27 Hosta Companion Plants For Shady Garden Areas

Hostas are extremely versatile plants, and can add some lovely ground cover to your yard or garden. But what plants grow best with them in the garden? Which ones look the best together? In this article, certified master gardener and hosta enthusiast Laura Elsner examines the best companion plants for hostas in your garden.

Hosta Companion Plants

Hostas rule the shade. They are great foundation plants that other perennials can easily be layered against to create garden harmony. The possibilities are endless. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of my favorite companions for planting with hostas. But there are many, many more possibilities to go along with this leafy marvel.

If you’ve decided to plant hostas, you’ll need to play close attention to foliage textures and colors that will compliment and contrast against them. This will help create stunning and visually interesting combinations in your garden, or container planting.

While there are many hosta companion planting options, I’ve outlined my favorites below whenever I’m creating new arrangements for my shade garden or containers. Any of these combinations will help you create a visually stunning garden space, especially in shadier areas where it’s tougher to grow. Let’s dig in!

Hostas

hosta
This plant comes in many different varieties to fit any garden style.
Scientific Name: Hosta
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 6″-6′ Width: 6″-5′
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

I feel like I needed to get the obvious one out of the way first. Hostas’ best friends are other hostas.  I wrote an article about 31 unique varieties of hostas (check it out to find some perfect hosta pairings). My friend called me in disbelief, “there’s that many hostas?!”.

She just assumed hosta was a plain green shade plant. But there are over 3000 hosta varieties! Some look so different it’s hard to tell they’re even the same plant. So just playing with hostas and using different varieties will create a patchwork of foliage color in a shade garden. Hostas are easy to grow with other hostas, and they don’t compete for nutrients like other plant pairings do.

One of my favorite hosta combinations is a chartreuse leaf sum and substance hosta, paired with a pure medium green august moon hosta, and then a guacamole hosta that has a medium green margin and a chartreuse center to tie everything together.

Coral Bells

Heuchera
The contrasting colors of this plant mixed with a hosta is a striking combination.
Scientific Name: Heuchera
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 18″ Width: 18″
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

Coral bells might just be a hosta’s best friend. They both like the same soil, water, and light conditions. They are both leafy marvels. Coral bells have a different, ruffled, leaf shape and come in a variety of colors like deep purples, chartreuse, and red.

When the different textures and colors of coral bells are placed in and amongst hostas it creates a beautiful tapestry of foliage. Try a dark purple variety like Black Pearl, next to a blue variety of hosta, like blue angel, for a striking combination.

 I also really like how Coral bells have an evergreen quality, they are out of the ground before the hostas. So you will have heucheras up in the early spring garden instead of pure bare soil that hostas leave until they decide to pop out later in the season.

Creeping Jenny

Lysimachia
While this plant may keep the soil moist, it can also take over, so it will need some maintenance.
Scientific Name: Lysimachia
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Height: 2″ Spread: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 10

Creeping Jenny, or lysimachia, is my garden hot sauce. I put it on everything! But alongside hostas is one of my favorite applications. Especially the golden variety. Under the base of hostas it covers the soil and acts as a natural mulch to keep the soil moist.

The golden color makes any chartreuse in variegated varieties (eg. Guacamole, Stained Glass, Whirlwind etc.) Really pop. Be aware that lysimachia can get out of hand. Its roots are shallow though, so you can easily dig and pull it up to keep it in its place.

Ferns

Athyrium
With a variety to choose from, ferns can help create a lush garden look.
Scientific Name: Athyrium, dryopteris, matteuccia etc.
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: variety dependant Width: variety dependant
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Sun, Full Shade
  • Plant Zone: Majority 4 to 8

Ferns and hostas go great together. The light airy texture of fern fronds against the large solid leaves of hostas is visually interesting despite it being green on green. I think this combination is what can make a shade garden feel really lush, like you’re living in a jungle (as a cold climate zone 3 gardener, I’m desperate for a jungle).

Ostrich ferns and male ferns for example, are generally taller than hostas and provide a great background with hostas in front. Smaller ferns, such as a Japanese painted fern, or a tatting fern, are great in an amongst, or even in front of hostas to provide interesting textures and color variation.

