Peonies, which are known to come in a variety of colors, grow large bushes, and their larger-than-life presence will steal the show in every garden.
Their flowers aren’t evergreen, and their bloom doesn’t last forever, so you’ll have to grow other plants in your garden to add some variety and make it diverse throughout the entire growing season. When you’re choosing plants to pair with peonies, you want a species that will get along with them, and that’s what we’ll be looking at today.
From my experience, the perfect companion plants to grow next to peonies are lavender, sage, thyme, tulips, hyacinths, hostas, bleeding hearts, and alliums, among other species. You should avoid all vines and ground-covering plants, as they’ll choke your peonies.
The plants I highlighted above are just a drop in the ocean. In this article, I’ll share the entire list of peony companion plants that will prolong your garden’s seasonal color while still leaving plenty of room for those big, pillowy blossoms to shine.
- Companion Plant Diversity: Pairing peonies with a variety of companion plants, including herbs, spring bulbs, flowering perennials, and shrubs, not only adds visual interest but also benefits the garden by deterring pests, extending the blooming season, and attracting pollinators.
- Best Companion Plants: Ideal companion plants for peonies include lavender, sage, thyme, tulips, hyacinths, hostas, bleeding hearts, alliums, roses, hydrangeas, and more, enhancing the garden’s aesthetics and overall health.
- Avoid Aggressive Plants: To ensure the well-being of peonies, avoid planting aggressive groundcovers and vines near them, as they can compete for space and nutrients, hindering peony growth and blooming.
- Key Takeaways
- What Is Companion Planting?
- Why Companion Plant peonies?
- Characteristics Of Peonies
- Best Companion Plants for Peonies
- Bad Companion Plants for Peonies
- Final Thoughts
- FAQs About The Best Companion Plants For Peonies
- What should peonies be planted with?
- What perennials pair well with peonies?
- Where should you not plant peonies?
- Can you plant peonies and hostas together?
- Does deadheading peonies produce more flowers?
- Can I plant hydrangeas with peonies?
- Do peonies spread?
- Are there any plants that bloom before peonies?
- Can peonies be paired with plants that bloom in late summer?
- Are there any white or pink flowers that can be paired with peonies?
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What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is the practice of growing multiple plant species in a way that benefits the garden overall. Perhaps the most famous example of companion planting is the Three Sisters method. This gardening technique features corn, pole beans, and squash grown in a single plot.
The corn provides a tall structure for the beans to climb. The beans anchor the corn and transfer nitrogen into the soil. The squash stays close to the ground, keeping the soil cool and preventing moisture loss.
This practice is traditionally used in vegetable gardens to increase harvests and reduce the need for chemical treatments. However, I think there are many reasons to employ companion planting in the ornamental landscape as well.
Why Companion Plant peonies?
Take a look at any quality landscape design, and you’ll notice the plants within are surprisingly diverse. Growing a number of different plant species is obviously a great way to incorporate various colors, textures, and growth habits into the garden. But there are also some more subtle benefits to be enjoyed:
Weed Prevention: Dense gardens are less likely to fall victim to invading weeds. Groundcover plants in particular — i.e., those that spread along the ground — are excellent for weed suppression.
Pest Control: Some plant species naturally deter insects and other garden pests like rabbits and deer. Growing these varieties near more vulnerable plants can help protect the latter from pest damage.
Wildlife Diversity: Flowering plants draw in all kinds of pollinating insects and birds. Since not all pollinators are attracted to the same flowers, it’s best to plant as many different types as possible.
Longer Blooming Season: Many of the prettiest flowers only last for a week or two. Planting perennials that bloom at different times of the year will ensure there’s always something worth looking at in your garden. This will also keep the pollinators coming back month after month.
Characteristics Of Peonies
Well-draining soil, moderate watering
Typically 1-11 feet tall and very wide
Rich, fertile soil with good drainage; pH 6.5-7.0
Full sun to light shade
Hardy in USDA zones 3-8
Late spring or early summer
Various colors, including white, pink, red, and yellow
Deep green, glossy leaves
Division of established plants
|Pruning and Maintenance
Cut back foliage after it dies back in the fall; mulch to protect in winter
|Common Pests and Diseases
Few pest or disease issues; may encounter botrytis blight, powdery mildew, or root rot
Other perennials like iris, daylilies, and roses
Peonies are not edible and can be toxic if ingested
Peony flowers are attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies
Some parts of peonies are toxic and should not be consumed
|Special Care Instructions
Provide support for heavy blooms; avoid planting too deep as it may inhibit flowering
Best Companion Plants for Peonies
You’ll find that peonies grow best with other plants that enjoy at least 6 hours of sun per day and rich, moderately moist soil. But I’ve also had plenty of luck pushing the boundaries of these ideal growing conditions, so don’t be afraid to experiment a little on your own.
Lavender: With fragrant flowers that emerge at about the same time as most peonies, lavender is a great companion plant. I recommend selecting smaller varieties of lavender to avoid competing with your peony plants.
The one obstacle to growing lavender and peonies alongside each other is their slightly different soil needs. Lavender prefers quick-draining, sandy soil and may get bogged down in some peony beds.
