taxonomic importance than its superior ovary. The
Agapanthaceae is a monotypic family (consists of only one genus)
that is endemic to southern Africa, i.e. Agapanthus occurs
naturally nowhere else on Earth. It consists of six variable species
that are widespread in all the provinces of South Africa except
for the Northern Cape, and in Lesotho and Swaziland but not in Namibia
or Botswana. They occur only in areas where the rainfall is more
than 500 mm (20 inches) per annum, from sea level to 2000 m (7000
ft), with a distribution range that extends from the Cape Peninsula
in the south-west, along the southern and eastern coast of southern
Africa then inland and northwards into the mountainous regions south
of the Limpopo River. There are many cultivated forms of Agapanthsu
praecox and Agapanthus
The name Agapanthus is derived from the Greek agapé
love and anthos, flower. There is no clear reason for this
derivation although it could be interpreted as 'lovely flower' or
'flower of love'. Agapeo means 'to be contented with' which
is a possible derivation, i.e. 'flower with which I am well pleased'.
Agapanthus coddii is named after Dr. L.E.W. Codd, botanist
and director of the Botanical Resarch Institute in Pretoria from
1963-1973. Agapanthus has attracted a few common names over
the years. In its first publication in Europe in 1679 it was called
the African hyacinth. Linnaeus called it the African lily, and nowadays
in Europe and America it is still known as the African lily, but
also rather inappropriately as lily of the Nile. In South Africa
they are commonly called agapanthus or blue lily / bloulelie.
Growing Agapanthus coddii
Agapanthus coddii is easy to grow. It requires rich, well-drained
soil with ample compost (decayed organic matter) and plenty of water
in summer. It does best in full sun, is not at its best in semi-shade
but will still do well in light shade for about half the day. It
does not mind irrigation during its winter dormant period, and also
does very well in the winter rainfall Western Cape. In order to
get Agapanthus coddii to flower well, it is crucial that
it is fed generously every spring and watered well during spring
and summer. As with most plants they benefit most from regular (e.g.
weekly) deep drenching as opposed to frequent superficial waterings.
Plant Agapanthus coddii so that the rootstock is just underground.
Take note that unlike the evergreen agapanthus that need to be lifted
and divided every four years or so to ensure flowering, Agapanthus
coddii, and all the other deciduous species, require a period
of settling in and may not flower very well in their first year
after being re-planted. It is best to leave them undisturbed for
up to six years. Agapanthus coddii is frost hardy, and should
be able to survive in permanent outdoor cultivation in areas with
a winter minimum of -7°C / 20°F (zone 9) although in regions that
dip to -5°C / 23°F and below for long periods the plants should
be mulched thickly with a protective layer of leaves / straw / hessian.
Agapanthus coddii is ideal for mass displays or as a backdrop
to the herbaceous border. It is a good companion for winter growing
plants like Chasmanthe floribunda. It is also suitable for
pot cultivation although it is a bit big and it will require regular
supplementary feeding and a large tub. Agapanthus coddii
is an excellent cutflower, either whole heads, or individual flowers
in small arrangements or wired and used in bouquets and posies.
Propagation is by seed or division. Because Agapanthus hybridise
freely with each other, and are all in flower at the same time,
you can be sure that there will be hybrids from seed harvested in
the Garden. To get pure seed of Agapanthus coddii it would
have to be habitat collected or pollinated under strictly controlled
Seed can be sown fresh, in late summer - autumn, but in cold climates
it can be kept refrigerated (not frozen) and sown in spring. It
must be kept in the refrigerator or it will perish. Seed should
be sown in deep (10 cm) trays, in a mixture of equal parts river
sand and fine compost, and kept semi-shaded and moist. Seed germinates
readily within six to eight weeks. The seed should be sown thinly
as the seedlings will stay in the tray for their first year. Seedlings
should be potted up into individual containers during their second
year and can be planted into the garden or permanent pots in their
third year. Flowering can be expected from their third or fourth
Clumps can be lifted and divided in spring just before active growth
begins, and remember it is best not to lift them too frequently,
as flowering will be adversely affected.
Agapanthus coddii is generally pest- and disease-free. Foliage
may be attacked by red spider mites, thrips, and mealy bug but need
only be sprayed if infestation is severe. Agapanthus are famous
for harbouring snails, although the snails do not seem to cause
any damage to the plants themselves. The best way to combat them
is to remove them by hand or to keep ducks. Botrytis, visible
as brownish lesions, may attack the flowers preventing them from
opening. There is no cure, it can only be prevented by spraying
before and after the buds break open. The foliage may be attacked
by the fungus Macrophoma agapanthii causing die-back of the
leaves, and in severe cases can be combatted with a fungicide like
mancozeb or captab as a full cover spray.
- Duncan, Graham, 1998, Grow Agapanthus, A guide to the species,
cultivation and propagation of the genus Agapanthus, National
Botanical Institute, Trident Press, Cape Town.
- Leighton, Francis M., 1965, The Genus Agapanthus L'Heritier,
Journal of South African Botany, Supplementary Volume No. IV,
National Botanic Gardens, Cape Town.
- Du Plessis, N., & Duncan, G., 1989, Bulbous Plants of Southern
Africa, A guide to their Cultivation and Propagation, Tafelberg,
- Leistner, O.A. (ed.), 2000, Seed plants of southern Africa:
families and genera, Strelitzia 10., National Botanical Institute,
- Jackson, W.P.U., 1990, Origins and Meanings of Names of South
African Plant Genera, U.C.T. Printing Dept., Cape Town.