Tuberous Begonias

Begonia
These are easy to incorporate because they require the same planting conditions.
Scientific Name: Begonia
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 12″ Width: 16″
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 9 to 10, and in colder zones (2 – 8)

I love putting a few tuberous begonias in and amongst hostas. It adds some color to break up the sometimes uniform green of shade gardens. I am usually a more is more sort of gardener and prefer to see masses of annuals over just one or two spread out. But tuberous begonias in a hosta bed is an exception. You can get away with spreading out a few large flowered tuberous begonias throughout your hostas and they will provide a big impact with their large flowers.

 I love the Nonstop series. Nonstop red has giant balls of crimson blossoms all over it, they can be seen from across the garden. They also come in yellow, pink, and white, so take your pick. Tuberous begonias also like the same watering, sun, and soil conditions as hostas so it is an easy flower to add in.

Vinca Vine

Vinca Major
These are a beautiful paring option but can become invasive if not properly maintained.
Scientific Name: Vinca Major
  • Plant Type: Annual
  • Height: 4-6″ Spread: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

Vinca vine is an evergreen vine that is perfect for pairing with hostas. Be aware that vinca vine is aggressive, borderline invasive (in fact check to make sure it is not on the invasive list in your area before planting), so use caution. I like that vinca is up and out of the ground in early spring. Hosta gardens can look like bare space until they decide to start growing later in the season.

Their glossy green leaves, that come in pure green or variegated, look lovely with hostas.  Their purple flowers are the same color as most hosta flowers so it’s a nice pairing for purple blooming flowers throughout the summer (note: they won’t bloom at the same time, vinca is spring, hostas late summer).

Hydrangeas

Hydrangea
These will add a bit of height and color when paring with your hosta.
Scientific Name: Hydrangea
  • Plant Type: Perennial shrub
  • Height: 36-48″ Width: 48-60″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial sun, Shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 11

Hostas and hydrangeas, the classic combination. This combination graces covers of gardening magazines and adorns instagram. With good reason, hostas growing around the feet of the large pom pom ball flowers are gorgeous. Hydrangeas are great companions, due sharing a like for acidic soil, just like hostas.

They both have wide leaves and provide a lush feel, then later in the season when the hydrangeas start flowering in blues, pinks, or whites, it is spectacular. If you live in a zone where the classic blue/pink hydrangea doesn’t grow, try an annabelle hydrangea, or a peegee hydrangea, they are lovely for the lower zones.

Sweet Woodruff

Galium odoratum
The small white flowers look beautiful peeking through the big, dark green, hosta leaves,
Scientific Name: Galium odoratum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 8″ Spread: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to Full shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

This sweet woodland ground cover is lovely with hostas. It has dainty, glossy green foliage that pairs nicely with large hosta leaves. Then in spring it will explode into tiny white star shaped flowers, it peeks through the smaller, new hosta leaves and looks great. It will need to be maintained to keep in its place, it’s easy enough to rip and dig out if it is interfering too much with the hostas.

Tulips

tulipa
Tulips provide a vibrant splash of color to break up a heavy green garden bed.
Scientific Name: Tulipa
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 4-36″ Width: 6″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 7

I love this sneaky little combination. In the fall when the hosta foliage is on its way out, grab a bag of tulip bulbs and plant them in and amongst the hostas. When spring comes and the hostas are still sleeping, the tulips will spring up and do their cheery tulip thing.

Then the hostas will emerge as the tulips fade and the hosta leaves will cover the dying tulip leaves. This works especially well if you have an area in your garden that is shady due to a deciduous tree. In the spring the tulips will get lots of sun before the leaves fill in. Then the leaves fill in and it becomes a shady paradise for hostas.

Brunnera

Brunnera
This is a low maintenance option that will compliment the hosta and won’t try to take over.
Scientific name: Brunnera
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 24″ Width: 18″
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

Brunnera is another leafy marvel that should be placed in and amongst hostas with ease. The usually have a frosted foliage appearance and so they play nicely with the green in hostas. I love coral bells, hostas, and brunnera all together in a bed. This helps create a patchwork of foliage. They are all relatively the same size and they all stay in their own space (non spreading), so it’s a great, low maintenance, design option that has a lot of impact.