Sage: Sage and lavender have similar needs when it comes to soil and moisture. In my experience, however, sage tends to be more forgiving when grown alongside peonies.
You can choose to grow edible sage and harvest it for culinary purposes. Or you can plant a variety prized for its midsummer flowers and go the ornamental route. Either way, the sage is sure to bring color and attract pollinators even after your peonies have faded.
Thyme: Another great herb that can be grown with peonies is thyme. Creeping varieties are often used as low-growing ground covers around peonies and other herbaceous shrubs. Thyme will thrive in the rich, well-draining soil that peonies love.
As with sage, there are both edible and ornamental varieties of thyme available. The right type for your garden will largely depend on what you want to get out of it.
Catmint: Catmints grow extremely well in the same locations as most peonies. These subshrubs are very easy to grow in almost any climate, but be aware that some regions classify catmint as invasive.
While catmint generally makes a great partner, I do recommend only planting it around established peonies. Catmints can be aggressive spreaders and may outcompete smaller, younger peony plants.
Tulip: Planting tulips and other spring bulbs around your peonies is a great way to get a head start on the growing season. In my own garden, the spring bulbs reach their peak just as the first peonies are sprouting from the ground. By the time the tulips die back, the peony blossoms will have replaced them.
Tulips tend to offer the biggest bang for your buck in terms of spring color. There are so many unique varieties out there worth growing, and there is little risk of them crowding out peonies and other perennials.
Daffodil: I’m also extremely partial to daffodils. While these charmers won’t fit into every garden design, they do quite well in landscapes with pre-existing peonies. My daffodils tend to bloom just before the peonies do, and there’s a tiny bit of overlap when I get to enjoy both.
Once established, daffodils are super low-maintenance. Just remember to let the foliage die back on its own. Cutting the top growth too early will prevent the plant from storing energy for next year’s bloom.
Hyacinth: If you value fragrance just as much as you do aesthetics, fill the space around your peonies with a few hyacinths. Most hyacinths bloom at the same time as daffodils. Hyacinths like plenty of sunlight but will naturally die back before the peonies have a chance to shade them out.
Squill: Squill is a lesser-known group of spring bulbs that are much smaller than most of their brethren. However, when allowed to form a clump, these flowers are quite impactful.
Since squills typically cap out at just 6 inches tall, they can be used to fill a garden bed early in the spring. These bulbs technically prefer moderate shade and moisture, but I’ve had good luck growing them in full sun as well.
Note that some types of squill are invasive in certain areas. I recommend researching which varieties — if any — are appropriate for your climate. Even if squill isn’t labeled as a nuisance in your region, it’s best to keep them in isolated beds to prevent their accidental spread.
Stargazer Lily: The Stargazer (a.k.a. oriental) lily boasts a very different aesthetic from the average peony. When combined, however, I think these two flowering perennials can look wonderful together in either a garden or a cut bouquet.
Most stargazers will begin blooming after your peonies begin to fade. Some varieties — i.e., late-blooming peonies and early-blooming lilies — may overlap, though. Alternatively, you can also plant the two practically on top of each other for a color that lasts through the summer.
Columbine: Columbine plants are North American natives that come in a number of different colors. Several varieties are more commonly known as honeysuckle. The flowers have distinctly pointed petals and tasty nectar that hummingbirds and other pollinators adore.
Some sources recommend growing columbine in relatively dry soil but these herbaceous perennials are extremely adaptable. You should have no trouble growing columbine in the same soil and light conditions as the typical peony.
Hosta: While many groundcover plants are at risk of outgrowing their neighbors, hostas have underground rhizomes that keep them well-contained.
The only potential problem you might encounter is finding a garden spot that’s sunny enough for your peonies but shaded enough for the hostas. As a rule, hosta varieties with bright green or yellowish foliage are the best for sunny areas.
Bleeding Heart: Peonies growing in shadier locations may enjoy the company of a bleeding heart. This unique herbaceous perennial blooms in spring — it will flower simultaneously with or just before most peonies.
Bleeding hearts are often a bit unsightly after the flowers fade. Though the peonies will offer some coverage early in the season, I also recommend planting some hostas or daylilies nearby to extend the bed’s interest.
Hardy Geranium: Also known as cranesbill, this low-growing perennial is a great option for cottage-style gardens. It has a relaxed, herby appearance and tolerates a variety of growing conditions.
There’s a small chance hardy geraniums will choke out some peonies, but it’s fairly easy to keep in check. Personally, I leave a decent margin between my hardy geraniums and peonies to prevent competition in the garden.
Allium: The allium family includes a number of ornamental flowers in addition to edible bulbs like onions and garlic. Ornamental varieties typically have purple, pom-pom-like flowers that bloom in early spring.
I find alliums make good filler in those few weeks before peonies really take off. Since the bulbs are compact and the top growth dies back quite quickly, you can plant them extremely close together.
Iris: Both Siberian and bearded iris are beloved companions for peonies. Their bloom times are incredibly close together, and in some climates, the flowers will actually overlap.
Siberian irises typically have smaller flowers but grow in clumps reminiscent of daffodils. Bearded varieties have much showier flowers but emerge individually like tulips.
