By Julie A. Martens
I really enjoy mixing and matching perennials to create eye-pleasing plant combinations. It’s one of my favorite parts of gardening. By following a few simple rules, you can tackle this aspect of perennial garden design with confidence.
Rule No. 1: Accent Flower Shapes
Pair plants with similar or contrasting flower shapes and you’ll get great results. In the photo above, two perennials in my Mid-Atlantic garden offer blooms with similar shapes: black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Each has a round flower silhouette with petals skirting a central area.
Rule No. 2: Blend Flower Colors
Combine perennials having flowers in different hues of the same color family.
Red tones sparkle in this perennial partnership in my front yard, featuring red hot poker (Kniphofia hirsuta ‘Traffic Light’) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’).
For another foolproof plant combination match blossoms in light and dark colors such as pink and blue, red and yellow, or purple and orange.
This bold planting beckons butterflies with nectar-laden blooms of orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and purple butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’).
Rule No. 3: Use Leaf Color
Count on leaf color to create handsome perennial combinations that look good all season long. Mix leaf colors as you would flowers.
For a plant combination that glows, I pair gold-infused leaves of Southern Comfort coralbells (Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’) with golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’).
Rule No. 4: Mix Leaf Textures
Contrasting leaf textures always stage winning plant combinations. Placing broad leaves by narrow ones, I choreographed a lively scene that looks good even when perennials aren’t flowering.
This perennial trio mixes three leaf textures (clockwise from left):
- narrow, upright leaves of Siberian iris (Iris sibirica)
- broad, flat leaves of fragrant Hosta plantaginea
- chunky, divided leaves of a Lenten rose (Helleborus spp.)
Learn more about leaf textures in this video.
Follow the Rules
These garden design basics make it easy to create pretty plant combinations. Do you have favorite perennial combinations in your garden? Share them below.