5 SIMPLE STEPS TO PRETTY (AND PRACTICAL) PLANT COMBOS

You can do this! Our tip sheet will help you create the garden you're imagining!

Combine 7 Plants in 7+ Ways to Create a Beautiful Garden

Let's say you've come up with a palette of plants that you think works well together. It doesn't particularly matter how you got there. Maybe you dreamed it up yourself, saw it online or in-person, or perhaps you were inspired by one of the many plant combinations here on the eGardenGo site. Admittedly, I'm a bit biased, but I think that you'll find that the plant combos here on the eGardenGo site are especially good starting points if you're gardening in the Pacific Northwest.

SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: All the plants in your palette must share the same cultural requirements—i.e. hardiness, exposure, soil and water needs, etc. So if you're searching for plants on eGardenGo, you'll want to make sure to adjust the search filters to reflect your zone and the cultural conditions of your site, so that only plants that'll thrive in your conditions will be included in your results. In addition, you'll want to add on top of these criteria any aesthetic and functional qualities you desire—for example, size and shape, texture and color, persistence of foliage. Is there something you need the plant to DO for you? If so, make sure it's up for the job.

Selecting a palette of plants that work well together from both a cultural and aesthetic standpoint is an important first step. But once you've chosen the plants you'll use in your combination, getting them laid out in an artful, organized, and logical fashion can be daunting until you get the hang of it.

In this post, I'm going to show you seven plants that have been carefully selected based on culture and aesthetics, arranged in a variety of different layouts. In each layout the plants are situated in different ways in order to fit different garden bed shapes and situations.  Using these layouts as your guide, you'll be able to adapt the plant combination to your garden more easily.

At first, the layouts are based on a description of the plants versus specific, individual plants. The emphasis is on creating a composition that takes into consideration the shape, size, texture, color, and other qualities of each plant in order to create an artful and pleasing vignette. In other words, rather than starting with a Quick Fire Hydrangea, we start with a "medium-sized flowering shrub with strong three-season performance." There's quite a few plants that fit that description, among them is Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk' Quick Fire.

Spending most of your time describing and defining the plants that will make up your combination will give you lots more options to consider. In turn, this will make your final plant selections easier and you'll end up making better choices. With continued practice, you'll learn to adjust the basic layouts to work with a variety of different plants.


DESCRIBE, THEN SEARCH


And now, an example. The graphic symbols below are used in the planting layouts in the following section. Each symbol corresponds to the description of that particular plant. If you follow the links, you'll be taken to search results that include plants that match the description.

Be warned, it's not 100% failsafe. It's still important to examine the options carefully to confirm that they truly match the description. You'll want to pay special attention to size and, as mentioned above, the cultural requirements. Though not perfect, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at some of the iterations and derivations you can come up with using this method.

To see this method in action, three different derivations of related plant combinations are shown below. Notice that the schemes have been adjusted and modified for different growing conditions.


Small-scale tree with four-season appeal— attractive bark in winter is especially desired. Optimal size" 12-16' tall and 8-12' wide.
Evergreen shrub or conifer with enough height and density to make a suitable backdrop, though still remain relatively narrow. Optimal size: 4' wide and 5 to 8' tall.
 Evergreen conifer or shrub with fine texture. Optimal size: 3-4' wide and 2-3' tall.
 Flowering shrub with strong three-season performance. Optimal size: 6' wide and 4-6' tall.
Bold, coarse foliage (ideally evergreen) to provide contrast to finer textures of its partners. Optimal size: 2½-3' wide and 18-30 inches tall. 
Flowing, billowy, grassy texture. Presumed deciduous, but evergreen would be A-okay too. Optimal size: 18-24 inches tall and wide.
 Hard-working, low-maintenance, and long-flowering perennial to mingle and bob throughout.


Seven Different Planting Plans


Flip through the slide carousel to see the seven plants laid out in a variety of different ways. An important consideration is whether your garden scene will be viewed only from one side or will you be able to walk all around it?

Plant Palette #1

This planting combination has a planting plan with SEVEN different layout options available to download for a small fee. Even if you don't anticipate planting this combination in your garden, examining the layouts is an excellent way to get a sense of how this method works. Click through for details!

Planting Plan Gif

Acer griseum

Paperbark Maple

Type: Tree
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Duke Gardens'

Duke Gardens Japanese Plum Yew

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Cryptomeria japonica 'Black Dragon'

Black Dragon Japanese Cedar

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Geranium 'Gerwat' Rozanne

Rozanne Hardy Geranium

Type: Groundcover, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Gold Variegated Japanese forest grass

Type: Grass / Grass-Like
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Helleborus argutifolius

Corsican Hellebore

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk' Quick Fire®

Quick Fire hardy hydrangea

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Plant Palette #2

Carex testacea

Orange Sedge

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Groundcover, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat, Morning Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Helleborus argutifolius 'Silver Lace'

Silver Lace Corsican Hellebore

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Lagerstroemia x 'Natchez'

Crape Myrtle Natchez

Type: Shrub, Tree
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Pinus strobus 'Blue Shag'

Blue Shag eastern white pine

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Pittosporum tobira 'Tall and Tough'

Japanese mock-orange

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Rosa 'Radway Sunrise'

Radway Sunrise Rose

Type: Rose, Shrub
Exposure: Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Zauschneria californica

California Fuchsia

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Shade, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Plant Palette #3

Abelia grandiflora 'Rose Creek'

Rose Creek Abelia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Astrantia major 'Hadspen Blood'

Hadspen Blood Masterwort

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Aucuba japonica 'Serratifolia'

Sawtoothed Japanese Aucuba

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Bergenia 'Magic Giant'

Magic Giant Pig Squeak

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Carex oshimensis 'Everest'

Everest Weeping Sedge

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Groundcover, Perennial
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Panicle Hydrangea

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Japanese Stewartia

Type: Tree
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Published January 04, 2020


Join the conversation




Recent Posts


Additional Information