With their large, colorful blooms, hydrangeas are a captivating addition to any garden. But like most plants, they look and grow their best when paired with the right companion plants. The ideal companions for hydrangeas enhance their growth, deter pests, and complement their beautiful flowers.
Choosing companion plants is an art and a science. Follow these tips to select the best supportive neighbors your hydrangeas will love.
Pair Bloomers with Different Seasons
Hydrangeas bloom in spring, summer or fall depending on the variety. To ensure continuous color in your garden, match them with companion plants that bloom at different times. Spring bulbs, summer annuals, and fall asters extend the floral display.
For example, pair early blooming mophead hydrangeas with summer-blooming daylilies. Or combine fall-blooming panicle hydrangeas with spring-blooming tulips. Having plants in flower throughout the seasons guarantees your garden is always decorative.
Play up the vivid hydrangea blooms by choosing companion plants with contrasting or harmonious colors. Red, purple and blue hydrangeas pop against yellow, gold or chartreuse flowers like coreopsis, rudbeckia, and yarrow.
White hydrangeas look crisp and fresh surrounded by pure blue blossoms like lobelia, balloon flower and salvias. Repeat hydrangea colors in your companion plants for a cohesive, synchronized garden palette.
Hydrangeas have bold, full flower heads and wide, dramatic leaves. You can really make them stand out by pairing them with fine-textured plants. Feathery ferns, frilly grasses, airy dill and fennel provide an interesting contrast in form and texture.
Spiky, vertical flowers like veronica, delphinium and gladiolus also complement the horizontal shape of hydrangea blooms. Mixing textures makes for eye-catching vignettes.
Beneficial Shade Plants
Some hydrangea varieties, like oakleaf, thrive in partial shade. Others, like panicle hydrangeas, tolerate shade but may not bloom as well. Strategic companion planting can maximize growth.
Plant shade-loving impatiens, caladiums, and begonias around oakleaf hydrangeas. Underplant panicles with astilbe, coral bells and hostas. They’ll brighten up the garden floor beneath the taller hydrangeas.
Hydrangeas crave nitrogen. Planting them near nitrogen-fixing plants like beans, peas, clover and alfalfa allows them to gain nutrients from the soil. As an added perk, these plants also deter rabbits with their unpleasant scent.
Just be sure to situate the nitrogen fixers at least 3 feet away from the hydrangeas. Otherwise they may over-fertilize and cause excess leaf growth at the expense of flowers.
Natural Pest Deterrents
Certain companion plants repel common hydrangea pests like aphids, cabbage loopers and spider mites. Herbs like mint, garlic, chives and basil make great natural insect repellents. Dill, cilantro and tansy also ward off predatory bugs.
Interplant these throughout your hydrangea collection. They’ll disguise the hydrangeas from pests and provide chemical compounds that drive them away or confuse them. Aromatic herbs make handsome companions.
Plant low-growing perennials, herbs and groundcovers like ajuga, thyme, lamium and creeping phlox as living mulch under hydrangeas. They suppress weeds, reduce soil moisture loss and keep roots cool.
Select shallow-rooted plants that won’t compete for resources. Avoid aggressive spreaders which can take over. Living mulch should enrich the soil and enhance the hydrangeas’ curb appeal.
Hydrangeas have expansive, vigorous root systems. Don’t plant them next to shallow-rooted trees, shrubs or perennials which they may overtake and starve of nutrients and moisture.
Some compatible choices include rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwoods, lavender, salvia and butterfly bush. Or keep hydrangeas confined by planting in pots sunk into garden beds.
Consider Mature Size
Give hydrangeas ample room to grow, as some mature to 6 feet tall and wide. Avoid cramming companion plants too close. Refer to nursery tags for mature dimensions and space accordingly.
Dwarf varieties like ‘Little Lime’ only reach 3 feet tall. These can be compatibly mixed in beds with shorter perennials, whereas full-size hydrangeas are better as standalone specimens.
Selecting ideal companion plants for your hydrangeas brings out their best features. Follow these guidelines to create stunning plant combinations that thrive together while enhancing your garden’s beauty.