Heather Companion Plants

Heather shrubs belong to a group of hardy, tough, and beautiful plants that typically bloom between late summer and late winter. The small, needle-like foliage and naturally compact shape give heathers an unmistakable presence in the garden landscape. The majority of heather plants require acidic soil, with a pH between 4.0 and 5.0, which makes them natural partners for other ericaceous-loving shrubs and trees. 


Photo by William Murphy, unmodified, Flickr, Copyright CC BY 2.0

Once heather is well established, it becomes quite drought tolerant, only requiring supplement watering during long dry spells. Heather is often used as a tough and durable ground cover for difficult locations in the garden. Sloped areas, hot and dry hellscapes, or garden beds with infertile, acidic soil are all possible planting sites for heather in all its varieties and cultivars.  

Shrubs To Plant With Heather

Any shrub that prefers a low pH can be a great companion for heather. Broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camelia, and gardenia provide a lovely contrast in foliage shape with the heather’s soft but needle-like leaves. Other evergreens such as yew, arborvitae, juniper, and dwarf conifer shrubs can be used with heather to create four seasons of interest with color and form. Pair heather with local native shrubs such as serviceberry, oregon grape, witch hazel, or dogwood shrubs to provide early nectar for beneficial pollinators in a naturalistic planting. 


Photo by Mark Wordy, unmodified, Flickr, copyright CC BY-SA 2.0 

Perennials To Plant With Heather

Heather is easily incorporated into a perennial garden border to add four seasons of interest. Spring bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and snowdrops can be planted to coincide with the blooming period of heathers and usher in the new growing season. Other perennials such as coral bells, cyclamen, and bleeding heart also work well with heathers when planted at the front of a bed. Clumping types of ornamental grasses provide interesting contrast with heathers and work as a backdrop.   

Annuals To Plant With Heather

Annuals can be planted alongside heather to signal different seasons. Hardy, early bloomers such as pansies, violas, some petunias, and dianthus are tough enough to provide color in the spring even if light frosts occur. By early summer, those hardy annuals will begin to die back and can be replaced with long-season bloomers like wax begonias, diascia, nemesia, and larkspur. 

Best Companion Plants For Heather in Containers

The smaller sizes of heather work in a variety of containers from individual pots, large planters to window boxes. Often they are included in fall or winter seasonal designs and then are eventually planted in the garden as they begin to mature. A window box of heather, dwarf conifers, and english ivy is a low-maintenance combination for long-lasting color from fall to early spring. In the spring, the planter can be refreshed with pansies or violas. Heathers are also lovely planted near softer, more fluffy flowers such as diascia, alyssum, and coral bells. Place the containers in a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun, and ensure they stay well watered throughout the year. 

Plants Not To Grow With Heather

Heathers make for a dense groundcover after they have been established in the garden, but they can become difficult to weed if weeds become established near and under them. Grass is the most difficult to eradicate fully and somehow seems to be drawn to heathers. For this reason, do not plant grasses that heavily self-seed or spread aggressively near heather.  Plants that prefer alkaline soil like lilacs, lavender, rosemary, and clematis also don’t make good companions for heather. The plants may grow fine together for a couple of years, but eventually some will begin to show signs of weakened growth and failure to thrive. 

Best Plants To Grow With Heather

Azaleas and Rhododendron




Yew Shrubs

Yew Shrubs

The best plants to grow with heather are broadleaf evergreens, conifer evergreens, or early spring bloomers that thrive in acidic soil. Heather requires full sun to bloom and grow well. In the landscape, plant heathers as a low-growing layer in front of a wide variety of conifer and broadleaf evergreens for year-round structure and interest.

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Author Robbin Small - Published 9-20-2023