Commonly known as creeping lilyturf, liriope resembles the appearance of variegated grasses. Despite its common name and grass-like appearance, however, it is neither a lily nor a true ornamental grass. Cultivated all across the globe for its beautiful foliage and its low-maintenance needs, it can be grown in both indoor and outdoor locations.
There are currently two types of liriope plants that can be grown similarly to ornamental grasses. These include liriope spicata and liriope muscari. Generally speaking, both species typically have green foliage and may be called “monkey grass”. Variegated liriope may be a cultivar of either species.
A healthy liriope makes for a great companion plant to true grasses, such as the blue fescue, and many attractive flowers. This genus’ variegated cultivars are ideal for use as ground cover plants, as fillers for gaps in rock gardens, and as accents to colorful flower beds.
Horticultural favorites for liriope include liriope spicata ‘variegata’ and liriope muscari ‘Aztec’. Grow these plants in well drained soil and in areas with light shade to full sun.
Also known as big blue lilyturfs, big blue, and border grass, liriope muscari is particularly known for its suitability as a companion plant as it does not spread as quickly as liriope spicata.
What to Plant with Liriope
Here are the most compatible companion plants for Liriope:
Russian Sage (Salvia yangii)
This member of the mint family is especially suited for cultivation alongside a liriope plant. The russian sage, cultivated for its erect spikes of blue to purple flowers and its capacity to thrive in areas with minimal irrigation, complements the appearance of big blue lilyturf.
Drought resistant, deer resistant, and tall enough to serve as a backdrop for liriope, this mint species is not particular about soil type as long as its roots are afforded with ample drainage and its shoots are well-ventilated.
Plant liriope in front of mature sage shoots to highlight their differences in color, structure, and texture. The latter blooms in late spring or early summer to autumn, depending on growing conditions.
Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.)
Geraniums or cranesbills, which are low-growing and flowering ornamentals, are fantastic variegated liriope companion plants because of their lengthy bloom period and delicate foliage. Their specific growth requirements differ depending on the cultivar, but just about any type can be grown with the versatile cultivars of monkey grass.
Annual and perennial geraniums tend to have differing preferences for light conditions and soil types. Generally, however, all types favor moist soil and a high availability of organic matter in the substrate.
Because of their bright flowers, geraniums are a great addition to a flower garden. Their early spring to late fall flowers make them some of the best plant species for ornamental cultivation.
Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca)
Able to thrive in partial shade to full sun exposure, the blue fescue is one of the best liriope companion plants. When placed side by side, the two plants complement each other’s textures, foliar colors, and growth patterns. The best features of monkey grass are brought out by the blue leaves of this true grass.
If you intend to cultivate a winter garden, F. glauca is a preferred choice. It is hardy to USDA zones 4-8 and is tolerant of periodic droughts. A well drained soil is essential to its rapid growth.
The bloom times of the big blue lilyturf and blue fescue coincide, adding vibrant colors to the garden from early to late summer. Even after the bloom period, both plants continue to be eye-catching because of their cool tones.
Ornamental Sedges (Cyperaceae)
Ornamental sedges are attractive members of the Cyperaceae family of flowering plants. Essentially, a sedge is a grass like plant as its elongated leaves are tapered and have smooth margins. Perfect for companion planting, sedges are frequently used as ground cover plants.
Liriope plants may look quite similar to ornamental sedges because of the structural variegation of their leaves. Like variegated sedges, their margins may have a different color compared to their midribs.
Both sedges and liriope plants favor full to partial sun, controlled soil moisture, and moderately rich substrates. Together, they can add texture and complexity to the entire garden.
Hostas (Hosta spp.)
Hostas are the perfect landscaping liriope companion plants because of their low-maintenance needs and stunning leaf colors.
Unlike the leaves of monkey grass, those of hostas are wide and heart-shaped. When the leaves of these plants grow next to one another, they highlight the modest attractiveness of simple foliage structures.
Like liriope and many other plants, hostas thrive when they are provided with organic fertilizers and full sun. Aim to situate hosta and liriope in a brightly lit and regularly moistened part of the garden.
Ornamental bulbs, particularly those that bloom in the spring, can be planted next to stands of liriope. Their seasonal blooms should add contrast and be a welcome sight if they are scattered amongst the blue or purple flowers of monkey grass.
As liriope spreads rapidly and can quickly become established in rich soil, you may opt to restrict its spread to within containers or mesh borders. This way, the spring bulbs can obtain all of the necessary nutrients for growth without too much competition from liriope.
