Hydrangeas are a great way to add a burst of pinkish-purple color to your backyard. They’re a hardy plant on their own, but what if you want to pair them with other flowers and foliage?
As with any plant or flower, certain other flowers or plants pair better than others with hydrangeas. Let’s take a look at some of hydrangeas’ best gardening buddies and why they pair so beautifully.
First, it’s worth pointing out what makes hydrangeas so beautiful and popular in the first place.
The first and most obvious thing is their color. In addition to pink and purple, hydrangeas come in blue, white, lavender, and similar hues. They’re also pretty easy to grow and as perennials, they bloom year after year from summer to fall, even after other flowers stop blooming.
Finally, a typical hydrangea bloom is nice and round, rather than tall and thin.
That last point hints at a clear choice you have when planting hydrangeas – whether to complement their rounded nature or contrast it with taller options.
If you go with the former choice, you’ll want to choose flowers which have a similar short, rounded bloom. This can create a nice even field of rounded blooms that is aesthetically pleasing in its symmetry.
If you choose the latter choice, you’ll want to choose flowers and plants which are tall and pointy. Needless to say, you’ll want to make sure you plant these behind your hydrangeas, lest you obscure them by planting them in front and thus covering them up.
The humble hosta is a popular choice in the former category. Its dome-like teardrop-shaped leafy outgrowths nicely complement the rounded blooms of hydrangeas. They aren’t high maintenance, either, making them a good choice if you are looking for a way to create contrast between leafy green and colorful blooms without having to put too much effort into maintaining either plant.
Another nice thing about pairing hydrangeas and hostas is the fact that the former can hide the latter’s paler leaves, while the latter’s calmer colors can help offset the brightness of the former’s bloom.
On a similar note, ferns are another good example of plants which are tall, thin, and create contrast with rounded hydrangeas. As with hostas, ferns are relatively low maintenance. Long lithe dogwoods can also add some contrast size-wise while also boasting lighter colors than you’ll find in some of the deeper purple hydrangeas.
In addition to these aesthetic pairings, you’ll also want to think about the gardening choices you need to make to keep your hydrangeas healthy. After all, you don’t want to choose plants or flowers which have root systems which can strangle or take water from your hydrangeas.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hydrangeas tend to prefer the shade. Of course, all flowers need to have enough sunlight to grow and come into bloom, but hydrangeas are happiest in shady spots where they can get just enough sun to grow properly without turning brown in excessive heat and sun.
This means that you’ll want to look for plants which are similarly well-suited to the shade, since you don’t want one plant to be starved for sunlight and the other turning crispy brown because it’s getting too much. For example, coral bells, also known as heucheras, are similarly shade-loving.
There are plenty of other flowers which can grow well with hydrangeas in shade, including azaleas. These come in a wide range of colors, allowing you to choose options which best complement the color of your hydrangea blooms. The same can be said for boxwood shrubs, which are far more wintergreen and can bring some color into your garden during the long winter months.
Then there are flowers which you might not initially think of as being particularly well-suited to the shade but which nevertheless can grow perfectly well in the shade alongside hydrangeas. For example, foxgloves grow tall and thin, which can help offset the rounded blooms of your hydrangeas. By contrast, pansies are a lot smaller but come in a huge variety of colors, giving you a veritable artist’s palette in determining what splash of floral color you want to introduce into your garden alongside your hydrangeas blooms.
This raises the question of where you should plant your hydrangeas in your garden. You need them to be in shade, but you probably want most of your garden to be exposed to sunlight. As such, hydrangeas are typically limited to areas such as underneath window overhangs or beneath trees and other shady areas which are more in the background or on the borders and fringes of the garden than front and center.
In addition, while hostas and hydrangeas are relatively low maintenance, the same is true for certain ornamental grasses. Unlike the “normal” types of grass you can grow for your lawn, these grasses have far longer, thinner leaves that curl and form rounded shapes, making them one more option for complementing hydrangeas’ natural shape. What’s more, because these leaves are long and thin, they blow nicely in the breeze, as do ferns, as both can give your garden a sense of movement on a breezy day.
Last but not least, while hydrangeas are perennials, you might want to think about growing them alongside some annuals to give you some contrast throughout the year.
For example, you might consider opting for shade-tolerant flowers such as begonias. These can bloom in a deep vivacious red, which can nicely offset the pinks, purples, lavenders, and whites of many hydrangeas. What’s more, they come in many shades and varieties, so you can choose the ones which are best suited to your tastes.
Hydrangeas are far and away one of the best choices for those looking for a low maintenance shade-tolerant flower to plant in little islands or on the fringes of your garden. With the right color combinations and foliage contrasts, they can bring a new sense of beauty and life into your garden.