Last updated on May 21st, 2023 at 06:15 pm

Lily of the Nile, also called the African lily, is a perennial flowering plant originally native to South Africa. Ironically, the lily of the Nile is seen not in North Africa, where the Nile is, but in the South. Although it is called the lily of the Nile, the flower is not a lily. It also goes by the name of African hyacinth.

Scientifically known as Agapanthus, the name arises from Greek, agapē meaning “love,” and anthos meaning “flower.” The plant has a confusing and long taxonomic history. It was initially classified under Liliaceae, then into the same genus as onions, and finally, its current genus of Agapanthaceae

There are six species of this plant, with Agapanthus africanus being the most popular. The flowers bloom between June and September. They usually grow in groups and look wonderful when planted in landscapes. They are also perfectly good-looking in a pot. 

Agapanthus is native to South Africa, mainly the Western and Eastern Cape, though it has become naturalized in parts of California and Florida in the United States. It is also found in the Isles of Scilly in the United Kingdom and the Portuguese island of Madeira. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the plant was brought to Europe.

Popularly, it is an ornamental flower. It is seen in clusters and held above the foliage. Rounded umbels of blue, blue-purple, or white tubular flowers with a darker stripe down the center of each petal best describe the flower. It is a sight for sore eyes at events.

What does the Lily of the Nile flower symbolize?

The lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) plant is a mix of magic and medicine. It stands as a symbol of love and has been associated with love for hundreds of years, with its roots in the Victorian Era. It is also a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

The plant symbolizes strength and power owing to its hardy nature. It is full of tenacity and verve. As a symbol of beautiful retirement, it is often found at funerals as wreaths. The flower’s bright colors, blue, white, or purple, make it the perfect flower to symbolize happiness. In some parts of the world, the lily of the Nile flower symbolizes protection.

With elegant umbels perched atop tall scapes, the fragrant lily of the Nile was a great source of inspiration for the painter Monet. 

All in all, the lily of the Nile flower symbolic meanings are:

  • love
  • fertility
  • purity
  • beauty

Meaning of the Lily of the Nile flower colors

White color

White is everything pure, calm, serene, and spiritual. The white flower of Agapanthus (lily of the Nile) rightfully signifies purity, fertility, and spirituality. It is the perfect flower for a wedding, a baby shower, or a ritual. It signifies a fresh start, a clean slate, and new beginnings.

Blue color

The blue flower is usually associated with emotions of love and beauty. It is the flower of choice to serenade your love, man or woman. The opulence and brilliance of the lily of the Nile flower’s blue color can only be experienced, not explained. It also symbolizes truth, honesty, and sincerity.

Purple color

Purple denotes royalty and wealth. The color catches one’s attention like no other and charms the wits out of them. The popular demand for this particular lily of the Nile flower color can prove its attractiveness. It poses as the perfect flower to give to someone special.

Interesting facts about the Lily of the Nile flowers

  • Interestingly, the lily of the Nile flowers have been worn as protection during thunderstorms since immemorial.
  • A known aphrodisiac in Africa, women often donned it to charm men. Shockingly, the cut flowers last up to 10 days in a vase of water, looking as fresh as they did the first day!
  • With its rich history of medicinal use, lily of the Nile was used as a cure for various illnesses, including coughs, colds, and paralysis. 
  • The South African tribes use the plant for treating ailments of the heart and for treating fevers. 
  • It is widely used for antenatal care and to induce contractions during difficult births. It is also believed that using the flower during pregnancy ensures the birth of healthy babies. 
  • Although some parts of the plant are known to be toxic to humans and cause dermatitis, they possess immuno-regulatory properties. 
  • The leaves are used as a bandage, owing to the anti-inflammatory chemicals present in the plant.
  • As a symbol of fertility, the roots of the plant were boiled and processed into a necklace when they were married by the Xhosa women.

How to grow Lily of the Nile flowers

In warm climates, planting lily of the Nile (Agapanthus) is best done in the fall or winter. Because of its height, stunning trumpet-shaped blooms, and leaf texture, agapanthus makes an excellent rear border or feature plant.

  1. Plant the lily of the Nile in well-draining soil that has been supplemented with peat moss, compost, or well-rotted manure.
  2. Place them in a spot where they can receive full sun in the north or light shade in the south.
  3. Provide a heavy mulch to help retain moisture and keep the roots cool. 
  4. Water thoroughly and regularly after planting.
  5. Apply slow-release fertilizer

How to care for Lily of the Nile flowers

  1. Keep the soil evenly moist in the spring and summer.
  2. Gradually allow the soil to dry out in the fall and keep them nearly dry in the winter.
  3. Remove spent flower stems to promote continuous blooming.
  4. Cut back to the ground leaves damaged by frost in late fall or early winter.

Best time to gift Lily of the Nile flowers

The lily of The Nile (Agapanthus) flower is given to people on many occasions. However, it does help to know the meaning of the lily of The Nile flower while gifting this flower

You can easily pair these with other flowers to make the perfect bouquet for a wedding, which is a celebration of love. Every so often, a wreath of these flowers is kept on the coffin as a symbol of peace, respect, and love. You can profess their undying love with the blue lily of the Nile. 

It is the perfect flower to mark new beginnings, like baby showers and naming ceremonies. They are widely used during spiritual rituals. All in all, it is a flower finding its way into every occasion of yours.


With a legacy as rich as the lily of the Nile flower’s and unmatched beauty, it is one of the most elegant and versatile flowers to have existed. If you were wondering about the lily of the Nile flower meaning, we hope we have answered your questions.

If you want to know and learn more about flowers, we at PansyMaiden can help you. Check out our fun, easy-to-read, and informative flower-related content that you will surely enjoy!