In my experience, adequate sun is super important for bearded irises. Too little sun exposure may result in fewer (or no!) blossoms the following year. Any location that supports healthy peonies should also be appropriate for irises.
Daylily: I’ll admit that traditional yellow daylilies are far from my favorites. If you feel the same way, I strongly suggest looking into all of the different shapes and colors that can be sourced from more specialized greenhouses.
Whichever type of daylily you prefer, it’s sure to grow well alongside your peonies. Daylilies contrast beautifully against the more romantic style of peonies, according to HGTV. They also tend to bloom later and longer than their companions, extending the peak season of your garden.
Clematis: With the exception of woody shrubs, most flowering perennials are dwarfed by peonies. But companion planting a clematis vine and training it to grow up a fence or trellis is a great way to backdrop the garden bed.
Clematis vines are grouped based on when they bloom. I personally recommend pairing peonies with a Group 2 (repeat blooming) or Group 3 (late-blooming) clematis for maximum effect.
Lupine: Lupine and peonies complement each other extremely well in the garden. On average, lupine flowers just before peonies so they make great successive companions. The combination will also attract a range of pollinators.
Lupine is also a member of the legume family, which means that the plant can take nitrogen from the air and transfer it into the soil. All plants utilize nitrogen as a major nutrient, so this is a huge benefit to the entire garden.
Note that lupine spreads very easily via seeds and can be a problem in some climates. It’s good practice to remove spent flowers before they go to seed.
Lilac: In USDA Zones 3 to 8, lilacs are the quintessential spring shrubs. Not only are they visually stunning, but they’re also incredibly fragrant.
Standard lilacs usually bloom ahead of peonies. If you want to enjoy both flowers at the same time, invest in a late-blooming variety for a greater chance of overlap. If you have the space, plant several different varieties to extend the lilac season as long as possible.
Hydrangea: I find hydrangeas and peonies to be some of the most romantic flowers around. They both enjoy rich, well-draining soil and can be grown in close proximity without much competition. The hydrangeas will emerge just in time to take the place of the fading peonies.
Hydrangeas tend to be more shade-tolerant than peonies, but many varieties will fare just fine in full sun when given adequate water.
Rose: Roses and peonies make great partners in the average flower bed. Modern roses are much easier to care for than their predecessors and will add color and fragrance to the garden once your peonies fade.
You might also like to read Boxwood Companion Plants And Landscaping Ideas
Bad Companion Plants for Peonies
The only plants I strongly advise against growing with peonies are aggressive groundcovers and vines. According to Horticulture Magazine, peonies generally need about a square meter of mostly empty space around their crowns to grow best. Plants that tend to spread are likely to invade this space and choke out the peonies’ root systems.
There you have it, folks! There are plenty of plant choices to grow with peonies that will not only add interest to your garden through color variety, but also improve the bloom of peonies, protect them from pests, and attract beneficial insects.
To sum up; tulips, hyacinths, squill, lavender, thyme, hostas, bleeding hearts, alliums, roses, and hydrangeas are the best companion plants for peonies, while the only plants you should avoid are intensely-growing vines and ground-covering plants.
FAQs About The Best Companion Plants For Peonies
What should peonies be planted with?
Peonies can be planted with other perennial flowers, such as daylilies, irises, and catmint. They also do well with spring bulbs like tulips and squill, creating beautiful and diverse flowerbeds.
What perennials pair well with peonies?
Perennials that pair well with peonies include the Siberian iris, salvia, coral bells, and lady’s mantle. These combinations create visually appealing and complementary garden landscapes.
Where should you not plant peonies?
Avoid planting peonies in shady or waterlogged areas, as they prefer well-draining soil and full sun. Overly wet conditions can lead to root rot and hinder flower production.
Can you plant peonies and hostas together?
Yes, you can plant peonies and hostas together. They are compatible because hostas prefer partial to full shade, while peonies thrive in full sun to light shade, making them suitable companions for different garden areas.
Does deadheading peonies produce more flowers?
Deadheading peonies, which involves removing spent flowers, can help direct the plant’s energy into producing more buds and potentially more flowers in the same season. However, even if not deadheaded, peonies can still produce a satisfactory number of blooms.
Can I plant hydrangeas with peonies?
Yes, you can plant hydrangeas with peonies. Both are popular flowering shrubs that can complement each other beautifully in a garden, providing a mix of colors and textures.
Do peonies spread?
Yes, peonies can spread slowly over time. As they grow and mature, they can develop larger clumps and produce additional shoots around the main plant. However, their spread is generally not aggressive or invasive.
Are there any plants that bloom before peonies?
Yes, there are several plants that bloom before peonies, such as hyacinths and bearded iris. Planting these plants with peonies will ensure continuous bloom and a colorful garden display.
Can peonies be paired with plants that bloom in late summer?
Yes, peonies can be grown with plants that bloom in late summer to extend the blooming season in your garden.
Are there any white or pink flowers that can be paired with peonies?
Yes, there are white and pink flowers that can be grown with peonies, such as tulips and iris. These combinations will create a beautiful color contrast in your garden.