isiXhosa: Isicakathi

Afrikaans: Kleinbloulelei

Cape agapanthus

Cape agapanthus

Agapanthus africanus

Scientific name

Agapanthus are one of South Africa's best known garden plants and are grown in most countries in the world. Their strap-like leaves and striking blue or white flowers make them an easy and attractive garden species.

Pollination is by wind, bees and sunbirds. Baboons and buck sometimes eat the flower heads just as the first flowers begin to open. The seed which is often parasitized is dispersed by the wind. These plants are adapted to survive fire in the fynbos. They resprout from thick, fleshy roots.

Plant extracts used as fungicide, pesticide, in prolonged labour and as a living plant it shows signs of being able to clean up petroleum pollution (phytoremediation). See:

Propagation instructions

By seed

Both subspecies can be propagated by fresh seed. The seed germinates best if sown in a well-drained seed mix and lightly covered. The seed trays should be placed on heated beds under a mistspray set for about five minutes twice a day. Germination takes place in 4 to 6 weeks and the trays should then be removed to a lightly shaded area. Good results will also be obtained when the trays are placed indoors or outdoors in light shade and watered twice a day, provided the day time temperature is higher than 18° Celsius.

By cutting

Both subspecies of Agapanthus africanus are difficult to grow. A africanus subspecies africanus is not suitable as a garden plant except in rockeries. They are best grown in containers in a well drained, slightly acid sandy mix and appear happiest if pot bound. They seem to grow best in shallow containers and will flower regularly if fed with a slow release fertiliser.

A. africanus subsp. walshii is by far the most difficult agapanthus to grow. The best medium appears to be a very well-drained, sandy, acid mix with minimal watering in summer. It can only be grown as a container plant and will not survive if planted out. It is unfortunate that it is so hard to grow because it is most attractive when in flower and would make an excellent pot plant.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Wikipedia page »

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Seedbank Quantity
Arundel Seedbank 899
Tin Capsule Seedbank 531
Total 1430

This table below shows how many plants we are trying to obtain for this species.

Site Area Quantity
Site #2 Delft 6
Site #4 Delft 5
Site #8 Delft 8
Site #12 Delft 10
Site #13 Delft 6
Site #21 Rosebank 40
Site #24 Rosebank 40
Site #25 Rosebank 100
Site #26 Mowbray 20
Site #27 Mowbray 40
Site #29 Mowbray 40
Site #30 Rosebank 50
Site #31 Rosebank 35
Site #33 Rosebank 30
Site #39 Mowbray 20
Site #40 Rosebank 30
Site #44 Rosebank 200
Site #46 Rosebank 10
Site #47 Rosebank 70
Site #57 Rosebank 100
Site #59 Rosebank 100
Site #62 Newlands 40
Site #15 Rosebank 100
Site #64 Mowbray 50
Site #66 Mowbray 60
Site #127 Rosebank 50
16 other sites 985
Total 1260

Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

It provides medicinal value

Attracts butterflies

Suitable for sandy soil

It provides food for:


Southern double-collared sunbird

This species is not very suitable to be grown in bare terrain. However, if other vegetation is already established then it makes a good addition. After a year of care, little watering will be necessary.

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