There are plenty of elegant shade garden plants that go extremely well with hostas enhancing the beauty of your garden.
Anemone nemorosa is a pleasantly self-effacing little wood anemone that blooms early in the spring, much before other plants, including the hostas, wake from their hibernation. Wood anemones produce simple, solitary blooms having diverse colors – white, pale blue or light pink. These plants multiply silently at a time when the other dominating plants are just emerging from dormancy at the beginning of spring. Wood anemones also disappear discreetly just to appear again a year later.
The Japanese anemone (botanical name A. x hybrida) is another variety, although very different from the wood anemones. Unlike the wood anemones, this plant has nothing that can be called modest. In fact, it is an extremely invasive plant. However, it is valuable, as it blooms during the fall. In addition, this plant is attractive too, with tall stems that produce a solitary flower having a pale or dark pink hue. Among the various types of anemones, the “Honorine Jobert” (botanical name A. x hybrida) is most admired for its white flowers. As this plant too is very invasive, it is necessary to keep it in check.
In addition, plants of the aquilegia species, delightfully called columbines, are favorites of nearly all gardens, irrespective of whether they receive adequate sunlight or are located in shade. These plants are especially gorgeous when grown among hostas. The flowers of aquilegia species are bell-shaped and spurred, which brings in a subtle touch to the robust leaves of hostas below. The “Granny’s bonnet” (botanical name A. vulgaris) is considered as the best aquilegia species for growing in shade. The flowers of this species have various different hues, counting white, yellow, pink, purple and blue. The centers or cups of several of these flowers have a contrasting hue. This is a perennially growing species that has a long life. Moreover, these plants seed profusely, leaving the gardeners free from worries.
Another shade garden species that grows well with hostas is the arisaema – a curious plant producing hooded blooms that enclose a slender spadix (having an appearance akin to that of a pencil). A. sikokianum, a dark variety of arisaema, resembles the wicked arum lilies. On the other hand, A. candidissimum produces large, striking oval-shaped leaves bearing white-and-pink stripes which are really beautiful. Another variety, A. concinnum is a lofty and majestic plant that produces a whorl of slender leaves that appears at the apex of the flowering stalk. Blooms of this species are concealed, having a tendency to appear below the leaves. If you have a preference for green stripes, you may opt for A. jacquemontii or A. triphyllum – both being very beautiful species. Even the flowers of the species named A. ringens are green, but their edges are strikingly brown hued. The mouse plant (botanical name A. praecox) is ideal for growing in a small nook. This plant’s “mice” is found concealed underneath the leaves.
Plants belonging to the astilbe species have a preference for moist conditions and semi-shaded positions. These plants are in bloom during the summer when the flowering season of other plants is over. Astilbes are attractive for their leaves, which are delicate and fern-like, while the flowers appear like plumes. Among all the astilbe varieties, the Astilbe “Fanal” is the most beautiful. Basically, this is an Arendsii crossbreed, which produces very attractive crimson blooms. Another variety, the “Weisse Gloria” produces white flowers, while both “Betsy Cuperus” and “Bressingham Beauty” produce pink flowers. You may try growing another astilbe variety known as “Granat”. The flowers of this are vividly red.
Cardiocrinum giganteum is commonly known as the giant Himalayan lily. It produces wonderful creamy blooms with reddish rays and its sweet aroma is all-encompassing. If these attributes of the plant are not sufficient to value it, Cardiocrinum giganteum also bears attractive leaves that have a soft green hue. What makes the plant appear even more attractive is its long flowering stem, which grows up to a height of 2 meters (6 feet). While it takes some years before the plants come to bloom, when Cardiocrinum giganteum are seeding freely, the plant also flowers abundantly.
You may also grow black cohosh (botanical name Cimicifuga racemosa) as a shade plant together with hostas. In fact, this is an extremely good companion for most hostas when grown in a group. The flowers of this plant are tall and resemble a bottle brush, which emerge above the fern-like leaves.
Fairy bells plants, which belong to the Disporum species, may also be grown with hostas as a shade plant. While the plant spreads remarkably, it produces creamy yellow blooms that are bell-shaped. Although this plant is somewhat invasive, it definitely looks attractive when grown among the hostas as well as other forest land plants.
Known to be excellent woodland plants, Epimedium species produce interesting leaves that contrast well with hostas. The leaves of plants belonging to this species are somewhat heart-shaped. While the leaves of some species are red, others have green leaves, which usually change to bronze during the winter months. The plants bear petite flowers that are yellow having a reddish tone. The small flowers are almost concealed under the leaves. In order to make the elegant flowers visible you need to remove the older leaves during the later part of winter. In fact, plants of this species are not only very beautiful, but also do not pose any trouble for the gardeners.
