A richly textured grouping of colorful azaleas (Rhododendron) in the spring always draws my eye. I often find myself wandering in my local arboretum during springtime, shaking off the winter doldrums, and becoming immersed in early blooming azaleas.
The azaleas are surrounded by companion plants and shrubs that help them grow lush and healthy. I usually bring my notebook along to write down the names of companion plants for azaleas, so I can plant the same ones in my perennial garden at home.
Learn more about companion planting for azaleas and beneficial mixed planting.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting works with nature to increase soil nutrients, repel pests, and create a sustainable ecosystem. Mixed planting offers many health benefits for all the plants, making them more vigorous and lush.
What Are Good Companion Plants for Azaleas?
Any plants that require the same climate, soil, and cultural conditions are good companion plants for azaleas. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when you’re selecting azalea companion plants:
- Select species and varieties adapted to your region.
- Plant in well-drained, acidic soil (4.5 to 6.0 pH) with high organic matter.
- Keep in moderate, filtered shade
- USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 8
Some azaleas and their companion plants can survive colder or hotter temperatures. Make sure you check the tag on the plants before you select them to be sure they’re adapted to your area.
Acid-loving plants such as snowdrops (white flowers), daffodils (yellow blooms), tulips (lots of flower colors), coral bells, and more, are great early spring companions.
The Best Companion Plants for Azaleas
You can’t beat azaleas for springtime beauty, but complementary plantings add even more breathtaking effects and benefits. Here are several companion plants for azaleas that will bring your garden setting to the next level.
1. Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Hydrangeas produce showy summer flowers in a variety of colors. Like the azalea, hydrangeas prefer acidic soil and filtered sunlight. Many colorful varieties of hydrangea are available. They are wonderful pollinators since they attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
2. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Mountain laurel is part of the heath family, which includes rhododendron, azalea, and blueberry. This makes it a suitable companion plant for azaleas. They feature thick, shiny leaves that repel foragers like deer and rabbits.
3. Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
Low-bush blueberry bushes thrive on acidic soil, plus they produce tasty fruit. They don’t attract pests but are great pollinators for butterflies and native bees. Although blueberry bushes prefer full sun, they still do well in shaded areas.
Other berry bushes that make good companion plants for azaleas are:
4. Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Tall growing azaleas provide ideal shady conditions for bleeding hearts. One benefit of Bleeding Hearts is that they die back during the hot summer, which leaves room for other plants. Then they come back and bloom with delicate stems of red pendant, heart-shaped flowers in early spring at about the same time as azaleas.
5. Plantain lily (Hosta)
Hostas provide large leafy foliage all summer long. They thrive in partial sun and shady conditions. Planting hostas with azaleas gives a look of lush elegance. There are many Hosta varieties featuring full green leaves or white and green foliage.
6. Spotted dead nettle (Lamium maculatum)
Also called beacon silver, this plant’s silver foliage pop when located near a colorful blooming azalea. It’s ideal for planting around azalea bushes and other companion shrubs because it fills empty spaces with gorgeous ground cover.
7. Holly (Ardisia crenata)
Holly makes an attractive contrast to your azaleas. It has dark green, evergreen leaves, and bright red berries. Like azaleas, hollies prefer acidic soil and good drainage. Holly attracts mockingbirds and other songbirds.
8. Barberry (Berberis buxifolia)
Barberry shrubs really make your azalea garden stand out. This shrub features winter fruit in red and gold colors that attract pollinators. It’s easy to grow and is ideal as borders or hedges. They require the same growing conditions as azaleas.
9. Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Other names for summersweet are sweet pepperbush and clethra. These shrubs produce large clusters of white or pink flowers in late summer, which makes them a good companion plant for spring-blooming azaleas.
Summersweet also likes acidic soil and good drainage. It attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees for pollination.
10. Snowball bush (Viburnum acerifolium)
Also known as Viburnum, the Snowball Bush features striking balls of white blossoms. They’re simple to grow in your azalea garden and don’t require much maintenance. This shrub enjoys dappled sunlight and acidic soil. They’re ideal for pollinator gardens and they also resist foraging animals.
11. Witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
There are several varieties of witch hazels from large bushes to small trees. They make good companion plants for azaleas because they have neutral summer leaves that turn golden in the fall.
They also feature tiny flowers that bloom in the fall, making them a complementary addition to an azalea garden.
FAQ about azalea companion plants
Here are some of the most common questions about companion plants for azaleas.
Can I plant azaleas in the vegetable garden?
Most vegetables need full sunlight to grow, so azaleas aren’t recommended for vegetable gardens. Plus, azaleas grow into large shrubs that spread underground roots not suitable for growing vegetables.
Are there plants you shouldn’t plant with azaleas?
You shouldn’t plant any flowers or vegetables that require full sun with azaleas. The growing conditions for each are not compatible.
What are the best growing conditions for azaleas?
Azaleas grow best in partial shade with well-drained soil. It’s also a good idea to spread mulch around azaleas to hold in the moisture and prevent weeds.
Do azalea plants like sun or shade?
Azaleas prefer shady spots or dappled sun for the best results.
Where is the best place to plant azaleas?
The best places to grow azaleas are shady rock gardens, butterfly gardens, and woodland landscapes.
What are the necessary soil conditions for azaleas?
Azaleas need well-drained soil with a pH of less than 6.0. They also require soil composed of organic matter, loam, and some sand.
Wrapping it up
You can create an outstanding azalea garden by adding a few companion plants azaleas love. These helpful plants attract pollinators, increase organic matter for the soil, and improve the health of azaleas. Give companion planting a try and enjoy a beautiful, showy, healthy azalea garden.
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