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The Full Beauty of Agapanthus


AKA: Lily of the Nile, rudbeckia, hosta, montbretia, cotoneaster, delphinium, African tulip, genus Agapanthus, blue African lily, Agapanthus africanus, liliaceous plant, love flower

Propagation: Agapanthus are easy to propagate by division to obtain plants identical to the parent plant, this is best done between spring and early summer. Avoid splitting plants too often as this will reduce flowering. Large clumps in the border should be lifted in spring every 4 - 6 years and replanted. Plants in containers should be potted on every 2nd year. Pot into a containers 10cm (4") larger for a further 2 years. Once the plant fills a 30-40cm (12-15") pot it can be split into 4. Pot the divisions back into individual smaller pots and start the process again. When plants are in large pots i.e., 60cm (24") they can be left for years until the number of flowers declines. Flower color varies greatly from the palest of blue to dark violet blue too pure white and all the shades in between. Agapanthus do grow well in containers but they need a well-drained compost, so always add 1-part horticultural grit or sand to your compost. Propagating from seeds need a planting tray with good quality, compost-based potting mix. Add a small amount of perlite to promote drainage. (Be sure the tray has drainage holes in the bottom.) Sprinkle agapanthus seeds on the potting mix. Cover the seeds with no more than ¼-inch (0.5 cm.) of coarse sand or horticultural grit.

History/Folklore: Agapanthus, also known as African Lily, originates in South Africa, and belongs to the Liliacea family. The Agapanthus with its leaf keeping habit probably appeared in Europe in the seventeenth century. Thanks to colonial shipping and the East Indian Company, the Agapanthus also ends up in Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century. The first mention in European literature dates from 1679. The imported specimens were all from around the Cape of Good Hope and evergreen, often they were donated to botanical gardens with orangeries and greenhouses because they did not know at all whether they would like it in our temperate climate survive. In folklore, Agapanthus is considered a magical plant with many medicinal benefits for various conditions. The Agapanthus has a variety of magical and medicinal uses for both the Zulu’s and the Xhosa population in South Africa. The most appealing tradition is that the Xhosa bride wore a necklace of dried Agapanthus roots, this necklace would ensure that the wearer had many powerful children and that the births went without complications. The dried roots of the Agapanthus are for sale in all markets in South Africa, they are always harvested in the winter after seed formation, harvesting in the summer would cause severe thunderstorms according to superstition, a good example of how superstition can preserve nature to work.

Medicinal: In its native areas, Agapanthus is considered to be both a magical and a medicinal plant, used to treat heart disease, paralysis, coughs, colds, and other ailments, and the leaves are used as bandages (the plant does contain chemicals with anti-inflammatory and other properties). Root infusions are used for chest troubles and as emetic expectorants for coughs, Hot root infusions are taken daily as emetics for heart disease. Roots are sometimes used with Typha capensis rhizomes in medicines known as isihlambezo and taken during the last three months of pregnancy to ensure healthy children and in more concentrated forms, to augment or induce labour. Roots are also sometimes used, with other roots, in infusions known as inembe which are taken during pregnancy.

Spiritual: Assists in reaching goals, promoting confidence, self-confidence, success, intelligence, Intuition, self-divinity, love, strength, protection, purity, beauty, fertility.

The Magic of Flowers; A guide to Their Metaphysical Uses & Properties by Tess Whitehurst

Summary: This is a beautiful and exotic flower/plant that has graced our earth for thousands of years. It is held with high value medicinally and spiritually by the South African culture. Although I do not recommend using it medicinally due to several warnings by various sources it’s value to the world is not lessened. It would be a wonderful addition to any flower garden but heed the warnings to use gloves when handling all parts of the plant.

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