Organic Gardening

Planting in the Shade: What You Should Plant with Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are a stunning addition to any garden, known for their lush foliage and generous blooms that come in a range of colors. Their flowers come in white, pink, blue, purple, and white with a hint of lime green. These colors range based on the acidity of the soil. 

When you’re planning your garden, considering what to plant with these shrubs and trees can enhance their beauty and ensure a well-rounded and visually appealing space. Companion planting is not only about aesthetics, though: the right neighbors can help your hydrangeas thrive by improving soil quality, regulating light, and maintaining moisture levels. What can you plant with hydrangeas?

Selecting companion plants for your hydrangeas involves considering the growth conditions that these shrubs love. Hydrangeas prefer moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter, and they typically do best with partial shade. You’ll want to choose plants that have similar needs but also bring in diverse textures, heights, and bloom times to create a garden that’s interesting throughout the seasons.

Understanding the characteristics of your specific hydrangea variety is crucial in making smart pairing choices. Different cultivars may have varying requirements and behaviors. For example, if you have blue hydrangeas, adding plants that can maintain the soil’s acidity will be beneficial. On the other hand, for white hydrangeas that might stand out with darker foliage as a backdrop, choosing plants with rich green or even maroon leaves can provide dramatic contrast.

This post is all about what to plant with hydrangeas.

what to plant with hydrangeas

Companion Planting Basics

When planning a garden, it’s essential to consider how the placement of plants can provide mutual benefits. Recently I’ve posted a whole bunch of posts about companion planting if you’re interested in learning more about this topic. I’ve also posted about specific plants and their companion planting options. 

Companion planting leverages interactions between different flora, enhancing your garden’s overall health and beauty.

What are the Benefits of Companion Planting

There are so many benefits to companion planting. Here’s a look at just some of them:

  • Pest Control: Certain plants can deter harmful pests naturally, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
  • Pollination: Strategic plant placement can improve pollination for better fruit and flower production.
  • Resource Sharing: Companions can optimize nutrient uptake, light access, and water utilization.
  • Visual Harmony: Aesthetically pleasing plant combinations can be achieved by considering texture, color, and height.

What to Consider When Chooses Companion

Evaluate these characteristics of each of the plants you’re choosing to plant together:

  • Soil Conditions: Ensure that companions have similar soil requirements, such as acidity and drainage.
  • Sunlight Needs: Grouping plants with the same light preferences avoids overshadowing lower-growing varieties.
  • Growth Patterns: Take into account the mature size of plants to prevent competition for space.
  • Lifecycle: Annuals and perennials have different life cycles that can impact their viability as companions.

Ideal Companion Plants

Selecting the right companion plants for your hydrangeas can enhance the beauty and health of your garden. These plants should have similar light and soil requirements to create a harmonious landscape.

Flowering Companions

Your hydrangeas will look splendid when paired with other flowering plants that complement their bloom times and colors. Azaleas and rhododendrons share the love for slightly acidic soil and part shade, making them ideal partners for blue hydrangeas. Another good choice is garden speedwell (Veronica longifolia), with its tall, colorful spikes that attract butterflies and bloom well alongside hydrangeas.

Examples of Other Flower Companions


This fern-like plant is very delicate looking and has tiny flowers that comes in all sorts of colors – white, pink, and red. This is one plant that adorns our garden as well! Like hydrangeas, astilbe blooms in the summertime. It can either be planted in full sun or partial sun. This makes it a great option to plant with hydrangeas since it’s flexible with its exposure to sunlight, and enjoys the same growing conditions. It’s a pretty hardy plant and can be planted in many zones – zones 3 to 9.