Allium

Allium
The Allium will add height and color to your garden.
Scientific Name: Allium
  • Plant Type: Perennials
  • Height: 6-36″  Width: 6-12″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

Alliums are fall planted bulbs that pop up in the spring. They are like purple lollipops on sticks. One of my favorite plants, they have so much impact and add garden whimsy. With hostas they work great because they hide their lower foliage.

When an allium blooms, the thin grassy base of the plant is already starting to turn yellow and die off. This is the downside to allium. The trick is to plant them so the bottom leaves are being hidden by another plant so they just appear as lollipops floating through your garden. Hostas are perfect for this because they are coming up as the allium are blooming and the bottoms are dying. So the hosta leaves will cover the allium leaves perfectly.

This is another great option for shade gardens under deciduous trees. The same with tulips, they will grow up and bloom before the tree leafs out and then the tree leaves provide shade for the incoming hostas.

Lettuce

Lactuca Satuva
This is an easy and effortless paring, that is not only pretty to look at, but edible as well.
Scientific Name: Lactuca Sativa
  • Plant Type: Annual/biennial.
  • Height: 6-18″ Width: 6-18″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 9

Okay, hear me out on this one. Vegetable gardening has become even more popular the last several years. I struggle with vegetables and I could never figure out why. Not struggling with the actual growing of them, but with the desire to grow them. Why don’t I want to grow something that me and my family can eat? But I’ll grow tons of ornamental plants. I really thought about it and I came to the conclusion that I garden for the art of it.

I love visually appealing gardens. Vegetable gardens can be nice to look at, but often they are grown more for function than visual appeal. But I love fresh garden vegetables. So I decided to sneakily plant vegetables throughout my garden beds.

 Lettuce is great because you can find some really beautiful, and delicious varieties. I love mesclun cutting mixes. They have chartreuse, green, red, and purple all mixed together. I throw the seeds into my hosta beds in the early spring and they start popping up. If the hosta leaves start taking them over, then it is a perfect time to cut them and use them for salads.

I don’t put too much thought into it, for the $1 pack of seeds, I use what I can. Or I buy the head variety, like romaine, iceberg lettuce, or a red leaf variety, like oak leaf, or even an interesting textured one, like frisée. I plant these in front of or amongst the hostas and cut them off and use them as I need. This is the best of both worlds for me, beautiful gardens, and tasty fresh vegetables.

Dogwood

Cornus
These will not only provide wind protection for the hosta plant, but are also a stunning addition to any garden.
Scientific Name: Cornus
  • Plant Type: Perennials
  • Height: 4-20′ Width: 10-15′
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 9

Hostas need wind protection, and dogwoods add just that. Plus, they offer some structure to a garden, and their red branches (they actually come in yellow and pink now too) are a beautiful way to add winter interest to your garden. The problem with shade gardens is a lot of the plant material in the shade dissolves to nothing in the winter. It is nice to have something in the garden to look at through the winter.

Dogwoods add wind protection, some shade, beautiful foliage in the summer, and winter interest with their striking red branches in the winter. They are a great hosta companion. I highly recommend Ivory Halo Dogwood. It’s a nice round shrub with bright red branches and beautiful variegated foliage. It’s a great background shrub.

Clematis

Clematis
The hosta will provide the much needed shade once these get established.
Scientific Name: Clematis
  • Plant Type: Perennial vines
  • Height: 3-20′ Width: 3-20′
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

Clematis is a great match for hostas that are in more sunny conditions. The lighter colored hostas are great for this. Clematis like to have cooler feet and then sun on the upper vines. In the spring when things are cooler and Clematis are starting to sprout they need the sun to get going. Then once they have grown in height, the hostas will grow up and shade their feet and help hold in some moisture.

Muscari

Muscari
When these are finished blooming the hosta will cover its leftover fronds.
Scientific Name: Muscari
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 8″ Spread: 4″
  • Sun Exposure: Full to Partial sun
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 9

Muscari, sometimes called grape hyacinth, is a lovely hosta companion. It is a fall planted bulb that can be planted in and amongst the hostas. Then in the early spring they will pop up and bloom before the hosta leaves come out. Then the hosta leaves come out and will cover the stringy grass like left over from the muscari. I like planting muscari in a river pattern running through the garden.

