Mountain Laurel Companion Plants

Mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, is an evergreen shrub native to mountainous regions of eastern North America. Although it grows best in partial shade, mountain laurel can tolerate full sun to full shade, even growing well under the shade of taller trees and shrubs. This plant has moderate moisture needs and will need to be watered during drought conditions. Mountain laurel can grow up to 4-15 feet tall and wide. It flowers from spring to early summer with masses of white or pink blossoms.

Hardy to zones 4-9, mountain laurel is ideal for woodland gardens, rock gardens, and mass plantings. Mountain laurel is a slow-growing shrub that can tolerate many soil and light conditions, making it an ideal candidate for mixed beds. Mountain laurel pairs well with plants that like moist, acidic, and well-drained soil. 


Photo by K M, unmodified, Flickr, copyright CC BY 2.0 DEED

Shrubs To Plant With Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurel looks stunning when grown with other shade-loving shrubs. Grow mountain laurel with other members of the Ericaceae family, such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and pieris. Like mountain laurel, these popular shrubs thrive in acidic soil. When grown together, mountain laurel, pieris, and rhododendrons provide year-round interest, as their shiny evergreen leaves remain in place throughout winter. Grow hydrangeas and viburnums with mountain laurel for a colorful shrub border in acidic soil.

For a continuous display of flowers, plant shrubs that bloom at different times. Since mountain laurel blooms in spring and early summer, select plants that will blossom before or after this shrub. Pieris, fothergilla, and spring witch hazel, Hamamelis verna, provide early spring flowers in March and April. Once mountain laurel is finished blooming, summersweet, Clethra alnifolia, produces spikes of white bottlebrush flowers in mid-summer. American witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, will bloom with yellow pom-pom flowers in fall.

Perennials To Plant With Mountain Laurel

There are several perennial plants that grow well under the shade of mountain laurel.

Create a natural woodland setting with flowering perennials such as solomon’s seal (Polygonatum sp), bunchberry (Chamaepericlymenum canadense), asters (Symphyotrichum sp), lilies, and goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus). Ferns are another great choice for companion planting with mountain laurel. Christmas fern in particular, Polystichum acrostichoides, is an evergreen fern that will provide green color around your mountain laurel all year long. Another evergreen perennial to consider is wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens. This small subshrub is related to mountain laurel and produces attractive red or white berries for pops of color when most perennials are finished blooming. 

Annuals To Plant With Mountain Laurel

Since they only live for one growing season, annual plants allow you to try new designs year after year. Grow mountain laurel with annuals suited for shade. Begonias are a shade-loving annual that come in a variety of flower and foliage colors, shapes, and forms. A grouping of begonias adds color under and around mountain laurel. Other annuals to plant with mountain laurel are alyssum and nemesia. These annuals grow best with afternoon shade and have long-lasting flowers that will continue to bloom once mountain laurel’s flowers have faded. 

Best Companion Plants For Mountain Laurel in Containers

Mountain laurel is a highly adaptable shrub that can grow well in containers. For designing container gardens with mountain laurel, try to choose a dwarf cultivar that grows and spreads no more than 3 feet. Select a pot that is big enough to accommodate the mountain laurel and additional plants. 

Coral bells, Heuchera sp, are perennial plants grown for their colorful foliage in hues of green, purple, red, and gold. These shade-loving plants lend themselves well to container plantings, especially when paired with mountain laurel. Ajuga is yet another shade-loving perennial plant grown for its attractive evergreen foliage in containers. Both coral bells and ajuga can be used to fill in space around the mountain laurel. 

Use trailing plants such as creeping jenny, also known as lysimachia, to add a fuller, softer look to your container planting. Flowering annuals such as alyssum and begonias can also be planted in containers with mountain laurel.

Plants Not To Grow With Mountain Laurel

Since mountain laurel can take the form of a small tree, avoid planting sun-loving plants too close to this shrub. Plants that grow best in full sun, such as coneflowers (Echinacea and Rudbeckia), salvia, and dahlias, are best planted where they will not be shaded out by mountain laurel. Additionally, do not select plants that cannot handle acidic soils. Mountain laurel requires a pH of less than 6 for best growth and health. When the pH is above 6, mountain laurels can become chlorotic (yellowing of the leaves) and nutrient deficient. Be sure that you select plants that can tolerate a low pH, and avoid plants that grow best in a more neutral pH soil. Plants that grow best in a pH of 6 or greater include daylilies, lilacs, and dianthus, so avoid planting these near mountain laurel. 

Best Plants To Grow With Mountain Laurel

The best plants to grow with mountain laurel are shade-loving plants that grow well in acidic soil. Woodland perennials like solomon’s seal, bunchberry, and goatsbeard are excellent choices for these conditions. Grow shrubs such as hydrangeas and witch hazels for a diverse shrub border, and annuals such as begonias and alyssum in containers and other plantings.

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Lauren Youngcourt - Published 10-13-2023