Begonias usually do well in zones 8 to 10, but hardier varieties can be planted in zone 6. These bloom at the same time as hydrangeas from early summer until there’s frost. It thrives in partial sun and shade.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding hearts get their name from the heart-shaped flowers that hang from a long, thin stem with a white ‘drop’ that hangs underneath the flower. These flowers bloom during the springtime and are a great idea to plant so you have another season of flowers. They only get 1 to 3 feet tall so they won’t be competing in height with hydrangea.

hydrangea garden
Coral bells

These are also known as, Heucheras, and their actually native to the America. Coral bells can be planted in zones 4 to 9. Some varieties may be able to tolerate the humidity and heat found in zone 11. This plant prefers to be in the shade, but in colder climates they can tolerate more sun.

hydrangea care

Daylilies aren’t true lilies. Their botanical name is Hermocallis, which comes from the Greek words hemera “day”, and kallos “beauty”. These flowers bloom and only last for one day, hence their name. Daylilies are a very hardy plant and can grow/survive in all types of conditions, even ones that are pretty poor. One thing to keep in mind is to not plant them too close to trees and shrubs otherwise there will be competition for nutrients and moisture. Another characteristics to make note of is that certain types propagate vigorously.

daylily garden

Foliage Plants

Foliage plants like hostas can be planted for luscious leaves that add texture and color variations from spring to fall. Hostas thrive in the same shaded conditions as hydrangeas, and their broad leaves contrast nicely with hydrangea blooms.

hosta garden


Ferns are one of the oldest known plants and can grow and survive in many climates – cold, temperate, and tropical. There are many different types of species of ferns. They’re different than other types of plants that have seeds. Instead ferns multiple by leaf spores! They enjoy moist, shady conditions, and are very low maintenance. In fact, I’ve done very little care to the ferns we have on the North side of our house.

fern plant

Herbs and Vegetables

While not commonly considered, some herbs and vegetables can be compatible with hydrangeas in the garden space. However, it is crucial to ensure that these edible plants receive the right conditions, as hydrangeas generally prefer partial shade. If the garden area receives enough sunlight, consider planting thyme or basil as their small flowers and fragrant foliage won’t overshadow the hydrangeas. Remember to maintain a balance in the garden to avoid competition for resources.

Hydrangea Care and Maintenance

Proper care ensures your hydrangeas remain vibrant and healthy. Key areas include managing soil conditions and moisture levels, as well as timely pruning and deadheading.

Soil and Watering Requirements

Your hydrangeas thrive in well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. Ensure you:

  • Test soil pH, aiming for a range of 5.5 to 6.5, to enhance nutrient absorption.
  • Water deeply to encourage root growth, while keeping the soil consistently moist, not waterlogged.

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Remember to get your pruning in. Pruning your plants can help with the overall health of the plants and ensure you have beautiful blooms the next year. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage new growth. Prune in late winter or early spring, before new growth emerges, cutting back last year’s growth. I usually prune mine in late fall and that seems to work out just fine. We get beautiful blooms each year.

Landscaping with Hydrangeas

When incorporating hydrangeas into your landscape, planning around their distinct aesthetic and growth requirements sets the foundation for a stunning garden display.

Garden Design Principles

Hydrangeas require thoughtful placement to ensure they thrive and enhance your garden’s overall beauty. Choose a location that provides morning sun with dappled afternoon shade to protect their blooms from harsh rays. The sun can actually cause quite a bit of damage to your plant and fry it up!

For a cohesive look, consider the mature size of your hydrangeas—they can grow quite large. Balance is critical; intersperse hydrangeas with other plants to avoid a cluttered appearance and ensure each has ample space to grow.

  • Sunlight: Partial, preferably morning sun
  • Spacing: According to mature size to prevent overcrowding
  • Soil: Well-drained, moist, and rich in organic matter
  • Watering: Regularly, as hydrangeas prefer consistently moist soil

Hydrangeas in Mixed Borders

In mixed borders, hydrangeas contribute a lush, full backdrop or can serve as stunning focal points. To highlight their grandeur, pair them with plants that provide contrasting textures and colors. For instance, the fine foliage of Japanese Forest Grass offers a graceful contrast, while the myriad hues of Begonias complement hydrangea blooms beautifully.

Remember, the key to harmony in your garden is in the variety and balance – allow your hydrangeas and their companion plants to each have their moment to shine.

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