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Wow-worthy plant combinations


This time of year is all about soaking in the garden and making mental (or more likely, photographic) notes about what worked and what didn’t. Some things are as simple as a plant that just didn’t perform or as complicated as being happy with how a design sketched on paper came to fruition. But somewhere in the middle is simple acknowledgment of particularly good plant pairings to be filed away for future reference.

Here are a few that I’m really loving this year.


There’s nothing like a bit of desperation to come up with something great. When the Nicotiana I had planted in this section of the circle garden ended up being a big, floppy mess, I ripped them out and frantically shopped online find anything that would fill in quickly, in time for a photoshoot in the garden. I got a combination of Salvia Unplugged So Blue and and Rockin’ Playing the Blues. But I was worried that they wouldn’t fill in quickly so transplanted some Jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) seedlings and ended up with one of my favorite color combos.


‘Tropicanna’ canna is doing all the heavy lifting in this combination. Those dark stripes pull out the best in ‘Thomas Edison’ and the icy cool blue of Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ brings this threesome to the next level.


I take no credit for this combination. I stole it straight out of a presentation by Roy Diblik and was captivated with it immediately. I’ve since learned that this combination is also featured at the Chicago’s Lurie Garden.

Gentiana andrewsii, the closed bottle gentian is a native that is a bit slow growing, but in time should bulk up nicely in this cloud of Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White’, which is probably in my top five favorite perennials. The combo, at its peak in late summer, is also great for pollinators. 


For bright, colorful impact in the shade, I’m not sure you could do much better than this combination. The impatiens, both from the new mildew resistant Beacons line, are planted in an old tree stump that I use as a simple planter, and the chartreuse Hakonechloa couldn’t work better with them. That pink-tinged hydrangea (Firelight, possibly) is a nice addition to the pairing as well. 


Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ has been an incredible success this summer, but it is the nature of elephant ears to have some very long, bare legs. That wasn’t the look I wanted for the urn, especially since it’s raised up, so I used Angelonia Superface Blue to shield some of those naked legs. The Angelonia has bloomed nonstop and done a great job to connect the tall Colocasia and the shorter plants in the pot. 


I used a ton of Plectranthus ‘Silver Shield’ in my garden this year, but it looked best in this spot where I combined it with gaura. I can’t tell you the specific gaura I bought (a white one) because I picked up several from different brands. I also let the Plectranthus bloom, which I don’t typically, but I think it worked really well.

What plant combinations are you loving your garden this year?

17 Responses

  1. Very pretty plant combinations! I love Calamintha – I planted it for the first time this year and it bloomed all summer and still is in bloom as of October 5th. A favorite combination of mine is Salvia May Night, Betony Hummelo, Happy Returns Daylily, and Echinacea Pow Wow Wild Berry. They all bloom at the same time and the color combination is stunning.

  2. Love the ‘Coffee Cops ‘ elephant ears in the spectacular urn. Kind of windy here in KS but will give it a try.
    The Plectranthus ‘Silver Shieid’ is a stunner. Perfect for my white garden. Thank you for your info, insights and inspiration.

  3. I love Gentiana andrewsii! with that Calamintha, I’ve gone to heaven. I already have two gentians, but they will now steal the show!

  4. Since I have Calamintha planted in numerous spots, that Gentian combo is going on my list. Onc of my groups of Calamintha is interplanted with Allium ‘Millennium’ and Geranium ‘Crystal Lake’. Just put that together a short while ago so next year will be the true test.

  5. I have a couple of the same plants and you can bet next year I’ll think a bit longer about placement. I’m sad to say I am a plop and plant person. My yard is being overtaken by shade, so sun is at a premium and reserved for my dahlias. Which I am happy to say I have, thanks to you. Before I found your YouTube videos I thought they were beyond my scope of garden talent. Now I will never be without a few…or 20. I love Iresine Herbstii Bloodleaf and it absolutely goes with every color dahlia I have, as a filler. It grows like crazy, loves to be cut back and the colors cannot be beat. I am going to use it next year as my repetition plant for a more cohesive look. Thank you for another great growing season of videos and blog posts.

  6. I used the salvia/ opar combo this year too. I will do it again next year. The humming birds love the Salvia. So fun to watch them flutter amid all the flowers 💐

  7. I really love the canna dahlia combo.

    My favorite combo in my garden this year was campfire and Vulcan coleus along with lime sweet potato vine and orange beacon impatiens planted in an old BBQ grill. It really sizzled!

  8. I loved pairing my guara with smoke bush and purple salvia. Moody and romantic. Also put rainbow euphorbia behind dwarf korean lilacs and it was a hit. Kids loved the color show!

  9. Orange crocosmia and purple perilla! Mixing various coleus colors with some of the fun varieties of sweet potato vine in pots. Red-orange annual vinca with annual blue plumbago, also in a pot. Umbrella cyperus with pale pink and dark purple scaevola around it’s ankles, in a pot. It’s so fun to do crazy combos in pots!

    1. “Best in show” for me was a triumph, from your suggestion, of Purple Hyacinth Bean Vine, grown from seed. It was a show stopper in three areas of my garden.

      I did learn that 2 seedlings are all my 10′ tall arch needs, because I used 3 on each side, 6 total, and it turned into a veritable jungle that I had to keep cutting back, in order to be able to walk through it!

      Along my short fence, I paired the vine with white echinacea and red cardinal flowers, grown in layers in front of the vine, which I trained onto a 4′ x 20′ wrought iron fence in the border along our drive way, on the sidewalk side of the garden. So many people stopped to admire and enquire as to what vine it was.

      I already have saved the seeds to repeat this vine again for years to come. Thanks so much Erin for teaching us about new plants!

    2. Love your blog and videos. Getting a lot of inspiration from you. Trying to find geranium maccorhizum seeds as well as Silver Shield Plectranthus. Any help finding these seeds would be real helpful. Thank you. Michigan Gardener

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