Good Companion Plants for Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are my favorite flowers!! I love them even more than roses, as their bloom season is so long, & their big green leaves are even prettier than most rose leaves. Yes, they can be difficult to grow: too much sun, they wilt ~ not enough sun, they may not bloom. They require moist soil, & prefer morning sun with afternoon shade, which can make it tough to find a spot for them. In my Zone 6 garden, I’ve had the best luck growing hydrangeas in pots on my front porch, which only receives morning sun. But here, we’ll find some “Good Companion Plants for Hydrangeas,” & get you inspired for spring days…
Quick Overview of Hydrangeas
- Common Types of Hydrangeas: Endless Summer (Big Leaf) Hydrangeas, Limelight (Panicle) Hydrangeas
- Hardiness Zones: 3 – 7
- Are Hydrangeas an Annual or Perennial? In zones 3-7, they’re a perennial. In any other zone, you’ll only be able to grow them as an annual.
- Growth Rate: It depends. Certain types of hydrangeas can grow quickly, but only if they’re in the right location ~ getting that perfect mix of sun & shade. But most hydrangeas will need at least 2 to 4 years to reach their full potential & size.
- Mature Size: It depends on the type. Some grow 2 to 3 feet tall & wide; others can grow up to 6-10 feet tall & wide. Climbing hydrangeas are another breed, & can be trained to grow up arbors or arches.
- Preferred Sun Exposure: Big leaf hydrangeas like the Endless Summer variety thrive in morning sun environments, unless you live in colder zones like 3 & 4. Panicle hydrangeas can withstand full sun OR part-shade, which makes them the heartiest hydrangeas.
- Which Type of Hydrangeas are Easiest to Grow? Panicle hydrangeas, which look more conical in shape. Full sun doesn’t wilt them in the way that it does with the big leaf varieties.
- Bloom Time: Again, it depends which zone you’re in & what type of hydrangeas you’re growing. But typically, hydrangeas can bloom anytime from late spring all the way through early fall, with some taking a break in the heat of the summer months.
- Easy to Grow? Not really. Even though I love hydrangeas, I must admit they’re a FICKLE plant. For Endless Summer’s, you need to find the perfect spot: with morning sun locations, they’ll likely grow well. But, during the hot summer months ~ you may need to give them extra shade (I once dragged an umbrella into my front yard to save my wilting hydrangeas)! Hydrangeas may also bloom one year, & not the next: they’re quite fickle in a number of ways. But my panicles are far less fickle, & can withstand 12+ hours of hot, 90-degree days during the summer, while retaining their lovely pink spires.
- How Much Water Do Hydrangeas Need? Quite a lot ~ & big leafs need more than panicles. Hydrangeas should be deeply watered at least 3x per week during the growing season, amounting to about 1 inch per week. All of mine are either on drip irrigation or in an area with sprinklers, otherwise they wouldn’t survive.
Great Companion Plants for Hydrangeas
When you’re considering which plants to pair with your hydrangeas, I think the most important consideration is your garden style. Are you in a desert landscape? Or are you trying to create more of a French country or English cottage-style garden? Or perhaps you prefer a more natural, wild kind of garden.
We’ll consider all of these styles below, with photos for inspiration…
In a Drought-Tolerant/Xeriscape or Desert Yard: I don’t recommend growing hydrangeas in any of these garden types ~ they just won’t survive. Hydrangea soil needs to stay moist to thrive, which doesn’t work in a drough-tolerant landscape. And if you’re in Garden Zone 8 or above, you may be able to grow hydrangeas during cooler seasons, but in the hotter months, they will certainly die.
In an English Cottage Garden: This is probably my favorite garden-style for hydrangeas. Here, you have so many choices for pairings, including roses (pastels typically look best with hydrangeas); climbing roses; tall stunners like foxgloves & delphiniums; spring-blooming flowers, such as peonies or tulips; purple plants like Russian Sage or catmint; fellow shade-lovers such azaleas, rhododendrons, or hostas; & evergreens like tall arborvitae or smaller boxwoods provide a nice green backdrop for colorful hydrangeas.
In a More Traditional Garden: With a traditional garden-style, white hydrangeas are ideal, as they provide a more subtle & muted effect. And they look great with a simpler color palette: think manicured boxwood hedges, simple shrubs, or any type of small tree that grows in your garden zone.
In a More Natural or Wild Garden: My own garden combines English cottage with French country ~ & a side of natural, wild Pacific Northwest-ness. To that end, I’ve planted many native grasses, such as Karl Foerster, all over my landscape (because they’re SO easy to grow). In a more “wild” landscape: I find grasses to be a great & more whimscial pairing with hydrangeas. The height of the grasses can also be used to provide dappled shade to hydrangeas.
In a French Country Garden: French country style shares some similarities with English gardens ~ but the main difference is that French style shows more restraint: in both color, & the amount of flowers planted. For instance, a beautiful French color palette may include only purple, white, & green plants. To achieve this look, both catmint & Russian Sage are great options to pair with white hydrangeas. Boxwoods & everygreen shrubs or trees also pair well with hydrangeas in a French country style.