Helleborus orientalis – another species that serves wonderfully as hostas’ companion in the garden. They are all the more valuable because they bloom in winter or the beginning of spring adding to the garden’s beauty, while the hostas are just starting to emerge from hibernation. The crossbreeds of Oriental hellebores produce extremely delightful flowers having the shape of a saucer and delicate hues, which range from white to ruby pink. Often, these flowers may also come in purple, maroon and reddish shades. The stamens of these flowers are very prominent and bear a resemblance to a crown. On the other hand, hellebores’ leaves are somewhat coarse. Therefore, it is best to cut them back before the plants come into bloom. Subsequently, feed the plants properly, as this will make these heavenly flowers clearly visible. Helleborus orientalis not only seed, but also hybridize copiously – keeping the gardener wondering what color flowers may come next.
Hyacinthoides (syn. Endymion), also known as bluebells, are also excellent as hostas companion plants and all other specimens that prefer to grow in the shade. The most common varieties of bluebells seen in the gardens include the Spanish bluebell (H. hispanicus) as well as the relatively smaller English bluebell (H. non-scripta). As the bluebells come into blossom quite early in the season and produce copious flowers, they create a stunning show even when no care or attention is given to the plants. At the time the bluebells are already in bloom, the hostas just produce their earliest leaf and when the hostas are in their best growing afresh during the spring, the hyacinthoides have already withered away. Although bluebells are rather invasive plants, you may also consider using them as a ground cover to suppress weed growth. In addition to the traditional bluebells, the different plants belonging to this species produce flowers whose hue may be white, mauve or pink.
The blue Himalayan poppy, also known as Meconopsis, is one species for which many would literally die for. When this plant is grown among the relatively smaller varieties of blue hostas, such as “Dorset Blue” it really offers a magnificent spectacle. M. betonicifolia is among the most popular Meconopsis species. It produces divinely untainted sky-blue blooms. However, it is really unfortunate that similar to several aristocratic varieties, M. betonicifolia is also very special. While these poppies have a preference for the conditions that are also liked by hostas – moist soils rich in humus content that do not become arid, it does not essentially mean that these plants will survive even when grown in such conditions. Very often, the Himalayan poppies are monocarpic, denoting that these plants only flower once and are short-term perennial plants even when grown in most favorable conditions. In case you want to see these plants growing continually, you can easily propagate them from their fresh seeds. While these may seem to be a lot of problems, it is actually worth enduring the trouble to see these wonderful plants in your garden amidst the hostas.
Gardeners who like to grow primulas are very fond of Primula pulverulenta. This is a tall and energetic plant that produces large leaves akin to those of lettuce, while its flower stems are smothered with farina – a type of powdery flowers. The flowers of this plant have a dark pinkish red hue with purple colored “eyes”. These plants are so attractive that it is really difficult to opt for one variety of candelabra primulas over another variety. However, there is no doubt that the variety called P. pulverulenta is the best variety for a flower garden.
The species called Pulmonaria is definitely more loved compared to its name, which sound like a lung ailment. Actually, the common name of this low growing plant is lungwort. This plant produces hairy leaves and some of them have a common green hue, while many others have attractive silver spots or splashes of white. Pulmonaria or lungwort bears white, red, blue or pink hued flowers that remain on the plants for a prolonged period. Pulmonaria plants are very attractive when grown in front of hostas, as the leaves of this plant produce a very lovely contrast.
Plants belonging to the Symphytum species (also known as comfrey) can be grown in the form of an excellent ground cover. On the other hand, these plants can also be described as an invasive weed. Nevertheless, when grown with caution, these plants may prove to be extremely helpful in covering the unsightly patches in your garden. Although the leaves of this plant are coarse, they are somewhat okay, while their bell-shaped cream hued flowers are really beautiful. While growing Symphytum species, you should always remember that they are only meant for rough places in your garden, as they have a tendency to overpower all things in the path of their growth.
On the other hand, the species called Sanguinaria canadensis (also known as bloodroot) really offers a challenge. It is not difficult to grow these plants, but what is actually a problem is that the petals of its charming white flowers fall off in haste even before they open. The flowering stems of this plant appear even before their leaves and each flower stem is topped with a bud having the form of a bulb, which develops into a solitary bloom. Prior to opening up, the leaves of this species appear as folded and upright. When open, the leaves are rather large as well as lobed. Since this is a captivating plant, it should always be grown in a exceptional location. A double form of Sanguinaria canadensis, known as S. c. “Flore Pleno”, also exists. However, this species does not possess the attractiveness of the single variety. The common name of this plant is bloodroot and it is called so because when you cut the succulent roots of the plant, they let out a deep red juice resembling the color of blood.
Despite being quite extraordinary and nice-looking plants, Uvularia species (also known as merry-bells) are not used by gardeners as often as they ought to be. Plants belonging to this species bear vivid, yellow flowers having the shape of a bell and they dangle stylishly from the slender green-hued stems. These plants bloom liberally for a prolonged period all through the spring as well as summer.