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Evergreen Shrubs and Their Best Companion Plants

Small evergreen shrubs are happy to mingle with other plants, often blending as well with ferns as with tulips. Their needles offer a great background and contrast to a huge range of other foliage types.

My favorite combiner is a smaller clematis scrambling its way around these beauties, such as Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’ cloaking ‘Blue Star’ juniper or C. ‘Gazelle’ adorning the needles of ‘Gentsch White’ Canadian hemlock. 

Small-flowered Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana' can scramble through and around an evergreen shrub, adding terrific color when it blooms in summer.

Small-flowered Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana' can scramble through and around an evergreen shrub, adding terrific color when it blooms in summer.

Two rules: plant the clematis about 18 inches from the base of the conifer and ensure the mature size of the climber would not smother the conifer (or any adjacent neighbors, for that matter).

Heather makes a nice companion to conifers with its cool-season flowering.

Heather makes a nice companion to conifers with its cool-season flowering.

Heaths and heathers are common companions to evergreen shrubs and they can do very well together. I love white-flowered heath gracing the more upright gray pines. Again, be sure not to crowd the base.

In woodland areas, ferns such as hart’s tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) and maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum) blend winsomely with the Siberian and Hinoki cypresses. 

Hart's tongue fern has strappy foliage that contrasts with fine needles.

Hart's tongue fern has strappy foliage that contrasts with fine needles.

For deep shade, mix in some big-root geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum) or sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) for a great mélange of textures.

Sweet box is another interesting foliage companion.

Sweet box is another interesting foliage companion.

Where winter appeal is especially important, low-growing evergreen shrubs look terrific alongside hellebores, grasses and the early snowdrops and crocus.

Image credits: Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana' by Mike Finn/CC BY 2.0; Hart's tongue fern by Ragnhild&Neil Crawford/CC BY-SA 2.0; sweet box by Olive Titus/public domain.