Azaleas color the garden but sometimes they need other plants to help them grow or flowers to fill the spaces near them. These plants are called companion plants.
The best companion plants for azalea are
- Oak and Pine trees
- Ornamental grasses
Plants that you should avoid growing with azaleas are Black Walnut trees and Lavender.
So, before we discuss these azalea companion plants, let’s first look at the conditions in which azaleas do their best.
Factors that you should look before deciding the Alzalea companion plants
Looking for an appropriate companion plant for azaleas? Find a plant that will adjust to the same conditions azaleas thrive in.
Azaleas are quite sensitive to direct sunlight and could be damaged by highly concentrated sunlight for prolonged time periods.
These plants thrive when placed under taller trees that allow light to pass through in smaller amounts when the sun is not as intense.
Soil to grow azaleas should be acidic (pH between 4.5 and 6), well-draining, and relatively fertile. In fact, you can choose to use a slow-release acidic fertilizer to replenish nutrients and maintain the soil’s acidic pH.
Azalea prefers to be in moist soil and likes to be watered more often than some drought-tolerant plants. But, these plants also need more frequent watering since their roots are shallow.
Hence, they cannot extend deep enough to collect water for themselves.
Best Azalea Companion Plants
The best azalea companion plants are those that gel well in the same requirements as these plants. It doesn’t mean that azalea companions have to be just plants or shrubs, they could even be large trees!
Here are the plants that would thrive in the typical ecosystem of an azalea.
Oak and Pine Trees
Many people might wonder how two large trees could be the best companion plants for azalea plants.
Actually, the truth is their height is their biggest advantage that works to benefit the azalea plants. Azalea shrubs thrive only when they receive enough sun and shade.
Both the oak and pine trees help with this requirement. Both trees are known to have leaves that are sparsely present on their branches. This helps to let the sun pass through the leaves to produce a dappled light pattern.
Pine trees love lots of sunlight and so do oak trees. This is perfect since they block out direct sunlight from draining the azaleas. Both trees survive in a range of soils with varying pHs, even acidic.
Apart from that, they like well-draining moist soils just like their companions the azaleas.
Hydrangea flowers make an appealing sight when combined with azalea plants. You will be glad to hear that these plants like most of the conditions that azaleas like as well.
An interesting fact about hydrangeas is that their flower colors are based on the soil’s pH. In alkaline soils their flowers are pink.
But, in acidic soils their flowers are blue. This makes them even more instrumental in coloring the garden with azaleas of any color.
Hydrangea prefers a bit more sunlight (not direct sunlight) than your typical azalea. This is fine and can be solved by positioning the azaleas under a pine or oak tree.
While the hydrangeas can be put just outside of the tree’s shelter and shadow.
Guess what. Hydrangeas can grow under Pine trees
Hydrangeas and azaleas both can grow under pine trees. Thus, it creates a great option to fill vacant space under these tall trees!
One particular hydrangea looks amazing with azalea is the Oak-leaf hydrangea.
Oak-Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
This particular hydrangea makes for a great companion for azalea plants. Not only are its flowers something to talk about, their oak-like leaves are also appealing.
These plants can be positioned anywhere you would put an azalea. Both plants prefer semi-shade conditions that are mostly provided by tall trees.
The Oak-leaf hydrangea won’t be that hard to find either as it is native to most Southeastern states in North America. This includes Tennessee, Alabama, even North Carolina. In fact, this plant happens to be the state wildflower of Alabama!
Already have quite a few flowering plants in your garden? If so, you need a plant to create a break or a textural difference. Ultimately, ornamental grasses are the best way to achieve this goal.
Yes, these plants won’t produce a flower-like most plants. But, they develop something that looks like a tassel or cereal crop spike. This may sound unappealing but trust us when we say it will give your garden dimension.
Ornamental grass is one of the best companion plants for azalea as they don’t steal the show from them! They are both attractive in their own way and people will not be forced to pick the ‘prettier flowers’.
So, what about the growing demands of ornamental grasses?
These plants are not too picky at all about their soil requirements. They grow in poor or fertile soils but must have soil with good drainage.
They prefer more sun than azaleas. And, the ornamental grass can help to block the azalea from the direct sun.
If you are wondering which ornamental grass to grow, we have a suggestion.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus)
These appealing ornamental grasses tend to do best in positions that receive more sun than shade. This works out quite well for your azaleas that can bask in the partial-shade partial-sun that the tall grass can provide.
Soil should remain moist but still be well-draining. But avoid water-logging which could lead to rotting. Also, maiden grass may need feeding with a slow-release fertilizer. But don’t worry your azaleas will be fine with this too.
