Azaleas and Rhododendrons bring huge bursts of color to early spring gardens.
Unfortunately, their bloom time is short-lived, so it’s important to surround them with companion plants that will carry your garden through the spring and summer with a continuous show of interesting foliage and blooms.
In this article, we share tips and sound suggestions to help you choose just the right companion plants to enhance the beauty of Azaleas and Rhododendrons in your landscape. Read on to learn more.
Difference Between Azaleas And Rhododendrons
Azaleas and Rhododendrons are closely related and share many traits; However, they also share several differences.
There are wide varieties of each to choose from, making the ideal companion plants for one another!
Even so, you will extend your bloom time and add to your garden’s interest by including various amenable plants.
You’ll get the best showing by assembling a combination of plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season.
By mixing early, mid, and late season bloomers, you can be sure of having plenty of color and interest in the spring, through the summer, and late into the autumn months.
Look for plants with interesting leaves and those that produce pretty blooms and attractive fruits, seeds, and berries.
These add visual interest and attract beneficial pollinators and birds to your garden.
Azalea And Rhododendron Companions Should Have Similar Needs
No matter what sort of annuals, perennials, bulbs, plants, and shrubs you choose, remember that they must be able to thrive well in the same sort of setting that is conducive to healthy Azalea and Rhododendron growth.
The plants you choose should do well in your region. Azaleas and Rhododendrons do best in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 8.
Some varieties of Rhododendrons and Azaleas can do well in temperatures that are a little warmer or cooler, so if you live outside of these zones, just be sure to seek out the varieties that can do well for you.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons like sheltered conditions and dappled sunlight, so the companion plants you choose should be able to thrive in the filtered shade as well.
A setting under trees that provide high shade is ideal.
Other good locations for Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and their companions include natural woodland settings, butterfly and pollinator gardens, and rock gardens.
Remember that Azaleas and Rhododendrons need lots of water to thrive, so be careful not to surround them with thirsty plants that will deprive them of the water they need.
Instead, look for plants that will do well with a soak and dry watering regimen in well-draining soil.
They must thrive in acidic (4.5 to 6.0 pH) soil that is well draining and incorporates a great deal of organic matter.
Many Pretty Plants That Can Thrive Beside Azaleas
When picking companions for Rhododendrons and Azaleas, you can choose across the spectrum of annuals, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, and tubers.
Some examples include spring bulbs, such as:
- Easy-care perennials, such as coral bells
Other bulbs to consider include:
Hosta (aka Plantain Lily) comes in various sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.
The main attraction for Hosta is its interesting leaves, but these plants also produce pretty, pale lavender blooms atop tall stalks in the late summer.
Ferns of all sorts like dappled sun and acidic, well-draining soil.
A collection of ferns can add great spring and summer interest to your Azalea and Rhododendron garden.
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea Macrophylla) are lovely perennials that produce great mounds of large, attractive blooms mid-late summer and autumn.
Pollinators love the big balls of tiny blooms in shades of white, pink, and lavender.
You can leave your hydrangea blooms in place to add winter interest as they dry prettily and add a bit of texture in a snowy setting.
Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are very perennial early bloomers from eastern Asia.
They have naturalized beautifully in the United States and will do well in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 8.
These delicate appearing plants are quite tough and delight with light green foliage and dangling pink hearts first thing in the spring.
Spotted Dead Nettle
Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum) is a pretty, low-growing ground cover member of the mint family.
This hardy perennial has slightly furry, pale green foliage with a silvery hue. Its small, whimsical blooms come in pale purple, yellow, and white.
They are attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Combine Colorful, Interesting Shrubs With Azaleas
You may wish to intersperse your Rhododendron and Azalea bushes with other shrubs, such as:
Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a broadleaf evergreen that grows to the size of a small tree.
This pretty shrub can grow 12′ feet high and displays lovely drooping racemes of white blooms early in the springtime.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia Zamiifolia) is a relative of the Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and Blueberry plants.
For this reason, it does quite well as a companion to these.
This plant’s deer and rabbit-resistant leaves are shiny and thick, and its panicles of bell-shaped blooms are pretty in pink and white.
Blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) love acidic, well-draining soil.
Their small blooms attract beneficial pollinators, and (unless you harvest them) the birds will love their tasty berries.
Blueberry bushes will produce more blooms and fruit with more sun, so you might want to position them as an outer border of your Azalea bed.
Berry bushes, in general, can do quite well alongside Azaleas. Consider adding a berry patch consisting of Huckleberries, Bilberries, and Lingonberries.
These are mid-sized evergreens with nicely textured foliage and lovely blooms.
They provide good contrast while your Azaleas and Rhododendrons bloom and provide good filler when these plants’ blooming season concludes.
In the wintertime, a good selection of winter interest shrubs keep your Azalea bed beautiful through the cold months.
Witch Hazel (Hamamellis mollis) is available in wide varieties, which may be shrub-like or grow as trees. The small autumn blooms of Witch Hazel are bright yellow. Its leaves add golden interest in the fall.
Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a late summer bloomer that produces large, showy clusters of blooms in shades of white and pink.
Barberry (Berberis buxifolia) is a small, bushy shrub with bright red leaves and abundant winter fruit in shades of gold and red. It’s pretty in your garden and very attractive and useful to birds.
Holly (Ardisia crenata) is a classic evergreen winter interest shrub. With its deep green leaves and bright red berries, it looks absolutely festive standing in the snow in winter. The berries are especially attractive to songbirds.
Snowball Bush (Viburnum acerifolium) is a member of the honeysuckle family. A blooming autumn bush stands 4′ to 6′ feet high and 3′ to 4′ feet wide.
In fall, its maple-like leaves turn a mottled shade of purplish brown. It produces clusters of small, white blooms that transition into deep purple berries that attract birds.
Easygoing Azaleas Get Along With Most Companions
Your Azalea and Rhododendron garden can bring delight all year round with a careful selection of companion plants.
Follow the tips presented here to create a well-rounded, versatile, beautiful Rhododendron and Azalea garden setting.