Showy, low-maintenance agapanthus or lily of the Nile (Agapanthus spp.) adds dramatic, long-lasting color to gardens with its globe-shaped flowers and evergreen leaves. It makes a bold statement all on its own and will also work with other, less assertive plants to create a multifaceted ornamental planting. Choosing companion plants for agapanthus is largely a matter of personal taste, but the plants must share the same growing requirements and cold tolerance.
Climate and Conditions
Choosing plants that have the same climate and growing needs is vital when choosing companion plants for agapanthus. Agapanthus performs best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, although hardiness varies somewhat among cultivars and species. All varieties share the same growing requirements, which include:
- Full sun. Agapanthus thrives in hot, dry climates that few other plants will tolerate, although it benefits from some light afternoon shade during the summer in especially hot climates. Avoid heavy shade.
- Fast-draining soil. Agapanthus isn’t picky about soil type as long as the soil drains quickly. Waterlogged soil will cause disease, so don’t plant in areas where water pools after rain.
Tough, low-maintenance plants such as leatherleaf sedge (Carex buchananii, USDA zones 6 through 9) and ‘Apricot Queen’ New Zealand flax (Phormium ‘Apricot Queen,’ USDA zones 8 through 11) work well, as do showy bloomers such as ‘American Red’ bush lantana (Lantana camara, ‘American Red,’ USDA zones 9 through 11).
Color and Composition
Agapanthus comes in a range of colors and sizes, from tall, blue-flowered varieties such as ‘Glaskop,’ (Agapanthus inapertus ‘Graskop,’ USDA zones 7 through 10) to dainty, white-flowered types like ‘Rancho White’ (Agapanthus africans ‘Rancho White,’ USDA zones 9 through 11). There are even types grown for their showy, variegated foliage such as Sun Stripe (Agapanthus africans ‘Monkageyama,’ USDA zones 8 through 11).
Plants with flowers on the opposite side of the color wheel complement agapanthus. For blue-flowered varieties, choose yellow- or orange-flowered companion plants such as ‘Sweet Summer Heat’ day lily (Hemerocallis ‘Sweet Summer Heat’, USDA zones 3 through 9) with its peach-colored flowers or the red, orange and green leaves of ‘Tropicanna’ canna (Canna ‘Phasion’, USDA zones 7 through 11) to intensify their color.
Alternatively, choose silver- or gray-colored plants such as dusty miller (Senecio cineraria, USDA zones 7 through 11) to cool down brightly colored agapanthus cultivars and give a more refined look.
To enhance the tropical appeal of agapanthus, select bold perennials such as the blood banana (Musa zebrina, USDA zones 8 through 11).
Heat-loving agapanthus will not survive outdoors in colder climates, although it can be grown in containers and overwintered in a sheltered spot. When arranging a container planting, it is vital to choose three different types of plants, known as thrillers, fillers and spillers, to create a balanced arrangement. With its bold flowers and glossy, strappy foliage, agapanthus fills the role of "thriller" in container plantings, so the key is to choose back-up players to fill in the empty space and spill over the edge of the container.
Choose colorful, voluminous annuals such as coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) or Swedish ivies (Plectranthus spp.) to act as fillers and trailing plants like sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas, USDA zones 9 through 11) or showy, blooming annuals such as nasturtium (Tropaeoleum spp.) to spill over the edge and give the container a grounded appearance.