Favorite Plant Combinations

by High Country Gardens

English Lavender (Lavandula), Coreopsis (Tickseed), Partridge Feather (Tanacetum) and Silky Thread Grass (Nasella)

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender ), Tickseed (Coreopsis), Partridge Feather (Tanacetum) and Silky Thread Grass (Nasella)

Horticulturist David Salman's Favorite Combos

For me, the most satisfying element about gardening is when you create, either by plan or accident, wonderful plant combinations. Not only do companion plants make each other look better, but many plants actually grow better alongside compatible neighbors. I often make the analogy that putting a new plant into the garden is like assembling a new outfit. It's not done when you buy the jacket. It's all the other parts of the outfit like the pants, shirt, tie and socks that make the jacket really standout.

Pink flamingo and blonde ambition.

Muhlenbergia 'Pink Flamingo' and Bouteloua 'Blonde Ambition' (Blue Grama Grass), Salvia Raspberry Delight (in the rear).

Factors to Consider When Putting Together Plant Combinations

Make sure that the basic growing conditions preferred by the plants in the planting combination are a match. Here are the questions I ask myself before creating a combination planting:

  • Do they like the same type of soil and soil pH?
  • Are their watering requirements similar?
  • Do they have the same sunlight needs?
  • Are they matched for mature size and plant vigor? Don't plant a tiny rock garden species that grows one inch per year with a "race horse" that triples in size the first growing season and gets three feet tall.

Western gold mix Butterfly Weed and Sharon Roberts English Lavender

Design Considerations

Plant combinations are always more satisfying when using these basic design principles:

  • When room allows, plant in groups of three or five plants of each species used in the combination. It makes for a more effective visual impact than putting one of each plant together.
  • Be sure to understand the best angle from which the combination will be viewed and arrange accordingly. If planted against a wall, tallest plants go to the back while the shortest ones are up front.
  • Put plants together that bloom at the same time and chose complementary colors or similar hues of the same color (like a shades-of-blue combination).

Agave haavardiana with nasella and helictotrichon.

Agave haavardiana contrasted with Nasella and Helictotrichon

  • Contrast foliage types and colors. Blue and gray foliage are nice together. Planting fine and bold textured foliage together makes a great combo.
  • Consider making a group of plants that might be found together in their native habitat. For example, a grouping of South African perennials from the Drakensberg Mountains or a sampling of short grass prairie plants from TX, OK and KS. This is a fun way to re-create regional collections from across the globe in your landscape while teaching you more about the plants and where they come from.

A Few of My Favorite Combinations

Agastache ava and helianthus santa fe.

Agastache Ava, Helianthus Santa Fe and Blue Spires Russian Sage (Perovskia)

Here are some combinations that work very well. Some are concepts (contrasting flower shapes) and some are specific plant combinations. It's mind-expanding to start thinking about all the wonderful ways plants can be woven together in the landscape.

Yucca, Silver Ironweed, and Opuntia come together in this lovely garden.

Bonus: Staff Favorite Combinations

Centranthus ruber rosea (Pink Flowered Jupiter's Beard) and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago)
Centranthus ruber rosea (Pink Flowered Jupiter's Beard) and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Hardy Plumbago)
Campanula (Bluebells), Moonbeam Coreopsis (Tickseed), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
Campanula (Bluebells), Moonbeam Coreopsis (Tickseed), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
Karl Foerster Grass, Nepeta (Catmint), Centranthus ruber coccineus (Jupiter's Beard), Gaura (Apple Blossom Grass) and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Karl Foerster Grass, Nepeta (Catmint), Centranthus ruber coccineus (Jupiter's Beard), Gaura (Apple Blossom Grass) and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Liatris (Blazing Star), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) and Achillea (Yarrow)
Liatris (Blazing Star), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) and Achillea (Yarrow)
Monarda Bee Balm (Monarda) with Rudbeckia fulgida Goldstrum (Black Eyed Susan)
Monarda Bee Balm (Monarda) with Rudbeckia fulgida Goldstrum (Black Eyed Susan)
Lavender with Crocosmia
Lavender with Crocosmia
Zauschneria Orange Carpet (Hummingbird Trumpet) and Aster
Zauschneria Orange Carpet (Hummingbird Trumpet) and Aster
Lavender with Oriental Poppy
Lavender with Oriental Poppy
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