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Utah Style and Design

Gardening Tips: Plant in Pairs

June 10, 2018

Like most of us, plants thrive with companions. The trick, says horticulturalist Crystal Kim, is choosing the perfect partners. She offers the following gardening tips to help you do exactly that.

Photo Courtesy of Red Butte Gardens

It’s easy to fall in love with a plant and want it to fill your garden. Perhaps for that reason, many beautiful gardens consist of one primary type of plant, such as hosta, rose, iris or daylily. But a star performer deserves carefully chosen companion plants that highlight its beauty. They are supporting players, much like a prima ballerina has the corps de ballet. Whether it’s through their form, color, texture or bloom time, companion plants complement the best features of your garden star, as well as provide interest during its down times.

Crystal Kim, Red Butte Garden Horticulturist

4 Tips for Selecting Companion Plants

1. Similar Habitats

Companion plants should have habitat requirements similar to your star plant. Consider sun exposure, soil type, nutrient requirements and watering needs. Choose disease—and pest—resistant plants to reduce maintenance and chemical use.

2. Consider Growth Rates

Some companion plants are more suitable in certain situations. For example, a ground cover can be difficult to maintain if it’s growing around thorny rose canes. Consider growth rates and size to avoid extremely vigorous plants that will become weeding headaches or garden thugs that overwhelm your star.

3. Variety, Variety, Variety

Use a variety of shapes and textures to complement your star. Plants can be upright, like feather reed grass, elegant as foxglove spires, low and full like a mound of coral bells or the spreading carpet of stonecrop. Plant textures can range from fine-leafed bluestar to bold-leafed hosta. Plants can also be airy and open like prairie dropseed or dense and structured like boxwood.

4. Play with Color

Consider the play of color in your garden. Depending on your preferences, you can choose colors that either harmonize or contrast with your star plant. Pay attention to both the color of the foliage and the flower, as well as other attributes such as fruit or bark.

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