Bold and eye-catching cluster blossoms are rare enough in nature to deserve a place of honor in the bouquet or garden. The Agapanthus definitely fits the bill with its ball-shaped clusters of starry flowers. If you’re looking for a flower rich with symbolism to add layers of meaning to your next floral arrangement, you’ve found the right blossom. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Agapanthus meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers.
- Agapanthus Flower Meaning & Symbolism
- About Agapanthus
- Agapanthus Meaning and Symbolism – Wrapping Up
Agapanthus Flower Meaning & Symbolism
If you’ve ever seen the exotic Agapanthus in person, you were likely wowed by its size and color. Yet there’s more to the beauty of this flower, thanks to centuries of symbolic association.
Agapanthus Meaning in the Victorian Language of Flowers
Agapanthus is rarely referenced in many of the most popular sources for Victorian floriography or the language of the flowers. However, it is directly linked with Queen Victoria, for whom the entire era was named. She was the first to import this plant from South Africa and expand its cultivation in the cooler climate of England.
Prior to her expansion of the plant’s use, it was rarely used to celebrate the birth of a baby. Explorers spread the plants in the 17th century from their native range in the south of Africa, but they only became popular in the United Kingdom around the Victorian era.
After the Queen made it more popular among wealthy Victorians, it gained an association with a chaste or concealed love instead of birth.
There is a famous story that Agapanthus flowers were used to adorn her casket when she died as well, but this isn’t verified.
Still, few flowers are as directly connected to Queen Victoria as the Agapanthus. The variety named ‘Queen Mum’ isn’t named for Victoria, though, but rather for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Agapanthus Colors and Their Meaning & Symbolism
Agapanthus flowers feature some of the most intense violet and blue shades you’ll see in taller clustered flowers. Other common colors include pastel shades of blue, purple, and pink, along with some white varieties. It’s important to consider how the color of the flower you add to a bouquet alters its overall meaning.
- Blue: Serenity, healing, peace, calmness, wisdom, and growth
- Violet: Passion, intensity, elegance, magic, and enchantment
- Light Blue: Trust, innocence, youthfulness, and excitement
- Light Pink: Playfulness, sweetness, femininity, and fun
- Light Purple: Success, adoration, flirtation, calmness, and wisdom
- White: Healing, recovery, fresh starts, and commitment
The Meaning of Agapanthus Blossom in Ancient Times
The name Agapanthus is derived from Greek mythology, linking it to ancient times even if it wasn’t so widely spread during the actual period.
The name comes from the combination of the word agape, which means love, and anthos, which means flower. This name was given to it during the Victorian era, so it only took on the meaning of love at that time.
In native southern African practices, the Lily of the Nile was gifted to new mothers and hung in garlands around their necks to wish them good health.
Agapanthus Meaning in Japanese and Chinese Flower Languages
Since the Agapanthus isn’t native to Asia, it only features in modern Hanakotoba. In both Japan and China, it is widely used to symbolize romance, love, and romantic intentions. Some people even exchange it as a way to ask for a date with someone they’re only still getting acquainted with.
Myths and Folklore Associated with Agapanthus
Some cultures associate the Agapanthus flower with mysticism and magic. It’s often seen as a protective charm against the damage from thunderstorms, which may come from its complex clustered shape and intense color.
The flower has the strongest associations with childbirth and healthy mothers. It was also a form of traditional medicine for groups like the Xhosa. While some southern Africans still consider it an aphrodisiac, others prefer just to enjoy the beauty and symbolic meaning of romance it conveys.
Agapanthus Meaning in Art and Literature
One of Monet’s most striking impressionist paintings is entitled ‘Agapanthus’ and displays the plant’s soft lavender blooms and strap-like leaves.
The Agapanthus was once believed to be a true lily, so it’s not surprising one of its common names is Lily of the Nile. It’s also known as an African Lily or Queen Lily by some. These common names mainly refer to its native range in South Africa.
The name Agapanthus is a combination of two Greek words. It received the name during the Victorian era, and it’s a combination of agape and anthos. ‘Agape’ means love, and ‘anthos’ means flower, making it literally a flower of love.
Agapanthus is only considered a hardy perennial in USDA growing zones 7 and above. However, many people in cooler areas like England grow the plants by digging up the bulbs and putting the plants in containers to keep them warm over the winter.
Greenhouse culture can also expand, where they’ll grow back year after year. Make sure they stay well-fertilized and aim towards keeping them slightly root-bound when they’re in containers.
Agapanthus is an entire genus of a few dozen closely related flowers. It’s part of the larger Amaryllidaceae family, including other clustered flowers with lily in their common name. This makes these flowers closely related to both Alliums like onions and Amaryllis plants like Daffodils.
All of the species in the genus are native to some part of southern Africa, such as Mozambique, South Africa, and Lesotho. It has naturalized in warmer areas like Mexico and Australia, where the conditions are similar. Some varieties are more cold-hardy and grow on their own in places like North America and Europe without the need for interventions like lifting the bulbs in the winter.
Agapanthus has thin, narrow foliage that is often described as strap-like. It usually has a bluish cast that is attractive on its own.
The flowers appear in round clusters, not unlike the blooms of Alliums, but with a more star-shaped appearance to each blossom.
The plant is full of saponin, a toxin highly irritating to humans and animals. It protects the plant from insects and wildlife that might eat it. However, it can also lead to nausea and vomiting in a pet that is too curious.
Consider planting another clustered flower with less toxicity if you want a similar look without risking a vet’s visit. If you’re cutting the flowers or handling a lot of cut plant material, wear gloves since the sap is a skin irritant.
Caring for the Cut Flowers
Cut Agapanthus flowers tend to last for a week or longer before losing their color and drying out. With care, you can continue displaying the faded flower as a dried display for months.
Make sure to change the water daily and add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to prevent bacteria from weakening the stems. Cut the stems extra long until you’re ready to put together a floral arrangement to extend the life while the flowers are in cold storage.
Agapanthus Meaning and Symbolism – Wrapping Up
Agapanthus plants are rich in meaning and symbolism and are also quick and easy to plant in your garden, thanks to the fact they grow from bulbs. You’ll appreciate the magical appearance and colorful display that can last for months with care. Make the most of those impressive blossoms by giving them away as a token of your affection.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.