Hydrangeas are stunning when they’re in full flower, but their form and leaves could be described as “plain” up until that point. There are many hydrangea companion plants that can take on a supporting role before hydrangeas come into bloom. These flowering hydrangea companions enjoy the same growing conditions. Also, many will bloom all season long, setting the stage for a spectacular display once the hydrangea flowers appear.
What Plants Make Good Companions for Hydrangea Shrubs?
Hydrangeas generally need rich, well-draining, moist soil, along with some shade. Hydrangea companion plants should share similar growing needs. Pick and choose contrasting colors, heights and shapes to form attractive pairings.
The best hydrangea companions are:
- Small or short.
- Produce flowers in colors that complement your hydrangea.
- Have foliage textures that offer contrast and interest.
- Not aggressive spreaders.
Here are Twelve Terrific Options for Hydrangea Companion Plants
Annuals to Grow with Hydrangea
Annuals are plants that complete a seed-to-flower-to-seed life cycle in one growing season. Annual plants can succeed next to hydrangeas, if shade-tolerant varieties are chosen.
Among the most classic garden flowers, impatiens are shade-tolerant and usually don’t grow taller than 18 inches (45 cm). Impatiens come in nearly any color you can think of, so you can choose a variety that pairs perfectly with your hydrangeas.
There are over 1,000 species of begonia. Like impatiens, they stay close to the ground and don’t mind a fair amount of shade. Looking for a great color combo? Try white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias.
Like hydrangeas, geraniums have long blooming seasons, from late spring into fall. With bright, gorgeous flowers, geraniums are known as low-hassle, high-reward annuals. Geraniums prefer a bit of direct sun to flower at their best, so choose these only if your hydrangeas are in a sunnier position.
Snapdragons are beautiful and interesting flowers. They come in lots of heights and colors, so you can pick out a variety that best pairs with your hydrangeas. Use snapdragons to create variety in height when combined with other low-growing plants.
Perennials to Grow with Hydrangea
Perennials are plants with life spans longer than two years, that return each year with fresh blooms. Lots of perennials are small, shade-tolerant and produce beautiful flowers – all excellent traits for coexisting with hydrangeas.
Hostas are one of the most popular companion choices for hydrangeas. Many hostas grow low to the ground, where they can appreciate the shade cast by hydrangea neighbors. Hostas are available in a wide range of colors, with many variegated varieties available. They provide color and texture when hydrangea isn’t in flower.
Foxgloves enjoy the same growing conditions as hydrangeas. Foxglove stalks can reach several feet in height–a bit higher than most options on this list. Use foxglove to create a more consistent eye-level display alongside hydrangeas. Use them as a backdrop to lower-growing hydrangea companion plants.
The broad leaves of coral bells look something like a cross between lettuce and maple leaves. They’re native to North America and fit nicely in woodland settings. Low-growing and dense, coral bells can fill in the space between your hydrangeas and the edges of a landscaping bed. Better yet, hybrid varieties of coral bells are available in a range of foliage colors that are just as showy as flowering plants.
Lamium, Spotted Dead-nettle
Lamium is a low-growing, perennial ground cover that’s great for creating a “finished” look around your hydrangeas. The foliage is dense enough that it also serves as effective weed control. Lamium varieties are available in a range of color combinations; from silvery-green to gold. They’re a great way to add interest around hydrangeas when the shrubs aren’t yet in bloom. Small flowers appear in early summer to provide another layer of color.
Ornamental grasses provide subtle and elegant companionship, leaving your hydrangeas as the center of attention. Ornamental grasses are a low-maintenance option for adding ground cover around your featured plants. Look for shorter varieties that won’t overwhelm your hydrangea bush.
Shrubs to Grow with Hydrangea
Smaller plants are generally preferable to shrubs for pairing with hydrangea. However, there are all sorts of shrubs that grow well under the same conditions as hydrangeas. A thoughtfully selected shrub combination can create a striking display for larger borders or foundation plantings.
Like hydrangeas, azaleas prefer partial sun. Azalea flowers are bright and lovely. You can pick a white, pink or purple variety that complements your hydrangea flower color. Azaleas bloom in the spring, making them a good choice for adding color in the period before hydrangeas start to bloom.
Boxwoods’ dense, compact growth pattern is a nice contrast with hydrangeas’ soft, looser profile. These humble green shrubs tolerate trimming and pruning, making it easy to keep them sized and shaped to suit your preference, or accommodate the available space.
Gardenia shrubs are every bit as decorative as hydrangeas. Their fragrant white flowers appear over a long season from spring through fall. Gardenia blooms are subtle enough that they don’t compete with hydrangea flowers for attention. Their luxurious scent adds fragrance to the landscape.
Learn More About Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are wonderful centerpieces of any landscape planting. New varieties appear every year to keep flowering shrub enthusiasts satisfied. If you’re new to hydrangea cultivation, check out this introductory guide to hydrangeas and see if they have a place in your garden.