When it is in bloom it is a spectacular floral river of  blue sweeping through the garden. After muscari blooms however, it is just left with stringy grass like fronds. If you plant it in blocks you’re stuck with blocks of yucky foliage through the summer. A wave allows you to cover it with other plants, like hosta, that will cover it once it’s finished blooming.

Alyssum

Lobularia maritima
These make a perfect border in front of the hosta, and provide a wonderful scent to your garden.
Scientific Name: Lobularia maritima
  • Plant Type: Annual
  • Height: 6″ Spread: 12″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 2 to 11

I was at a backyard wedding years ago, and they had planted a front border of alysum all along their garden. Every time a breeze came through the sweet scent wafted beautifully. I loved it. This is another one that won’t take too deep of shade, but part shade, alongside hostas is fine.

Alyssum gives a beautiful formal appearance to a garden. A garden with hydrangeas in the back, hostas in front and a border of alyssum in the front would be beautiful. It also is in bloom all through the season and requires very little maintenance.

Chives

Allium schoenoprasum
These are not only a pretty pop of color but they are also edible.
Scientific Name: Allium schoenoprasum
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: 18″ Width: 12″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

I’m adding another sneaky vegetable into the hosta garden. I love the look of straight upright chives next to the big round leaves of hostas. Then you can go in with scissors and snip them off for baked potatoes and eggs. I like how chives are easily available and inexpensive. Sometimes buying crazy perennials gets expensive.

I love a cheap option when it comes to gardening, it makes it accessible for everyone. If you don’t want to purchase them, you can find tons of gardeners eager to give them away. The purple balls of flowers are lovely too. Just make sure to cut them off before they go to seed or you’ll end up with a lot more chives than you intended.

English Yew

Taxus Baccata
These shade lovers pair perfectly and help provide some wind protection for the hosta.
Scientific Name: Taxus Baccata
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 4′ Width: 15′
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade, or even Full shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

Yews love the shade, and so do hostas. A dream match. I love the soft needled foliage against the large rounded hosta leaves. Yews also can provide some wind protection. The also have a soft yellow color in them that plays nicely against the chartreuse foliage that some hostas have (eg. Guacamole, Whirlwind, Brother Stefan). The evergreen foliage of yew is also great for winter interest long after the hostas have disappeared into the earth for winter.

Lady’s Mantle

Alchemilla
The pop of yellow create a perfect contrast.
Scientific Name: Alchemilla
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 18″ Width: 18″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

The green foliage of lady’s mantle blends in beautifully with hosta foliage. Then in the summer they bloom sprays of mustard colored flowers. The soft delicate flowers hover and fall onto the hosta leaves and brighten everything.

In a mixed hosta bed with chartreuse (eg. sum and substance), and green (eg. august moon) hostas, when you add a lady’s mantle the green foliage and sprays of yellow flowers tie everything together to create garden harmony.

Bleeding Heart

 Lamprocapnos
Plant these behind your hosta to create a lush green, whimsical look.
Scientific Name: Lamprocapnos spectabilis
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: 24-48″  Width: 24-36″
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

Hosta and bleeding hearts are a classic shade perennial pairing that feels really lush and can be achieved even in the lower gardening zones. Plant them behind hostas and enjoy the lush foliage and beautiful dangling heart shaped flowers.

Then when they start to fade away in the heat of the summer, simply cut them down and you’ll be left with beautiful hostas whose leaves will have filled in entirely by that time.

False Goat’s Beard

Astilbe
These will add some color and height to your flower bed.
Scientific name: Astilbe
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 12-36″ Width: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade to Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

This is another stunning shade combination. The lacy foliage of the astilbe against the large structural hosta foliage is interesting enough. But when the astilbe blooms its soft feathery flowers that rise slightly above the hosta leaves it is gorgeous. They will start blooming in summer after the spring blossoms have faded.

Both of these plants enjoy the same damp, humus rich soil, and partial sun. They are also neat compact perennials that stay in their place and require very little maintenance throughout the season. They also come in a variety of colors, white, pink, red, purple.

Hepatica

Hepatica
This ground over will weave itself in and around your plants without becoming invasive.
Scientific Name: Hepatica
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: 6″ Width: 6″
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade to Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

Hepatica is one of the earliest of early spring bloomers. I sometimes even miss it in client gardens because it has already bloomed before my first visit. It has little purple or white flowers that are such a welcome sight in early spring. They travel around, but not annoyingly, and they have beautiful tri lobed green foliage.

