With showy blooms, peonies can easily be the star of the show in any flower bed. Yet, they often need a garden buddy.
These spring bloomers demand a couple of things from their companions: cold hardiness and full sun tolerance. Of course, some plants take it to the next level by providing structural support or weed control.
Let’s check out a list of 15 peonies companion plants, from evergreen ground covers to maple trees!
Bluebells or grape hyacinth is an early spring bloomer hardy in USDA zones 4–8. As the name implies, these beauties are known for their bell-shaped crystal blue flowers, but some varieties carry white, lavender, pink, or yellow flowers.
Regardless of the color, they all have the same shape. The plant is petite, with a height of 6–9 inches and a spread of 3–6 inches. So, it’ll be a nice head-turner under the peonies.
That’s good news because bluebells handle both full sun and shade well. They also don’t mind most neutral soil types, but you’ll need to reduce watering frequency after blooming.
Narcissus (better known as daffodils) and peonies have been a classic combo for centuries—it’s even immortalized in art!
We’d also say it’s a beginner-friendly pick; the flower only needs well-drained soil and regular watering during the growing season.
The common narcissus flowers are white and yellow, but you can also get them in orange and pink.
Sometimes, daffodils bloom before their companions, starting around late winter. Then, just as the daffodil’s foliage withers, the peonies should start their own bloom and steal the show.
Black-eyed Susan is a short-lived perennial that shares the peony’s cold hardiness (zones 3–9), water needs (an inch per week), and sun-loving nature.
Once you tick those boxes, you’ll get a bloom of yellow, orange, or red daisy-like flowers all summer and fall.
The plant is as tall as the peony, or maybe a bit shorter, with an average height of 2–3 feet. So keep that in mind when you’re sowing, which you should do around mid-spring to early fall.
Garden phlox is a great companion if you’re looking for a summer bloom that works as a background but still adds a burst of color. Whether lilac or white, the flowers complement pink and white peonies perfectly!
For best results, transplant an established phlox into a spot with neutral soil and full sun. The growing season is the right time to do so.
The trick here is that you’ll want to keep the phlox and its buddy away from fences—or any area with poor air circulation, for that matter. That’s because the species is susceptible to powdery mildew.
Much like the peony, the camellia is a long-lived flowering plant suitable for beginners. Give it two waterings weekly, rich soil, and the occasional deadheading, and it’ll reward you with gorgeous blooms (white, pink, red, and yellow) that last from fall to mid-spring.
It’s hardy in zones 7–9, and some varieties can grow to 10 feet. They take their sweet time to mature, though.
Visuals aside, camellia shrubs can provide structural support for fragile peonies. Plus, the evergreen foliage means you won’t be left with a bare spot when the blooms fade.
The catch is that camellias prefer dappled shade. So, a canopy could come in handy.
One way to offset the peonies’ puff-shaped flowers is to pick a companion with interesting shapes. Foxglove with tall spikes carrying bell-shaped summer blooms is a prime example!
Pink and purple foxgloves are the top picks, but there are also yellow, white, and red cultivars. We’d also recommend going with nursery plants over growing from seeds.
Foxgloves grow as biennials in zones 4–10 and thrive in rich but slightly acidic soil. Just don’t let the pH drop below 6.5. This way, you’ll keep both foxgloves and peonies happy.
If you liked how the foxglove spikes paired with round peonies, you’ll probably love the popular salvia varieties as alternative companions.
You can opt for common sage (Salvia officinalis) with blue-purple summer blossoms. Alternatively, scarlet red salvia can make white peonies pop. Some varieties are short, while others can grow up to 5 feet.
Regardless of which color combo you pick, you’ll want to plant salvia in the spring. Your odds are better if you pick somewhere that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun.
Bearded irises and peonies make a fantastic spring border. For one, they’re both nearly the same height and bloom together. Plus, the visual balance between the iris’ ruffled blue blooms and the delicate white and coral peonies is perfect.
In terms of care, both plants share the same cold hardiness, prefer rich neutral soil, and don’t do well in shade.
Most irises will work in this case, but we find that the bearded iris’ bushy look takes things to the next level. Either way, most irises are best planted in late summer to early fall.
Most of these varieties are hardy in zones 3–9. Additionally, they’re pretty low-maintenance and drought-tolerant once established.
All in all, they do best when transplanted in spring and protected from high humidity.
Just keep in mind that coneflowers can grow to 5 feet. So, planting them next to peonies might be a better fit than in front of them.
Columbine flowers, in general, are splendid companions to peonies. They attract pollinators, aren’t picky about soil, and look classically beautiful. However, the stellata variety (commonly referred to as Black Barlow) stood out to us.
Picture this: a spring bed of delicate white peonies with a short (around 30 inches) sprout of dark plum flowers. Wouldn’t that be a head-turner?
To ensure that your black barlow thrives, sow the seeds in spring somewhere with full sun or partial shade. The plant will also benefit from rich soil, which peonies love!
Just as the name implies, hardy geranium isn’t a demanding plant. This is obvious from its minimal water and light requirements. The best you can offer it is rich soil with adequate drainage.
For an evergreen ground cover, we’d recommend the Czakor or the Ingwersen varieties. They’re both hardy in zones 3–9 and produce late spring or early pink summer blooms. However, the Ingswersen stands out with pine-scented leaves.
As a bonus, the geraniums will help protect the peonies from weeds.
Yet another ground cover to consider as a companion for peonies is campanula Dalmation bellflower.
The perennial bellflower readily sees when planted in spring. It only grows to a height of 3–6 inches but spreads easily.
Plus, the bellflower shares the peony light, soil, and watering preferences. It also happens to be hardy in zones 4–8. Besides a touch of compost, it doesn’t need any fertilizers.
If all goes well, you should spot tiny blue or violet blooms in late spring.
Blue baptisia (false indigo) is a tall perennial plant hardy in zones 3–9.
It’s rather tall, with an average height of 4–5 feet. If you’re in a rush, you can grab an established plant from a nursery. Otherwise, you’ll wait 3–5 years for the plant to mature.
Either way, you’ll get tiny late spring to early summer blooms perched on long spikes. This look contrasts nicely with the large, round peonies.
What we love most about baptisia is how low-maintenance it is. The biggest task is setting up support to keep the plant upright.
If you’re willing to play the long game, paperbark maple is a marvelous companion.
Paperbark maple is a deciduous tree hardy to zones 4–8. Its main features are peeling copper-colored bark and trifoliate leaves. It can grow up to 30 feet tall, but only after 20 years or so!
This long journey usually starts in spring when you plant the tree in neutral to slightly acidic soil and keep the roots moist for the first few growing seasons. After that, the maple pretty much takes care of itself; it doesn’t need fertilizer or major pruning.
When the tree is all established, you can get a nice peony border going nearby.
The snowdrop windflower’s simple beauty won’t compete with the peony for attention.
It’s a perennial hardy in zones 4–8 and is mostly used as a neutralizing border. In April, it adds to the garden’s aesthetic with fragrant cup-shaped white flowers. However, it’s not the bland kind of white; there’s a core of yellow anthers in the middle.
While the snowdrop windflower is low-maintenance, it could use humus-rich soil and pruning. Plus, you can propagate it by division in early spring.