what ground covers work well with lilies?

buttercupia(zone4 IA)August 26, 2005

I am thinking about moving all my various lilies into a bed together, since they are here and there around the yard and are too tall for where they now are growing next to the porch steps and lean out over the steps and sidewalk. Can you recommend some good gound covers to plant in a bed with lilies? I'm thinking of low growing sedum or thyme or something else, not sure.. but does anyone know what is very compatible with lilies as a ground cover that will enhance them visually as well as help them be healthier? Thanks!

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My biggest lily bed was planned around 2 Tree Peonies. Since they will eventually be maybe 5' high and maybe 4' wide and have short bloom periods I wanted to establish naturalizing lilies and other plants to pick up the bloom sequence. I planted 12 Casa Blancas, 5 Black Beauty's, 5 mixed pink orientals, 6 Lilium speciosum rubra, 6 Lilium speciosum alba, 12 Allium christophii, and some other purple and white alliums as the bulbs. As time goes on I will probably add more - maybe some Asiatics.

In this bed are 5' tall Lily Black Beauty's, 3.5' tall Casa Blanca's and some smaller mixed pink orientals that will get larger with age. The L. speciosum can get quite tall also. I put Shasta Daisy 'Becky among them as well as Sedum Autumn Joy. ( why? - because you can yank it out without digging to reduce quantity) The Black Beauty was a good 10-12" taller than the Becky Daisies which were good for support as well as giving some visual interest closer to their towering height in the bed. My Black Beauty's are 3 years old now and went from maybe 30" the first yr with 2 blooms, to 5' with 42 blooms on the largest one. They would have looked weird sticking up from a groundcover by themselves, plus they would have to be supported with wire. As the lilies finished, I cut the stems back to the height of the daisies, and as the daisies are finishing I'm cutting them back to the sedums. Of course I left the lily stems sticking up but its not perfect.

For early spring, I planted Valerian in the very back, if you like scent, nothing beats it, then you have an interesting clump of unusual leaves when you cut back the very tall flower stalks. My leaf clumps are about 12" x 12" - Valerian can take tough conditions and not much love.

For April-June I like some of the smaller or dwarf daylilies right in front of the lily stems - I used Sarah Joy in honor of my daughter - dk lavender w/ yellow throat, perennial geranium like Geranium Sanguineum striatum - a pale pink with darker pink ribs is also great groundcover or as an edger and will re-bloom spradically. It mounds over the sidewalk very gracefully. I also included Astilbes of different heights - including pumila for August bloom, Salvia's Blue Hill Marcus for summer, Dwarf Chamaecyparis Nana (goes to 1' x 1' in 5-10 yrs) boxwood Vardar Valley and microphylla can easily be kept at 1' height. I also have some tiny dwarf charteuse hosta among the geranium that blooms in 8" spikes of dark purple. I'm planning to move some Sedum Frosty Morn & Variegated Solomons Seal here and there in the bed to give some full season interest with the variegated green and white leaves. Sedum Frosty Morn might stretch in my crowded plantings but it still gives touches of color.

I bordered my lily bed on the hot sides in Lavender Provence, Sedum Autumn Joy, Sedum Matrona, and Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker'. Under the Sedums (it gets hot on this edge) I planted Euonymous Kewensis, a tiny, tiny dwarf creeping evergreen euonymous that has adorable dark green tiny leaves with white ribs. It holds the soil in the bed and has spread very nicely into a 1" high mat. And its cute to look at as the sedums come from little rosettes all the way up to full size. The last item for late summer/fall was non-hardy bulbs of Acidanthera - again one of the most incredibly fragrant white lilies from S. Africa - it will get about 36" high when it blooms - white flowers with a dark purple heart. I stuck them all over the bed in 3's and might or might not get around to taking them up at the end of the fall. The foliage is sword-like or iris-like. I have never seen anybody use those except me - and I love them so I recommend them as a great end of summer lily. And they're cheap! I got these 100 bulbs for $8.49 at Costco.

Altho I can't take much credit for planning my campanion plants because I'm much better at just sticking things in and finding out what it looks like than organized planning, - I think my lily beds would be pretty boring with nothing else in it. But I did try to do it so the lilies are the stars on stage when they bloom.

I also just got starts of Sedum Morchen - a very dark dark purple that is only 8" high, it has beautiful dark pink flowers in August and September to tuck along the hot sidewalk.

The one plant I took out was Campanula Cherry Bells. I love that plant in the Bluestone catalog but it was so floppy in the bed. I've also tucked handfulls of blue Chionodoxa and various daffodils for spring. I was trying to make sure I didn't plant any bulbs that would have to be at the depth of the lilies. Like I said, its a very full bed and it would be easy to stick a fork into anything now.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 12:55PM
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tyshee(Z 3 & 4)

The huechera look great as a border. You can use just about anything that doesn't spread so much it smother's the lilies. I had a supposedly small bleeding heart in my big bed but the very first year it started growing bigger and bigger and bigger until it was six feet wide and five feet tall. I had to wait for the lilies to quit blooming and dig it out. It was fetching with the lilies but it also covered many of them up. Not a good companion at all. If you have a big bed then bee balm looks lovely place in the center or as a back drop as it blooms for so long. I use lots of border plants. Trollius is a great companion and doesn't choke out the lilies. It blooms first and then has greenery after you cut it back and often blooms again late. Sedums do work well as do many other plants. In one bed I use annuals and many of them work well. Just experiment with things and be careful not to use things that will choke the lilies or spread out over them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2005 at 3:19AM
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Nell Jean

I use salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage) and Pineapple Sage (salvia elegans) because their big display is in the fall when the lilies are done. When the lilies are blooming, the salvias are low and green.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 9:13AM
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I put parsley around mine - mainly because they can handle drier soil, and I don't want to have something that is a real water guzzler around the lilies.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 6:27PM
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