Leucothoe Companion Plants

Leucothoes are brilliant evergreen shrubs that provide a foil for summer-flowering shrubs and perennials, along with foliage interest in the fall and winter. When planted in the right situation, Leucothoe is very low-maintenance, requiring little pruning or fertilizing during the growing season. The ideal spot in a garden border has well-draining soil that is both rich in nutrients and able to retain moisture. This shrub prefers partial shade or dappled sun exposure.

Most Leucothoes bloom late in spring until the early summer, tying together early and later-summer blooming areas of the garden. The gentle fountain shape and low-growing, spreading habit work best at the front of a mixed shrub border where the foliage can be easily seen and enjoyed, especially when it turns a fiery shade of red in the late fall.  Use this evergreen shrub to provide permanent structure that remains even in the middle of the winter.

Shrubs To Plant With Leucothoe

A wide range of shrubs will grow in the same conditions preferred by Leucothoe. For shrubs that bloom earlier than leucothoe, select from rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris, mahonia, and daphne, which are also evergreen, making an easy-to-care-for garden design. For shrubs that bloom simultaneously with Leucothoe, consider deciduous shrubs like lilac, spirea, weigela, and viburnum bloom. Use Leucothoe as a shrubby ground cover with any of these shrubs, with the added benefit of concealing the naked bottom stems of larger shrubs. 


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Perennials To Plant With Leucothoe

Shade and moisture-loving perennials are the best mates for garden designs with Leucothoe. Strong candidates include hostas, ferns, bleeding hearts, hellebores, Japanese forest grass, and pulmonaria for long-season texture and color. Ephemeral and herbaceous perennial groundcovers, such as sweet woodruff, epimedium, checker lilies, and wood violets, provide contrasting texture and are easy to care for when fully established. An outstanding color combination for a shade garden would be Leucothoe, Japanese forest grass, astilbe, and bleeding hearts. 


Annuals To Plant With Leucothoe

Annuals make a great temporary ground cover in mixed shrub and perennial garden borders. The colors can be changed every year to give different moods and looks. Look for annuals that trail and bloom well in shaded locations, such as torenia, lobelia, fuchsia, and dwarf annual ornamental grasses. Annuals planted closer than usual can be effective at weed suppression without competing for moisture in the soil with established shrubs. 

Best Companion Plants For Leucothoe in Containers

Although Leucothoe performs best in a garden bed, smaller varieties can be successfully grown in containers or large planters to spruce up a front entryway, patio, or balcony.  Combine shallow-rooted annuals and perennials to add extra seasonal color to a permanently planted Leucothoe in a planter. Use Leucothoe as the thriller element and add a couple of filler plants, like ajuga, heuchera, and ferns to soften the overall shape. If the planter is large enough, add a spiller as well, such as calibrachoa, petunias, or tuberous begonias, to add even more texture and interest. Annuals have long blooming times and provide color from the last frost in spring to the first frost in the fall. 


Plants Not To Grow With Leucothoe

Although Leucothoe is easy to grow in a moist, acidic site, it will struggle in dry, alkaline soil. Shrubs and perennials that prefer full sun and an alkaline pH, such as lilac, forsythia, lavender, and yarrow will not grow well in a moist, shady site with Leucothoe. Leucothoe makes a great understory shrub, but it may underperform in deep shade or near thirsty large trees. 

Best Plants To Grow With Leucothoe

When choosing a plant to grow with Leucothoe, consider its site preferences, foliage interest, and bloom time. The shrub or perennial should thrive in partial shade and in moist soil that does not fully dry out in the summer months. It should also have interesting foliage to play off the strong profile of Leucothoe. And lastly, check to see if the plant blooms before or after Leucothoe to extend flowering interest in the garden. 

Sources: "Leucothoe fontanesiana." Missouri Botanical Garden. missouribotanicalgarden.org