Dividing Agapanthus Plants: How To Divide Lily Of The Nile Bulbs

The African lily, or Agapanthus (ag-ah-PAN-thus), is a genus of plants that come out of South Africa. It has become a staple in US homes below zone 7 and gardens in zones 7 – 10.

These gorgeous former members of the lily (Liliaceae) family known as the lily of the Nile are not only the subject of much study and love but also heavy debate.

Blue blooming AgapanthusPin

There are between 6 and 10 species (depending on the expert you ask). Also, it may be from one of several families (Amaryllidaceae is currently the most accepted). Still, hundreds of hybrids and cultivars exist.

One thing we can all agree on is their beauty. The blue flowers are georgous!

Agapanthus plants are strange social butterflies that enjoy a bit of clumping but can get tired of company in a crowded pot.

Dividing your agapanthus at the right time will not only prevent too much overcrowding, but it can also give you several new plants to enjoy.

Considering some of these plants can get quite expensive, making more for yourself or as gifts is always a wonderful thing.

How To Divide Agapanthus Plants?

Use division for both maintenance and propagation.

The rules vary depending on whether your plant is evergreen (leaves remain during winter) or deciduous (leaves fall off for winter).

When to Divide

As mentioned before, agapanthus enjoys a bit of binding but has its limits.

Thus, it’s a general rule to divide your plant every 4 to 5 years.

Deciduous species will last longer before they need to division, generally 6 to 8 years. 

Divide in either spring or autumn.

Spring divisions are best after the final frost when the plant is starting to gain new growth.

Fall divisions should occur early, once the plant’s finished flowering or once the leaves fall for deciduous varieties.

Preparation

When dividing agapanthus, it doesn’t need time to callous before transplanting. Have both your tools and the new pots (if separating indoors) ready to go when you start.

You will need:

  • a sharp spade for garden-based plants,
  • two garden forks (to assist in dividing the root ball),
  • garden shears,
  • and a sharp, sturdy knife.

Sterilize these tools before use.

For indoor plants or gifts, pick out a pot that’s sturdy and well-draining for each of the planned divisions.

Choosing the Right Soil

Any quality potting soil will work for your plant, but it must be well-draining.

Agapanthus needs rich soil, so be sure to add a good amount of organic matter such as fresh compost or peat.

Keep in mind that peat and some other forms of organic matter will retain water, so you may need to balance things out further.

You can add aggregate such as perlite or coarse sand to the soil if you’re worried it won’t drain well enough.

There’s no hard and fast ratio rule, but a good baseline is 1 part African violet mix, 1 part aggregate, and 1 part organic matter, adjusted as needed for good drainage.

Deciding Your Division Points

While this is best done after uprooting the plant, it’s a good idea to have a general game plan in mind.

Most people prefer to divide the plant evenly into halves, thirds, or quarters.

Yet, some growers choose to divide smaller portions from the whole.

Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that the smaller you make each division, the longer it will take that division to bloom.

Dividing Your Lily of The Nile Plant

Gently dig around the root ball for a garden specimen, using the spade to lever the plant from the ground.

For potted specimens, it’s often easier to tip the container and slide the plant out.

If there are any remaining flower stems during an autumn division, prune these off at the base.

Next, attempt to divide the ball by hand, softly teasing apart the roots at the chosen dividing point.

The roots of larger clumps will often put up a fight. You may need to wedge two garden forks back to back along your dividing line to give more leverage when prying the clump apart.

Be careful not to damage the root system when dividing the root ball.

Once separated, look over the roots for any signs of disease or damage. Prune these spots away with your knife.

Try not to damage any healthy roots while pruning.

Remove any dead or damaged leaves, then clip the remaining leaves down to ⅓ of their length.

If you haven’t prepared the pots yet, place the divided plantlets in a cool, shaded place and cover the roots with a damp newspaper until you’re ready.

Plant each plantlet to approximately the same depth as the mother plant.

For garden plants, space the plantlets 12″ – 20″ inches apart.

Firm the soil around the plant and keep the plants moist for 4 to 5 weeks or until established.

Finally, place any pots in a location with bright, full sun.

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