The trick to successfully combining plants in a bed, border, or container is to choose plants that have the same growing requirements before considering color, form, or texture. After all, it doesn’t really matter if the plants look good together if they can’t grow well together, right?
So, let’s say you love gardenias (who doesn’t?) but can’t think of what to plant with them. Start with knowing that gardenias love moist, well-drained, acidic soil, and full sun to part shade (as long as the full sun is in the morning, thank you), and then you can go to town with the “pretties”.
- Trees: Look for color and texture to contrast with the gardenia’s foliage and blooms — crepe myrtle, dogwood, and Japanese maple are prime examples.
- Shrubs: Flowering shrubs like camelias, rhododendrons, and azaleas blend beautifully with gardenias. Clipped boxwood is a classic pairing because of its smaller leaf, but don’t forget about colored foliage from a groundcover loropetalum (“Purple Pixie”) that offers an intriguing contrast.
- Perennials: Hostas and ferns are classic companions, as are cast iron plant, Brunnera, toad lilies, and Solomon’s seal.
- Annuals: Reach for colorful annuals like impatiens, wax begonias, and blue torenia to complement your gardenia display. Worried about sun exposure with finicky impatiens? Use the sun-loving varieties and you’re good to go.
- Choose either a small shrub gardenia — Crown Jewel is perfect — or a gardenia trained into a standard tree. The latter allows for more planting options around the base of the trunk, but either option is stunning.
- Be sure your container is large enough to house both the gardenia and additional plants. You can start with a young gardenia in a smaller nursery pot (3-gallon, for example), enjoy it for a season in your container, and then plant it in the ground as it grows.
- Add any of the annuals recommended above around the base of the gardenia to complete your planting, but look for additional plants like silver ponyfoot or English ivy to cascade over the side. Another idea? Ring your gardenia with black mondo grass — the black and white combo is instantly elegant and simple to create.