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Written by: Catherine Browne

This February, the Botanical Society of South Africa and SANBI share some information about the flower of love. Agapanthus are simple, elegant and breathtaking flowers, wouldn’t you agree? 

©Catherine Browne

Here are six facts about the agapanthus:

1. The name Agapanthus is derived from the Greek agapé, meaning love, and anthos, meaning 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’.

2. Agapanthus was originally called the African hyacinth or African lily. In Europe and America it is still known as the African lily, or even the lily of the Nile, which is rather geographically off the mark. At home in South Africa they are most often called agapanthus or the blue lily.

©Catherine Browne

3. Agapanthus are endemic (occurring naturally only) to Southern Africa. They occur where rainfall exceeds 500mm/year, from sea-level to 2,000 metres, 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.

4. There are six different species of agapanthus. Agapanthus species are variable, and many subspecies and cultivars are recognised. Agapanthus also hybridise freely, resulting in many hybrids.

©Shane Clulow

5. In traditional medicine, agapanthus is believed to be both medicinal and magical, and it is the plant of fertility and pregnancy. It is used in various medicines taken during pregnancy and is worn by women as a charm to bring strong, healthy babies. It is used to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, chest pains and chest tightness. It is also worn by people who fear thunderstorms, as it is believed to ward off thunder.

©Shane Clulow

6. Agapanthus are easy to grow and are rewarding garden plants. Both evergreen and deciduous varieties do best in a sunny position in fertile soil with ample water in spring and summer. Visit for detailed information on how to grow the different species and cultivars.


The Botanical Society of South Africa promotes indigenous gardening and the conservation and education of flora and biodiversity. Find out more about the society and consider becoming a member here. You can also support this NGO with your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card by making the Botanical Society your beneficiary.

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