Common names: common agapanthus, blue lily (Eng.); bloulelie, agapant (Afr.); isicakathi (Xhosa); ubani (Zulu)
These pretty Blue and White flowered perennials, endemic to the Western Cape, always flower over Christmas.
They are tough hardy plants which are often used as pavement specials and landscaping plants.
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 is considered to be both a magical and a medicinal plant, and the plant of fertility and pregnancy. Xhosa women use the roots to make antenatal medicine, and they make a necklace using the roots that they wear as a charm to bring healthy, strong babies. The Zulu use agapanthus to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, chest pains and tightness. It is also used with other plants in various medicines taken during pregnancy to ensure healthy children, or to augment or induce labour. It is also used as a love charm and by people afraid of thunderstorms, and to ward off thunder. Margaret Roberts advises hikers to put leaves in their shoes to soothe the feet, and to wrap weary feet in the leaves for half an hour. The long, strap-like leaves also make an excellent bandage to hold a dressing or poultice in place, and winding leaves around the wrists are said to help bring a fever down. Agapanthus contains several saponins and sapogenins that generally have anti-inflammatory (reduce swelling and inflammation), anti-oedema (oedema = swelling due to accumulation of fluid), antitussive (relieve or suppress coughing) and immunoregulatory (have influence on the immune system) properties. Although the precise activity of agapanthus compounds is not known, preliminary tests have shown uterotonic activity (increases the tone of uterine muscles). Agapanthus is suspected of causing haemolytic poisoning in humans, and the sap causes severe ulceration of the mouth.
Growing Agapanthus praecox
Agapanthus praecox is easy to grow and it does well even in the poorest of soils, but it must receive some water in summer. To perform at its best, give it rich, well-drained soil with ample compost (decayed organic matter) and plenty of water in spring and summer. As with most plants they benefit most from regular (e.g. weekly) deep drenching as opposed to frequent superficial watering. It prefers full sun, and some cultivars will flower in semi-shade. All the evergreen agapanthus are best lifted and divided every four years or so to ensure flowering. A. praecox will tolerate light frost, but is hardy only in the milder parts of the Northern Hemisphere, like the southwest of England and in the Mediterranean. In areas with extreme winter temperatures they are best grown in the cool greenhouse, or in containers that can be taken into a greenhouse during winter.
Source : Agapanthus praecox