Snowdrop Anemone (Anemonoides sylvestris)
The immaculately white flowers of the snowdrop anemone make it one of the most irresistible companion plants in a garden with part shade to full sun exposure. Next to stands of monkey grass, this plant species produces lengthy flower stalks that complement the appearance of variegated leaves.
A. sylvestris makes for an excellent companion and ground cover plant due to its moderate rate of growth and preference for good drainage. Edge its stands with liriope to draw attention to its spring or fall flowers.
Spotted Deadnettle and other Lamiums
The spotted deadnettle is a type of lamium that looks amazing in flower gardens and along the edges of paths. Its purple flowers, which appear in late spring to early summer, complement those of the big blue lilyturf.
Along with other lamiums, this plant grows quite well in shady areas and can be used as a filler between other species that may suffer in shade. It can easily be cut back during its growth period, so it can also be cultivated as a ground cover plant alongside liriope.
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Grape hyacinths are great options for gardens that are frequented by pets and children. When situated next to stands of a liriope plant, this non-toxic, European species looks remarkably delicate and vibrant.
Named for its quirky flowers, which usually come in various shades of purple to blue, this plant blooms in spring. Many of its requirements for flowering are similar to those of liriope. Maintaining a well-draining substrate is key to maximizing its flower production and lengthening its bloom period.
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
The blooms of blue vervain last into late summer. They are borne on spike inflorescences that can measure up to a foot long on mature plants! In moist and partly shaded conditions, where the leaves are protected from scorching heat, this plant can form small colonies and attract a wide variety of moths.
Blue vervain is a rapid spreader and tends to produce floral stalks that are taller than those of creeping lilyturf. For this reason, it is a particularly good companion for Liriope spicata. Note that it may become an invasive plant if it is rooted into rich substrates.
Common Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
Often cultivated as a hedge plant, the common boxwood can be grown next to stands of liriope because they share many basic needs. Both plants can tolerate various levels of both sun and shade. When grown in optimal conditions, they are also drought resistant.
The foliage of common boxwood can truly transform any type of landscape, especially as their branches can be pruned back into either organic or well-defined shapes. To soften the transition between hedges and turf, liriope can be grown along the base of common boxwood.
See more: Common boxwood companion plants
Hard ferns produce the perfect green foliage for adding texture, vibrancy, and height to a shade garden. They can be situated behind stands of liriope, where their complex leaves can add depth and contrast.
Ideal types of ferns to plant next to or behind liriope include Asplenium ruta-muraria and Blechnum spicant. These ferns should help condition the substrate and remove excess moisture to support the growth of nearby liriope plants.
Key Differences Between the 2 Types of Liriope
Liriope muscari is more ideal for small gardens or containers as it grows in clumps. Mature plants, with leaves in a rough rosette formation, may measure as wide as 12-18 inches.
Their blooms develop into black berries. Due to the clumping nature of this species, along with its low capacity for spread, it is ideal as an edge plant.
In contrast, Liriope spicata is a rapid spreader and can self-propagate via a network of underground rhizomes. Its capacity for rapid growth makes it ideal as a ground cover plant.
Nonetheless, it should not be grown next to more delicate and slow-growing companion plants unless the spread of its roots can be restricted.
Plant Species You Should Not Grow Next to Monkey Grass
Avoid growing plants with either high or notably low moisture needs next to liriope. If you grow species with incompatible growth requirements, it is likely that one or the other will die back quickly.
In the process, weakened plants may attract pests and diseases, which may compromise the health of its companion plants.
Always aim to grow other plants with similar soil needs and nutrient requirements. Moreover, take note of the specific growth features of liriope cultivars. Cultivars of Liriope muscari may not be the best companions for ground cover plants. Cultivars of Liriope spicata should not be grown next to valuable patches of slow-growing ornamentals.
Will Liriope Choke Out Slow-Growing Ornamentals?
It is highly unlikely that Liriope muscari will outgrow nearby ornamentals (of a similar size and growth rate) or deprive them of nutrients. Liriope spicata, on the other hand, may indeed choke out ornamentals that are planted nearby.
You can restrict the spread of liriope plants to within pots or containers. You may also opt to barricade the spread of their roots by installing mesh fences in the soil. This way, the roots of more vulnerable plants can be provided with enough room to become established.
*image by YK1500/depositphotos