The bold ornamental foliage of coral bells comes in various colors and shapes, making this leafy plant a charming addition to a landscape. Depending on the variety, these mounding plants often stand no more than 16 inches tall but can spread up to 36 inches. Coral bells are often a good choice for mass planting at the front or middle of a bed or border and are an excellent pick to fill empty spaces. Coral bells need partial sun, just 4 to 6 hours of sunlight daily, and rich, neutral to slightly acidic soil. Grow coral bells in zones 4 through 9.
The striking ornamental foliage of coral bells can easily steal the show but can also complement other flowering plants and brighten practically any planting. Most plants with similar care requirements will look stunning alongside coral bells, but some of the best companion plantings include bleeding heart, iris, astilbe, begonia, and caladium.
Shrubs To Plant With Coral Bells
Hydrangeas are flowering shrubs that feature large clusters of flowers, often blooming during the summer. The greenery provides a consistent backdrop for the brightly colored foliage of coral bells. The spring-blooming mountain laurel is another flowering shrub that features flowers in red or pink hues, and will complement the bright leaves of coral bells. By summer, the flowers fade, but the glossy green foliage stays in place, providing a neutral backdrop for the coral bells. Mountain laurel can grow in full sun to partial shade, but should be grown where coral bells will not bake in hot afternoon sun. Plant coral bells under the shrub to fill any gaps around the base and protect this perennial from intense sunlight.
Perennials To Plant With Coral Bells
The showy flowers of the bleeding heart pair nicely with the dramatic foliage of coral bells. Both plants have similar sunlight and soil requirements, preferring morning sun and afternoon shade and rich, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil. Bleeding heart plants grow 1 to 3 feet tall, so tall varieties should be planted behind coral bells and smaller varieties should be planted alongside coral bells so both can be admired.
The purple, blue, white, and yellow flowers of iris provide a range of colors to contrast or complement the intense hues of coral bells’ foliage. These perennials feature tall, narrow flower stems surrounded by upright, sword-like greenery. Feature irises near the middle or back of a mixed bed or border or alternate them with groups of mounding coral bells.
The plume-like flowers of astilbe introduce a fluffy texture that stands out against the smooth foliage of coral bells. These spring- and summer-blooming flowers are often in shades of pink, red, purple, or white, which coordinate nicely with the brilliant foliage of coral bells. Astilbes can live in full or partial sun, but they pair best with coral bells in partial sun or shade.
Annuals To Plant With Coral Bells
Match the showy foliage of coral bells with the equally striking foliage of caladium. This tropical annual features heart-shaped leaves in shades of white, green, red, and pink that can be mottled, veined, or striped. A shady spot with slightly acidic soil will serve both caladium and coral bells. Plant a row of coral bells in front of the caladium for a formal appearance, or alternate these plants for an abstract look. Both coral bells and caladium bloom, but the flowers pale compared to the foliage, so many gardeners choose to prune the flower buds.
Best Companion Plants For Coral Bells in Containers
Begonias make a lovely companion for coral bells in mixed containers. The delicate flowers of begonias can be single or double blooms and feature ruffled or smooth petals. The blooms are lovely and feature red, pink, orange, and yellow tones to play nicely against the darker foliage of coral bells. Begonias in planters will gently spill over the edge of the container and pair beautifully with upright mounding coral bells. Feature these mixed containers on porch steps or a patio space to introduce color and texture. Trailing sweet potato vine is another plant grown for ornamental foliage that pairs well with container-grown coral bells.
Plants Not To Grow With Coral Bells
The ideal companions for coral bells will be shade-loving plants that require slightly acidic soil and weekly waterings. Plants that cannot live in these conditions will fail to thrive. Lavender, coneflowers, and salvia are examples of plants that require full sun and are a poor match for coral bells. Aggressive growers, like lemon balm or yucca, are not a good match because they may push out coral bells.
Best Plants To Grow With Coral Bells
The colorful foliage of coral bells creates a cohesive look when paired with equally colorful plants like bleeding heart, iris, astilbe, begonia, and caladium. Select companion plants that thrive in partial shade and have similar soil and water needs to ensure the entire planting will flourish. The evergreen foliage of coral bells offers consistent color, so choose coordinating plants that bloom throughout the growing season so there is always something to catch the eye.
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