Skip to Content

The 9 Perfect Companions to Plant with Ferns

The 9 Perfect Companions to Plant with Ferns

Share this post:

Disclaimer: Some links found on this page might be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I might earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Ferns are lovely, sturdy plants commonly grown in gardens, but they can grow in conditions that many other plants find challenging. That’s why it’s often mind-boggling to choose the right plants to grow alongside them.

So, what can you plant with ferns? Any plant that thrives in moist conditions and shaded locations will do, including Astilbe, Bleeding Heart, Heartleaf Brunnera, Caladium, Barrenwort, and Hellebore.

In this article, we’ll discuss what to plant with ferns, what these companion plants look like, and whether they’re low-maintenance, so you can choose the plants that suit you best.

What Conditions Do Ferns Prefer?

Cyrtomium Falcatum Fern

Different types of fern need different conditions to grow. For example, certain ferns like the Cyrtomium falcatum prefer to grow in deeply shaded areas in your garden, while others like the Athyrium filixfemina thrive in full sun conditions.

To determine the perfect growing conditions for your fern, you need to know its species.

However, most ferns generally thrive in part sunny, part shady conditions with moist, alkaline soil. Thankfully, several other plants can grow in these conditions with your ferns.

What Other Plants Like The Same Conditions?

Luckily for you, the growth conditions of ferns are actually quite common, so many plants have the same preferences. On top of that, some plants can adapt to various conditions and virtually live anywhere, so you can choose one of those too.

Here’s a list of the best plants to grow with ferns:

1. Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart Plant

Bleeding heart plants have long been a good companion for ferns as they both thrive in the same growing conditions. They have heart-shaped white or pink flowers that bloom from spring all the way to fall.

These beautiful flowers have tall, slender stems that make the flowers clearly visible. They can grow to 6–12 inches in height and about 1–3 feet in width.

The good thing about bleeding hearts is that they’re pretty low-maintenance and easy to grow. They also grow both in containers and in the ground.

2. Hellebore


Hellebore plants are easy to care for, and they look great in almost any landscape you plant them in. They’re mostly evergreen, and their foliage is a chartreuse/gold color with serrated leaves that grow on long, sturdy stems.

Hellebores thrive in shady spots and prefer their soil to be moist and cool. They’ll grow to 1–8 feet in height and 1–3 feet in width, depending on the type of Hellebore you get.

These flowers have a unique shape, looking like a saucer or a bowl. They’re mostly white with yellow, maroon, and pink speckles.

3. Astilbe


Astilbe is a plant with ornamental, fern-like green and bronze foliage, and it thrives in part sun, part shady conditions. This plant needs a lot of water, which makes it the perfect companion for ferns.

Astilbes have a plumped feathery-looking blossom that doesn’t lose its appeal even when it’s dried out in the winter. These gorgeous flowers will come in either red, purple, pink, or white colors.

An Astilbe plant will grow between 1 to 8 feet in height and 18 to 30 inches in width, depending on which type you get. You can grow it as a groundcover plant or in a plant pot.

4. Heartleaf Brunnera

Heartleaf Brunnera

Heartleaf Brunneras are beautiful and low-growing plants with heart-shaped leaves, which explains their name. Their foliage is either grey/silver or green/blue, but the leaves can change between these two colors.

They’ll first grow in a green/blue color, then turn grey/silver. Once the change occurs, the leaves become almost iridescent when seen in the right light.

These plants will grow to about 1 to 3 feet in height and between 12 to 30 inches in width, and they boast clouds of white or sky-blue flowers from early to around mid-spring.

The best thing about heartleaf Brunneras is that they’re low-maintenance plants and do exceptionally well when planted with almost all types of ferns.

5. Caladium


Caladium plants have colorful leaves shaped like arrowheads, but that’s not the best thing about them. These plants are very easy to grow and can grow just about anywhere. They thrive in shady, filtered, sunny, and partly sunny locations.

A Caladium’s foliage is generally blue/green, gray/silver, or burgundy/purple. The leaves can get pretty big, and they’re vulnerable to the wind. So, people often grow them with steady-leaved plants like ferns to protect their leaves.

Caladium plants will grow between 6 to 12 inches in height and anywhere up to 24 inches in width. They’re generally considered groundcover plants, but they can do well when planted in pots and other containers, too.

6. Barrenwort

Purple Barrenwort

Barrenwort is a part sun, part shade plant that may look deceivingly delicate when in fact, it is anything but fragile. This plant thrives in low-light conditions that most plants don’t tolerate.

Barrenwort has beautifully colored foliage that comes in burgundy/purple or green/blue, and it has flowers that bloom in early spring. The flowers are usually red, orange, pink, white, or yellow. 

A Barrenwort plant will grow between 6 to 12 inches in height and between 1 to 3 feet in width. It makes for a lovely groundcover plant that has no trouble competing for root space beneath shrubs and trees. That’s why it’s a good match for ferns.

7. Bluebells

Bluebells thrive in partially shady conditions, which is why they can be grown with ferns. These perennials flower in the spring, and they have deciduous foliage. 

The flowers are beautiful and shaped like bells, which explains their name. They can grow up to 12 inches in height and 3–8 inches in width, depending on the surrounding conditions.

Bluebells look exceptionally well alongside ferns because their bright blue color contrasts well against the green foliage. 

8. Spotted Dead Nettle

Spotted dead-nettles, or lamium maculatums, are pretty hardy. Though they grow delicate flowers, these plants can grow in very challenging conditions that other plants won’t tolerate.

They thrive in partially shady areas, but they can survive in full shade.

Like bluebells, spotted dead nettles are perennials, and they mostly grow in woodlands at the base of trees, where they can get enough shade to live.

The flowers of spotted dead nettles grow in bright pink and purple colors, and their leaves are fuzzy and heart-shaped.

9. Forget-Me-Not

Forget-me-nots don’t only have an interesting name, but they also look great when grown when ferns. They have tall, slender stems that grow tiny blue flowers, so they’ll complement your ferns perfectly well without stealing the spotlight. The flowers also keep blooming throughout the spring and summer.

These tiny flowers need partial shade to grow, and you can use them as a groundcover plant. Keep in mind that they self-seed regularly, so you have to choose their companions carefully to prevent competing for nutrients. They’re generally a great match for ferns.

Final Thoughts

Many plants will do well growing as companion plants with your ferns, but you’ll want to choose carefully based on the aesthetic of your garden. The plants mentioned above are all gorgeous to look at, but color coordination is important, so make sure to choose colors that go well with each other.

Good luck with your fern companion planting!

Share this post: