15 Hydrangea Companion Plants For Your Garden

Thinking of planting some new plants along with your hydrangeas this season but aren't sure what plants are the best companions? Companion planting can be a bit tricky, depending on the plant. In this article, gardening expert and hydrangea enthusiast Jill Drago walks through her favorite companion plants for hydrangeas.

Hydrangea Next To Fern Companion Plant

Companion planting with hydrangeas can be really fun. Hydrangeas offer a graceful appearance, making it easy to pair your favorite plant with them. The most important thing to consider while choosing your plants is if they will thrive in the same environment as your hydrangeas. You don’t want plants that compete for the same soil nutrients, or it can make it difficult for your hydrangeas to grow.

Hydrangeas love partial sun and well draining soil. They thrive anywhere from partial shade, to full sun. There are some sun-friendly varieties, and others that prefer a little bit more shade. There are even some hydrangeas that can grow in full shade, giving you plenty of different options.

If the companion plants you are choosing love these conditions as well, you are golden! While the combinations for hydrangeas are almost endless, there are a few that I prefer above the rest. Here are my favorite hydrangea companion plants to help get your creativity jump started!

Astilbe

Pink Astilbe
Astilbe is a beautiful flowering plant that can enhance a hydrangea’s looks.
Scientific Name: Astilbe
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Height: 12-36″ Width: 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full shade to Partial shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

Astilbe plants offer a great contrast to hydrangeas. Their leaves are lacelike, and their flowers are spiky. These plants are well loved among shade gardeners. They perform well in full shade, although their flowers will be more prolific if they receive some dappled morning sun.

There are over 20 different varieties of astilbe in almost every color of the rainbow. Some of their more popular varieties have bright pink flowers. Astilbe blooms all summer long, and they would be really pretty planted in front of hydrangeas. There are some larger varieties that grow to three feet, which would be excellent alongside hydrangeas providing some really pretty contrast.

Azalea

Bright Pink Azalea Flowers
Colorful Azaleas can compliment beautiful hydrangeas.
Scientific Name: Rhododendron
  • Plant Type: both evergreen and deciduous shrubs
  • Geographic Origin: China and Japan
  • Plant Size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

Azaleas and hydrangeas make a great combination in the landscape. They both love the same growing conditions of acidic, well draining soil, with lots of shade. Azaleas bloom in the spring, which will provide your garden with season long flowers when paired with a hydrangea which typically bloom all summer long.

Azaleas come in a variety of pinks, reds, and whites. You can even find orange varieties if you look hard enough. This wide color assortment makes it a great fit for any garden. These shrubs look great planted individually. If you have the room they can make a really nice swath throughout your garden.

Campanula

Purple Campanula
Bellflowers can compliment the hydrangea well.
Scientific Name: Campanula
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Mediterranean
  • Plant size: 3 inches to 3 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
  • Plant zone: 4-8

Campanula, or bellflower, require full sun for optimum blooming. This would make them a great companion for Hydrangea paniculata, or panicle hydrangea. Campanula requires well draining soil, and does excellent in the same acidic soils as hydrangeas.

Campanula blooms from June all the way through to the fall. You can find campanula flowers in shades of purple, pink and white. Deadhead these beauties to keep the flowers coming. Cut this perennial back to the ground in the fall.

Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood Tree in Garden
The dogwood has many species that can compliment just about any hydrangea variety.
Scientific Name: Cornus florida
  • Plant type: Flowering Tree
  • Geographic Origin: America
  • Plant size:3-20 feet +
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant zone: 5-9

There are over 50 species of dogwood for you to choose from, the most popular being the flowering dogwood. Dogwoods love to be planted in partial shade with morning sun, just like a hydrangea. If you choose a larger variety of dogwood, the tree itself could help to shade your hydrangea.

As a flowering tree, dogwoods bloom in May and last through June. The flowers can range from white to pink. The best part about dogwoods, is these trees are also native to the United States, which can be important to gardeners who only want to plant native plants in their garden or yard.

Fern

Hydrangea and Fern Companion Plant
Ferns can peacefully coexist with many different types of plants.
Scientific Name: Tracheophyta
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Variety Dependent
  • Plant size: 2-4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to full shade
  • Plant zone: 4-8

Ferns make really nice additions to a hydrangea bed. There are many different types of ferns available. No matter which fern you choose, the leaves are bound to add interest to your garden. Ferns love shade, and need constant moisture.

There are some ferns that can tolerate more sun, but most ferns love deep shade. This love of the shade would make them a great addition to a woodland edge. They do prefer moist soil at all times, and would not suit arid climates.

Heuchera

Coral Bells in Garden
Coral bells make great companions for many different plants, including hydrangeas.
Scientific Name: Heuchera
  • Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 8 to 18 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 8

Heuchera, or coral bells, are a garden classic and for very good reason. This plant has become highly cultivated and there are numerous varieties available in many different shades of red, purple, orange, chartreuse and even black. These plants do flower, however they are grown mostly for their foliage.

The flowers are light colored spikes that attract pollinators of all sorts. Coral bells tolerate a wide range of light from full sun to partial shade. I love to see coral bells planted along a border, where they create almost a mat of beautiful foliage. They are also really pretty in large containers.

Hosta

Hydrangea with Hosta Companion Plant
Hostas make great companions in shady or semi-shady areas.
Scientific Name: Hosta
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Variety Dependent
  • Plant size: varies greatly by variety; 6 inches- 48 inches tall to 18 inches- 6 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full shade
  • Plant zone: 3-8

Hostas are widely known for being lovers of shade. Hostas are great companion plants, and love acidic soil, just like hydrangeas. The foliage and flowers of hosta blend really nicely with hydrangeas. The foliage of hostas can vary from a silvery blue to a creamy white. The lighter the foliage the more sun your hosta plant can tolerate.

The spike flowers are almost always in a hue of white or purple. Planted along a border, hostas will make a perfect addition to your garden. Hostas are a favorite food of deer. If deer are a problem in your area, and you are trying to protect your hydrangeas from them, hosta may not be the right choice for you. 

Japanese Forest Grass

Bright Green Japanese Forest Grass in Garden
Japanese forest grass can make a wonderful companion in any garden.
Scientific Name: Hakonechloa macra
  • Plant type: ornamental grass
  • Geographic Origin: Japan
  • Plant size: 12-18 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant zone: 5-9

Japanese forest grass, also known as Hakone grass, is a really special plant because it is one of the only ornamental grasses that loves the shade.This grass comes in a variegated or non variegated chartreuse color.

The flowers are not very showy, but still pleasant and bloom in the late summer. The vivid green of this plant can really brighten up a shady area. Plant as a border, or around a tree. Hakone grass has a beautiful arching growth habit and is really pretty spilling into a walkway, or even out of a container.

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple Tree
The beautiful Japanese Maple looks great next to almost any shrub.
Scientific Name: Acer palmatum
  • Plant type: Tree
  • Geographic Origin: Japan
  • Plant size: 20 feet in height
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant zone: 5-8

Japanese maples offer year round interest. Their leaves are a beautiful red that turn to a glowing crimson in the fall. In the winter the bark of the tree is attractive and smooth, with red new growth. Similar to the dogwood mentioned above, the Japanese maple requires a balance of sun and shade.

When at its maturity it can provide great shade for hydrangeas. Many varieties of Japanese maple have fern-like leaves which provide great contrast to the hydrangeas. Many Japanese maples have an upright form, however there are weeping varieties that make stunning specimen plants in your gardens that would look gorgeous in  your perennial gardens.

Lamb’s ear

Lambs Ear in Garden
A versatile ground cover, Lamb’s ear looks great at the base of many shrubs, including hydrangeas.
Scientific Name: Stachys byzantina
  • Plant type: perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Middle East
  • Plant size: 12-18 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant zone: 4-8

Lamb’s ear is a really pretty ground cover. It offers a softness that can be much needed in a perennial garden, and instantly gives your perennial beds a cottage feel. Grown primarily for its foliage, lamb’s ear is silver and color, and velvety to the touch. If you let lamb’s ear flower, it will do so in the summer, as spiky purple flowers.

This is a very low maintenance plant once it is established. It will spread nicely and, if planted in a grouping, will create a nice matted effect. Lamb’s ear likes full to partial sun, making it a great choice for your hydrangea gardens. Due to the texture of the leaves, and its low growing nature take care not to waterlog the plants. If the leaves get too wet they can begin to rot. Mulching around the base of this plant can help keep the leaves dry.

Nepeta

Catmint Plant
Nepeta is a versatile shrub that needs consistent care to not overwhelm the are in where it grows.
Scientific Name: Nepeta
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Europe
  • Plant size:10-24 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Sun
  • Plant zone: 4-8

Nepeta, or catmint, is a personal favorite of mine. Catmint is a gorgeous, sun loving perennial. When the sun hits the plant the aroma is of a warm mint, it’s really amazing. The foliage of catmint is a pretty silvery blue, and the spike flowers that cover this plant all summer long are a pretty shade of purple.

