9 Companion Plants For Southern-Favorite Hostas (Plus, Those To Avoid!)
Home & Gardening

9 Companion Plants For Southern-Favorite Hostas (Plus, Those To Avoid!)

Hostas are a favorite in Southern gardens, to be sure. Their large, vibrant leaves create a focal point that can certainly hold court on its own but, when planted with the right companions, can somehow become even more of a showstopper. “Companion plants can complement hostas by adding contrasting textures, colors, or heights, creating visually pleasing combinations,” says Brad Addy, Jackson & Perkins greenhouse and QC manager.

If you’re thinking your hostas seem to do perfectly well without any companions, you’re not wrong. In fact, Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturalist says this is the case for most garden plants. That being said, he is quick to point out that certain combinations can certainly benefit one or both plants with benefits like improving soil conditions, deterring pests, and even suppressing weeds.

Ready to find a new best friend for your hostas? We tapped some of the South’s most knowledgeable gardening experts to share all the details on what plants make the best companions for hostas—plus a few you should avoid.

Why Choose Companion Plants

Companion plants are plants that benefit from each other when grown in close proximity. They might help in repelling the wrong kind of insects or attracting the right ones, adding nutrients to the soil, and perhaps even aiding in the flavor of nearby plants, explains Addy. “By planting companion plants together, you can create a healthier and more productive garden while reducing the need for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers,” he says.

Linda Vater, plant expert for Southern Living Plant Collection says not all plants require companions, though plants with similar care requirements often thrive when planted together. “For example, by clustering hostas with other shade-tolerant plants that enjoy lightly moist soil, like ‘Spider’s Web’ Fatsia, you can situate both plants in a space that receives protection from hot afternoon sun, use one simple, consistent watering routine, and watch as both flourish together,” she says.

The Best Companion Plants For Hostas

Astilbe

Getty Images/Jana Milin


  • Botanical Name: Astilbe spp.
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil Type: moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH:  slightly acidic

The feathery plumes of the astilbes flowers make them a beautiful choice for adding texture to your hosta display. Their colors that range from white to pink to red can add a pretty splash of color amongst the hosta’s greenery. “They thrive in the same growing conditions as hostas and provide vertical interest and contrasting foliage textures,” explains Addy.

Heuchera

Getty Images / Gratysanna


  • Botanical Name: Heuchera sanguinea.
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade
  • Soil Type: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH:  neutral to slightly acidic

Heucheras—sometimes referred to as coral bells—come in a wide variety of foliage colors ranging from deep purples to bright greens, with even some variegated patterns thrown in the mix, says Addy. “They complement hostas with their mounding habit and add visual interest to the garden, especially when planted in clusters,” he says.  

Fern

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  • Botanical Name: Polypodiopsida or Polypodiophyta
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade
  • Soil Type: Rich, moist
  • Soil pH:  neutral to slightly alkaline

Ferns do best in environments that are similar to that of hostas, says Addy. Plus, they can provide a full and textural backdrop for the broad-leafed hostas. “They help create a natural woodland aesthetic and can help retain soil moisture, benefitting both plants,” he explains.

Carex

Southern Living® Plant Collection


  • Botanical Name: Cyperaceae
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade
  • Soil Type: Rich, well-drained
  • Soil pH:  neutral to slightly acidic

“With its gorgeous grassy foliage and attractive clumping habit, carex is a terrific option to infuse bright color into the shady spaces where hostas thrive,” says Vater. In order to make the most of this companion plant, opt for the EverColor® ‘Everest’ Carex which plays off the variegated hosta varieties with its own similarly hued foliage of green and white, she suggests.

Mahonia

Southern Living® Plant Collection


  • Botanical Name: Mahonia spp. or Berberisspp.
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade
  • Soil Type: Moist, well-drained
  • Soil pH:  neutral, acidic, alkaline

Mahonia pairs nicely with hostas to create a lush display. “While traditional mahonia varieties are characterized by painful, prickly leaves that aren’t very hospitable in shady outdoor living spaces, ‘Soft Caress’ lives up to its name with feathery, bamboo-like foliage,” says Vater.

Hydrangea

Southern Living® Plant Collection


  • Botanical Name: Hydrangea spp.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade
  • Soil Type: Loamy, clay, moist but well-drained
  • Soil pH:  neutral, acidic, alkaline

When it comes to the South’s most loved plants, hydrangeas are always at the top of the list. Lucky for your hostas, they thrive in a similarly shaded environment. The compact grow habit of the Heart Throb hydrangea makes it an ideal pairing for the low-growing hosta. “This compact hydrangea’s burst of scarlet blooms is the perfect pairing, bringing vibrant color with a smaller stature to enliven shady spaces,” Vater explains. “Heart Throb is on the petite side, reaching just 3’ high and wide when mature, and thrives in partial to full shade settings.”

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

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  • Botanical Name: Pulmonaria sp.
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade
  • Soil Type: moist, rich, well-drained
  • Soil pH: neutral to slightly alkaline

Pests matter when it comes to companion plants. According to Hancock, hostas are beloved by deer, so planting deer-resistant varieties, like lungwort, can prevent your hostas from become a tasty snack while also adding beauty and interest to your yard.

Variegated Liriope Or Mountain Laurel

Getty/Picture by Tambako the Jaguar
  • Botanical Name: Liriope muscari ‘variegata’ or Kalmia latifolia L.
  • Sun Exposure: prefer partial shade but tolerate shade to full sun (Liriope), dappled light (mountain laurel)
  • Soil Type: sandy, well-drained (variegated liriope); moist, well-drained (mountain laurel)
  • Soil pH: acidic (variegated liriope); acidic (mountain laurel)

An evergreen perennial or shrub makes an excellent companion for hostas, which go dormant in the winter, by helping provide year-long interest says Hancock. “Variegated Liriope (Liriope muscari Silvery Sunproof) or Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) are two excellent choices that add color and texture, even when hostas aren’t visible,” he says.

Spring-Blooming Bulbs

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When it comes to companion plants for hostas, think outside the box. “Daffodil, Siberian Squill, and Snowdrop, are excellent companion plants for Hostas because they give you a splash of color when the Hostas are still emerging,” says Hancock. “They time well together, too—many bulbs start to go dormant as Hosta leaves reach their full size, so you don’t need to worry about your Hostas smothering these early-season beauties.”

Companion Plants To Avoid

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The first step in finding the ideal companion plants for hostas is considering the growing conditions. “Plants that love hot, dry conditions, for example, probably won’t thrive with hostas in shaded gardens, especially if you keep the soil moist,” explains Hancock. Once you narrow down your plants according to growing conditions, there are still more factors to consider, most importantly avoiding any plants that grow at a faster rate than hostas because, as Hancock explains, they could choke them out.

“English ivy (hedera helix) is one example that can easily overtake a hosta in many areas,” he says. “You’ll also want to avoid invasive plants (especially those that are banned or on a watchlist for your particular area).”