Dianna’s Short List of Companion Plants
These are just some of our favorites, which can be readily found at many local plant nurseries. Keep in mind that some cultivars may become weedy or not be advisable for your local area–check with a knowledgeable neighbor or your local extension service. Do avoid ivy and similar ground covers that quickly form dense mats, because they will choke out your lily bulbs and allow hiding places for mollusks (slugs and snails). TIP: Choose plants that do not grow taller than the listed height for each lily cultivar, be mindful of watering needs and match them to that of lilies, do not choose climbing plants that may strangle your stems, and avoid those plants that form thick mats of roots.
ANNUALS – TIP: Choose plants that do not require a lot of water.
Cosmos – ‘Sonata Series’ is very compact; foliage is perfect to not shade lilies!
Dahlia – choose varieties that only grow 12-14 inches tall or use as backdrop. They can become perennial in milder climates.
Dianthus barbatus ‘Wee Willie’ – and other shorter growing cultivars.
Geranium (Pelargonium) – many named cultivars, take your pick.
Marigold (Tagetes) – short varieties are best.
Nigella – “Love in a mist” has lacy foliage and pink, white and purple flowers
Pansy – great in coastal areas.
Poppies (Papaver) – deep rooted, so will not overrun the bulbs, however some can grow quite tall.
Penstemon – choose shorter growing cultivars.
Primrose (Primula) – great in coastal areas.
Snapdragons – old standard types can overwhelm if planted too close, but many are perennial in my area if planted in well drained soil or under the eves of the house and they will self-sow in some years or come up between paving stones.
Violets (Viola) – great in coastal areas.
Zinnia – choose shorter varieties.
Smaller SHRUBS – TIP: plant bulbs at least 24” away
Roses – choose Miniatures, Hybrid Tea or short Rugosa types, depending on your climate. I use the single-flowered variety ‘Golden Eye’ throughout the yard.
Hardy Fuchsia – lovely in coastal areas as a backdrop.
Exbury Azalea – the bright orange really cheers up our rainy days in spring and some have nice bronze edged foliage in summer to combine with orange Asiatics.
Barberry (Berberis) - Need a thorn barrier? Cultivars with purple pink leaves are my favorite and helps keep children and dogs from damaging lily stems.
Lavender (Shrub Herb) – likes it hot and dry for best flowers, so plant lilies on north side to keep bulbs cooler and water when soil is dry 2” below the surface. This is a little more work for the gardener to manage the water for both, however the foliage background and the mingling of scents is fantastic.
PERENNIALS – TIP: Avoid plants that form solid mats of roots/stems.
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla erythoropoda) – lily are up before they spread out.
Columbine (Aquilegia) – all forms and colors – I love ‘em!
Aster (Alpinus and Wood’s Series) – both compact.
Bellis Daisy – blooms in spring, not extremely long-lived, but can reseed.
Campanula carpatica – avoid C. persicifolia, it self-sows in our gravel driveway.
Daylily Hemerocallis – plant at least 18” from bulbs, because they spread fast.
Coral Bells (Heuchera) – plant at least 12” from bulbs; makes dense clumps.
Persicaria amplexocaulis – keep rizomes at least 12” from bulbs.
Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ – a shorter growing, nice with Conca d’ Or.
Oriental Poppies (Papaver) – plant bulbs at least 24’ away from the clump.
Primrose (Primula) – likes moist soil in spring, probably best in coastal areas.
Pulstatilla – attractive seed heads follow spring flowers, well behaved here.
Saxifraga – not the “mossy” types that need moist shade.
Violets – watch reseeding, too thick is not good for lily stems.
HERBS – It is hard to go wrong with these favorites, plus they do "double duty" for culinary delights or natural "plant medicine".
Borage – bright blue flowers, can become rank, self sows, tastes like cucumbers.
Pot Marigold (Calendula) – will self sow, medicinal too.
Chives – lovely edge for the lily border and tasty as well.
Comfrey (“Blocking 14”) – keep at least 24” away and harvest leaves frequently for mulch, making salves, or feeding to chickens, turkeys, waterfowl and cattle.
Dill – herb with lacy foliage; you can’t have too much of this when its time to make pickles. Self sows in my garden if I leave enough seed heads unpicked.
Oregano – choose shorter growing varieties, we cut back to 12” circles in fall.Parsley – nice compact, bright green clumps.
Savory (Satureja montana) – mint family, but not as invasive
Creeping Thyme (T. praecox) WoollyThyme (T. pseudolanuginosus)
will form mats of low-growing green and are nice around stepping stones.
Herbs to avoid in the lily garden, due to possibility of garden “takeover” (at least in my climate) – Lovage, Mint, Lemon Balm (self-sows like crazy here), Rosemary (unless its clipped back each year), Catnip (another mint) and the ever useful Horseradish (a garden hog), whose leaves are used in fermented dill pickles.
FRUITING Plants – TIP: Keep bulbs at least 24” away & move lilies as shrubs gain size.
Blueberries, Gooseberries, Currents, etc. plant lilies on the sunny side.
Dwarf Apple Trees, plant in clumps at sunny edge, leaving room to harvest fruit in fall without stepping on the maturing lily stems.
Strawberries make a good edible ground cover if grown in full sun with lilies. Trim off runners to increase fruiting and not overrun your lilies.