Because catmint loves the sun, it is best planted with Hydrangea paniculata. This plant makes a beautiful border, but it truly gorgeous on its own as well. This plant attracts pollinators, and cats but don’t worry- this is not the catmint that will drive your cat wild!

Perennial Geranium

Geranium Flowers
Perennial Gerniaums are great company for hydrangeas while they grow.
Scientific Name: Geranium
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: South Africa
  • Plant Size: 4-48 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 4-9

This is another favorite of mine (are we sensing a theme here?). Perennial geraniums, also known as cranesbill or hardy geraniums, are really beautiful low growing perennials. The sprawling foliage is a gorgeous true green with pretty cut leaves. The blooms come in purple, pink, or white and mimic the annual geranium we are all familiar with.

Geranium loves full to partial sun, making it very versatile in your gardens. Perennial geraniums line the front border of my foundation gardens, they are paired with (wait for it) catmint, ornamental grasses and, you guess it, hydrangeas. Geraniums are a solid classic garden plant that requires little maintenance and really are self sufficient once established.

Rhododendron

Rhododendron Flowers
Similar to Azaleas, rhododendrons make great companions for hydrangeas.
Scientific Name: Rhododendron
  • Plant Type: both evergreen and deciduous shrubs
  • Geographic Origin: China and Japan
  • Plant Size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full shade
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

Rhododendrons are spring beauties. They sport gorgeous large flowers that are most commonly in a shade of pink or purple and bloom in the late spring to early summer. There are varieties of white, orange, red and even yellow flowers that are just as beautiful. The foliage on Rhododendrons is evergreen.

The leaves are bright green, glossy and elongated. Rhododendrons love morning sun, but are also a shade friendly shrub just like their suggested companion, the hydrangea. They also thrive in the same acidic soils. Rhododendrons require little maintenance, aside from pruning for size and shape, as well as deadheading.

Sweetspire

Itea Shrub
Itea offers a different type of bloom to help contrast with hydrangea.
Scientific Name: Itea
  • Plant Type: Deciduous Shrub
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern United States
  • Plant Size: 8ft
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
  • Plant Zone: 4 to 6

Sweetspire is a really pretty shrub for your full sun to partial shade garden. The shrub has a really beautiful arching shape, and the flowers are a pretty white drooping spike.These flowers will bloom all summer long. If you have a sunnier woodland garden, sweetspire would be a great addition. It loves well drained, acidic soil just like hydrangeas.

The autumn color on the foliage in addition to the shape of the flowers is what will make this plant such a great companion for hydrangeas. The fall foliage is golden and turns to shades of red and orange, and has been compared to the fall color of burning bush, but without the issue of invasion.

Veronica

Spiked Speedwell Veronica
Spiked speedwell, also known as veronica, has a different flower shape to contrast with other plants.
Scientific Name: Veronica
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographical Origin: Europe
  • Plant Size: 18 to 24 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

Veronica, or spiked speedwell, is a really pretty low growing perennial. In the summertime these plants are covered in purple, pink, or white spike flowers. The foliage is small and mounded.

Deadheading the spent flowers off of this perennial is a great way to keep the plant blooming all summer long. Veronica does love full sun, so be sure to plant with your hydrangea paniculata or on a sunny edge of a perennial garden.I love the look of spike flowers mixed with the ball shaped flowers of hydrangeas, it allows each type to really show off.

Final Thoughts

So often we see hydrangeas in a hedge, or as a screen. They really can thrive in this type of setting. However, adding them into an existing perennial garden, or building a new perennial garden based off of your favorite hydrangea is a perfect way to add hydrangeas into your yard.

The aforementioned hydrangea companion plants are just a few suggestions, the ideas for hydrangea companions are truly endless. Whichever plants you choose to pair with your hydrangeas be sure to follow the planting instructions, and space them out appropriately. This will allow both plants to thrive and grow happily and become friendly neighbors.

I am a firm believer in choosing your favorite plants to fill your garden. If your favorite perennial or shrub is a sun lover but you’re eager to grow hydrangeas, try making a new full sun bed with some Hydrangea paniculata. If you love Hydrangea macrophylla and its beautiful mophead blooms, try out a new shade perennial. You just may find a new combination that you love!

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