Holly is a dependable shrub that provides year-round color. Most varieties are evergreen, so the glossy green foliage will stay in place throughout the stark winter months. Many holly shrubs also boast bold red berries that offer a pop of color during the fall and winter when most other plants do not have much going on. Grow holly bushes as perennials in zones 5 through 9 in full sun, in moist but well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
While holly shrubs provide color and texture all year, they are the most visually interesting in the fall and winter. These shrubs have glossy green foliage during the spring and summer that makes a great backdrop for colorful perennials and shrubs. Select companion plants that will offer contrasting texture, color and height to the holly, adding depth and interest to the planting. Some options that make wonderful companions for holly include geraniums, torenia, begonia, azaleas, dianthus, impatiens, and clematis.
Shrubs To Plant With Holly
Azaleas are flowering deciduous shrubs that thrive in neutral to acidic soil and full sun to partial shade. Plant a group of smaller azaleas in front of holly bushes so the flowers are clearly visible and make an impact. Most azalea shrubs bloom in the spring, although some cultivars bloom again in mid-summer or fall.
Clematis is a vining perennial that sets some spectacular flowers. The first flush of flowers comes in late spring or early summer, with a second round often appearing in late summer. Holly makes an excellent companion for clematis because the reaching vine will climb the sturdy shrub. Clematis requires full sun and slightly acidic soil, which aligns well with holly shrubs.
Perennials To Plant With Holly
Colorful coral bells, or Heucheras, are low-maintenance perennials grown for their ornamental foliage. The leaves can be dark purple, burgundy, silver, or green and have a flat or rippled appearance. The brightly colored leaves of the coral bells provide contrast against the green vegetation of holly shrubs. Coral bells need partial shade, which also works well for holly. Plant coral bells in front of or below holly shrubs to fill in empty spaces and to give the Heucheras some additional shade.
Annuals To Plant With Holly
Torenia, also known as wishbone flowers, grows as an annual in most areas and features tiny blooms tucked in between lush foliage. This plant can handle full sun or shade, but it prefers morning sun and afternoon shade. Torenia stands about 6 inches tall but spreads to fill an area about 30 inches wide. Plant torenia below holly shrubs to fill the space between the lower branches and the ground.
Dianthus and impatiens are also flowering plants grown as annuals in many zones. The blooms look lovely against the dark green foliage of holly shrubs. Dianthus are prolific spring-time bloomers that may bloom again during the summer and fall. Impatiens have a mounded form and bloom from spring through fall. These flowering plants require regular watering, but holly shrubs can handle the slightly damp conditions these plants need. Plan to deadhead and prune dianthus and impatiens to encourage more growth and flowers.
Best Companion Plants For Holly in Containers
Geraniums bloom during the spring and summer and feature flower clusters in shades of red, pink, violet, orange, apricot, yellow, and white. Begonias are also flowering plants that provide a burst of color against the dark green holly vegetation. Begonia flowers can have single or double blooms, offering a lot of texture and bright color. Feature trailing geraniums or begonias as a spiller in a container with upright holly to create a curated look.
Plants Not To Grow With Holly
Holly shrubs grow best in full sun and slightly acidic soil, but these plants are adaptable and can grow in partial sun and neutral soil. Growth will be slow, but these shrubs can live in diverse conditions. Plants that have drastically different care needs cannot grow alongside holly shrubs. Shade-loving hosta, dead nettle, and foamflower do not pair well with holly.
Best Plants To Grow With Holly
Holly shrubs are dense and provide privacy along a border or define an outdoor room. Feature companion plantings in front of holly bushes to introduce different textures and colors. The ideal companion plants will have similar care needs, so everything can comfortably live together. Holly shrubs can grow tall and may block sunlight, hindering the growth of sunny perennials, but potentially protecting shade plants from sunburn. Consider the conditions and how the plants will complement one another when selecting companion plants. Geraniums, torenia, begonia, azaleas, dianthus, impatiens, and clematis are all examples of plants that work well with holly shrubs.
These computer-generated images were created to illustrate what the combination could look like in your garden.