Peonies, known for their magnificent and vibrant blossoms, are undeniably a focal point in any garden. However, their floral brilliance is fleeting. That’s where companion planting plays a vital role, introducing a diverse range of plant species to keep your garden colorful and vibrant even after peonies have passed their peak. This guide details the best companion plants for peonies, shedding light on how to prolong your garden’s seasonal color while allowing the spectacular peony blossoms to take center stage.
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting is an age-old gardening technique that involves growing different plant species together to enhance the overall health and productivity of the garden. It draws inspiration from natural ecosystems where diverse plant and animal species coexist and thrive. A classic example is the ‘Three Sisters’ technique, an ingenious approach practiced by Native Americans, which involves corn, beans, and squash growing together, each providing essential benefits to the others.
In an ornamental garden setting, companion planting offers numerous advantages such as weed suppression, pest control, attracting diverse wildlife, and ensuring a longer blooming season.
The Role of Peonies in Companion Planting
A well-designed landscape is typically diverse, bringing together various plant species to create a rich tapestry of color, texture, and form. Here, peonies can serve as an anchor, around which other plant species can be arranged. In addition to their stunning visuals, companion plants to peonies can offer several other benefits:
- Weed Prevention: Dense planting, particularly with groundcover plants, reduces the chances of weed invasion.
- Pest Control: Some plant species are natural deterrents to garden pests. Placing these near more vulnerable plants like peonies can help protect them from damage.
- Wildlife Diversity: A diverse array of flowering plants can attract a broad range of pollinators, enhancing your garden’s ecosystem.
- Longer Blooming Season: Choosing perennials that bloom at different times can ensure a continuous display of color, keeping your garden attractive and inviting for pollinators throughout the seasons.
Choosing the Best Peony Companions
Peonies thrive with companion plants that enjoy at least 6 hours of sunlight each day and can grow in rich, moderately moist soil. The following sections detail several companion plant categories that complement peonies in different ways.
Herbs as Peony Companions
Herbs are not just for culinary use; they can also be great companions to peonies in the garden. Lavender, with its fragrant flowers, blooms around the same time as peonies, making it an excellent partner. Sage and thyme, both having ornamental and edible varieties, add to the color and attract pollinators even after peonies have faded. Catmint is another herb that grows well with peonies, although it can be invasive in some areas, so it should be planted with caution.
Spring Bulbs to Accentuate Peonies
Spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths bloom early and can provide a colorful prelude to the peony season. A less-known spring bulb, squill, can also form an impactful, colorful ground cover around peonies early in spring.
Flowering Perennials that Pair Well with Peonies
Several flowering perennials can create an enchanting partnership with peonies. Stargazer lilies offer a distinct aesthetic, while the North American native columbine plants attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. Groundcover plants like hosta and hardy geranium can fill in the gaps without overpowering to reduce response length.)
What Is Companion Planting?
Companion planting refers to a gardening method where various plant species are grown together in a way that benefits the entire garden ecosystem. The most notable example of this practice is the ‘Three Sisters’ method, which combines corn, pole beans, and squash in a single plot. Here, corn serves as a tall support structure for the beans, the beans enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen, and squash helps retain moisture and cools the soil by staying close to the ground. Although traditionally used in vegetable gardens to enhance yield and lessen the reliance on chemical treatments, companion planting can also be effectively employed in ornamental landscapes to enhance aesthetics and ecological balance.
Benefits of Companion Planting With Peonies
Companion planting with peonies can offer multiple benefits beyond aesthetic appeal:
- Weed Prevention: Dense gardens are less likely to be invaded by weeds. Groundcover plants, i.e., those that spread along the ground, can effectively suppress weeds.
- Pest Control: Certain plant species can naturally deter insects and garden pests like rabbits and deer. Planting these varieties near vulnerable plants can help shield them from pest damage.
- Wildlife Diversity: Diverse plantings attract a variety of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds. As not all pollinators are drawn to the same flowers, incorporating different types can maximize the variety of visiting pollinators.
- Longer Blooming Season: While many beautiful flowers bloom for just a week or two, planting perennials that flower at different times can ensure your garden remains attractive throughout the year. This also encourages pollinators to keep visiting your garden.
Top Companion Plants for Peonies
Peonies thrive best alongside other plants that enjoy at least 6 hours of sunlight daily and rich, moderately moist soil. Here are some of the best companions for peonies, divided into herbs, spring bulbs, flowering perennials, and shrubs.
- Lavender: Blooming around the same time as most peonies, lavender is an excellent companion plant. Its fragrance complements the peonies, but bear in mind their slightly different soil needs – lavender prefers quick-draining, sandy soil.
- Sage: More forgiving when grown with peonies, sage shares similar soil and moisture needs with lavender. Sage comes in both edible and ornamental varieties, both attracting pollinators after peonies have faded.
- Thyme: Creeping varieties of thyme work well as low-growing ground covers around peonies. Both edible and ornamental varieties thrive in the rich, well-draining soil that peonies love.
- Catmint: While catmint grows very well with peonies, they can be aggressive spreaders. Thus, it’s advisable to plant them around established peonies.
- Tulips and Daffodils: Both can provide a burst of color before peonies start sprouting. They require little maintenance once established and die back just when peonies are ready to bloom.
- Hyacinth: If you appreciate fragrance as much as aesthetics, surround your peonies with hyacinths. They bloom alongside daffodils and naturally die back before peonies shade them out.
- Squill: These lesser-known bulbs can be used to fill a garden bed early in spring. Despite their small size, they create a significant impact when allowed to form a clump.
- Stargazer Lily: Blooming after peonies begin to fade, these lilies offer a contrast in aesthetics and prolong the color in your garden.
- Columbine: These herbaceous perennials are quite adaptable and can grow in the same soil and light conditions as peonies.