This is another one that looks great while hostas are still asleep, then sometimes a hosta will cover it over, but sometimes it will be popping out a bit and that’s fine too. It adds to the lushness of a shade garden’s floor.

Cranesbill geranium

Geranium sylvaticum
These are wonderful to plant for large areas, but do tend to take over.
Scientific Name: Geranium sylvaticum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 24″ Width:24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 2 to 9

This is a bushy, often weedy perennial, that does well in part shade. It has small lacy foliage that looks good against the large hosta leaves. It will bloom, usually purple, flowers in the late spring. Be careful with this one, it can take over. But on the flipside it can also cover a large area and has nice lush looking foliage.

Bugbane

Cimicifuga
These reliable bloomers have a wonderful fragrance and striking color contrast.
Scientific Name: Cimicifuga
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 35-48″  Width: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 7 to 11

I love the combination of a dark purple lacy foliaged bugbane behind a blue hosta, like a blue angel hosta. Black negligee is my favorite variety of bugbane as it is tall and a reliable bloomer. It blooms in the fall and has an intoxicating fragrance. But even when bugbane isn’t in bloom the delicate lacy, deep purple foliage adds texture and color in a shade garden.

Monkshood

Aconitum
The two of these will bloom around the same time and require the same care, making them the perfect duo.
Scientific Name: Aconitum
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 36-60″  Width: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Light shade to Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 7

Monkshood like part shady areas of gardens in order to bloom (not full shade). I like placing hostas at the foot of monkshood. Monkshood tends to have scraggly yellow leaves near the bottom of their stems, so having a hosta there to cover it is a perfect solution. They also have similar bloom times, so they will both be blooming purple in the late summer. I also like the lacy leaves of monkshood as a contrast to the rounded leaves of hostas.

Pansies

Viola tricolor var. Hortensis
These flowers will add pops of color when you boarder them along your hosta plants.
Scientific Name: Viola tricolor var. Hortensis
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Annual, Biennial, or short-lived Perennial
  • Height: 6″ Width: 6″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 2 to 9

Panies are my favorite. I love their wide cheery faces. They look great as a front border around hostas. I find pansies look best when you have a lot of them. Don’t grab a couple, grab a flat. Then plant them in a long border framing the hostas. Or plant them in groupings of 3, 5, or 7’s in the front of beds. You can also add them underneath hostas in containers.

Don’t make the same mistake I made the first year I gardened and plant them behind sleeping hostas. Pansies are easy to grow, and can be planted very early in the season, before hostas are up, so it’s easy to plant them behind or too close to hostas and then the hosta comes up and covers them. Although if this happens, just dig up and transplant the pansy.

 Do not plant pansies in deep shade gardens. Pansies get leggy and don’t bloom in full shade. But dappled part shade gardens are perfect for pansies and hostas. If you quit deadheading pansies (pinching off the blossoms once they finish blooming) in the fall they will self seed and you will get sweet little Johnny Jump ups throughout your hosta bed the next season.

Bugleweed

Ajuga
The blooms from these will attract bees and other pollinators to your yard.
Scientific Name: Ajuga
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Height: 2″ Width: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

Bugleweed is a great hosta companion. It lies low underneath a hosta. My favourite combination is one of the blue tinged hostas, like blue angel, with the purple bugleweed underneath. It’s a great contrast of color in the shade.

Bugleweed is also out of the ground early in the spring so it’s out before hostas. It also has lovely purple blossoms in early summer that the bees just love. I love finding spaces for bugleweed in gardens. It can be aggressive, but I find it easy to pull out if it starts invading your hosta’s space.

Final Thoughts

Hostas are a garden staple, they are unassuming and can fill a large area of the garden. The ability to use them to elevate other plants’ features makes them even more special. Look at the foliage of your hosta and make pairings that compliment and contrast the foliage colors, or their texture.

Something purple against a blue hosta always looks great. Or something feathery and airy against the large round hosta leaves has interest. These are just 27 ideas, but there are many, many more combinations that you can make with hostas. So play around and mix and match, and have fun! Happy gardening!

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