Types of African Lilies

Updated February 21, 2017

African lilies (Agapanthus africanus) originated in South Africa but are commonly grown around the world. Most African lily species are easy to grow, and some are quite hardy. The flowers are visually striking with colour ranging from bluish to purple and even white. There are different types suitable as houseplants or for planting outdoors in a flower garden.

Lily of the Nile

The lily of the Nile (A. orientalis) is also known as the black pantha. They grow to a height of 5 feet, are identified by their tall, evergreen stalks and black buds until it blooms in June. Afterwards, it blossoms into umbels or clusters of flowers shaped like funnels or trumpets with striking hues of blues and blacks. Each cluster contains up to 100 flowers, each with six petals. The lily of the Nile grows best in moderate to full sunlight with medium amounts of moisture and a rich soil. The black pantha is poisonous if eaten and can occasionally result in allergic reactions if handled with bare hands.

White Lily Of the Nile

The white lily of the Nile (A. africanus 'Albus') grows to a height and width of 18 inches on stalks that are 30 inches high. It gets its name from its white, bell-shaped blossoms, which first appear in June. Like the darker lily of the Nile, it grows in moderate to full sunlight and is easy to care for. It typically attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.


Hybrid versions of Agapanthus lilies are hardier than normal lilies. Examples include the Headbourne and Bressingham hybrid species. The Headbourne is identified by its midblue (Headbourne Blue) or white (Headbourne White) flowers, which bloom in August. Bressingham lilies appear to have a drooping posture and come in white and amethyst blue colours.

Dwarf Lilies

Peter Pan (A. orientalis) and the Tinkerbell lily (A. var Tinkerbell) are two species of miniature African lilies. The Peter Pan variant stands 12 inches high and comes in clusters of light blue flowers, each with 6 petals. It can tolerate drought environments and it grows best in medium to full sunlight. Tinkerbell lilies are a newer breed of low-maintenance plant that sparkles. They are identified by their green leaves with white stripes, which bloom light-blue flowers during the summer.

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