Unfortunately, a common problem of ornamental grass is that they sometimes get too invasive. So, you will have to cut back and divide to keep them under control!
Several ferns will enjoy the company of azalea plants. Almost all of their desirable environmental conditions and care line up with those of azaleas. They both enjoy fertile moist soils that drain well.
Ferns are extremely tolerant in terms of soil pH and will grow in acidic, alkaline, or neutral soils. So, they will easily grow well in the same acidic soils that azalea plants thrive in.
The biggest difference here is that ferns may require more shade than azaleas.
But, this is not a problem and you can easily make sure they get more shade than the sun. Let’s look at a few ferns that are the best companion plants for azalea.
Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Hart’s tongue fern is a great addition for a garden that sees long hours of partial sun or shade. Their evergreen nature and high shade requirements even make them an ideal ground cover for growing under azalea bushes.
This fern has distinct evergreen fronds that project outwards in a rosette arrangement. Upon maturity these fronds feature a brown appearance on the underside, these are the sori (reproductive bodies).
Soft Field Fern (Polystichum setiferum)
The Soft field fern is another fern that does well when paired with an azalea plant. Again they prefer the same soil as azaleas, making them very appropriate as a companion plant. This fern is slightly larger than Hart’s tongue fern, meaning you should plant it next to an azalea.
Their fronds are lance-shaped and dissected with a tufted texture. Midribs and stems feature cinnamon-brown scales. This fern is even deer and rabbit resistant!
Growing Ginger in the garden, find out what are good and bad Ginger companion plants.
Plants to Avoid Planting With Azalea
Those plants that do not share the same requirements as azaleas make the worst azalea companions. They may require alkaline soil, less watering, and poor soil.
But, these are not conditions that azaleas can grow well in, hence they are plants to avoid planting with your azalea.
The Black Walnut tree has very few plants that actually grow well near it. What’s the reason for this?
A substance produced by these trees hinders the growth of other trees or plants. Unfortunately, azaleas are not immune to this substance either.
The chemical produced by the black walnut tree is called Juglone. It is present in high concentrations in the nuts, hulls, and roots. Juglone is also present in the leaves and stems but in lower concentrations.
Plants that are increasingly sensitive to Juglone are:
This means you can’t plant any of these flowers near or under a black walnut tree’s canopy. There are actually many plants that cannot be placed here. It may be in your garden’s interest to remove the black walnut tree or isolate it.
Lavender is a herb that also features very appealing flowers. One might think that lavender and azaleas would make for a refreshing sight.
We agree that this pair would make the garden look appealing if they could actually grow together!
There are many differences between these two plants and you shouldn’t get too excited about harvesting lavender just yet. Here are the differing preferences of lavender and azalea plants:
- Lavender prefers alkaline soil while azalea prefers acidic soil.
- All lavender like dry soil but azalea need moist soil
- Azaleas can tolerate more shade and less sun but lavender need more sunlight and minimal shade
So, obviously, these two plants cannot grow together as their only common requirement is a well-draining soil. Growing them together would result in one of them dying due to their differences in conditions and care.
Have a separate spot in the garden for herbs like Lavender? Read our tips to grow and care for French Lavender.
Azalea boasts of having quite a few companions. Most of which aren’t bad at adding color and texture to your garden.
- Oak and pine trees offer shade for both people and plants, you will find many plants that excel under tree canopies.
- Hydrangeas offer a unique color to the garden with their blue flowers.
- Ferns add a touch of varying shades of green. They are not sun-loving and act as great ground over.
- Ornamental grasses add texture and something different to the garden. Besides, they are a great way to fill up empty spaces in the garden.
- Don’t plant azaleas with black walnut trees as they are sensitive to a chemical produced by the tree. Also, lavender and azalea’s requirements do not align and they cannot be grown together.
Are your azaleas changing color? Find out why Azaleas turn yellow.
Can Hydrangeas and Azaleas be planted together?
Yes, hydrangeas and azaleas can be grown together. Both of these plants share similar requirements. Hydrangeas like to be positioned beneath taller trees just like azaleas. They develop blue flowers when grown in acidic soil, the same soils that azaleas like. Both plants like to be in moist soils.
What are the best companion plants for Encore Azaleas?
The best companion plants for encore azaleas are Hollies, Hosta, Abelias. Another great companion plant for encore azaleas that is easy to grow is Canna lilies. These are the most suitable plants since their sun exposure, soil, and water requirements are common ground.