Gardening for beginners: combining plants (2024)

Published: Wednesday, 9 February 2022 at 9:29 am

Follow our garden design advice on combining plants in beds and borders.

Combining plants effectively is an essential part of the garden design process. By considering various attributes - plant type, size and habit; foliage shape; flower colour; season of interest - it's possible to create a harmonious, unified planting scheme. Contrasting, complementary and even, sometimes, clashing colours can all be harnessed to achieve particular effects.


In this No Fuss Guide, Joe Swift explains how to combine plants to make your borders look their very best throughout the year. Find out how to put plants together in terms of height, colour and winter interest, particularly evergreen structure:

Be inspired by our selection of choice planting combinations, below.

Combining different flower types

Different flower shapes can be grown together to bring depth to a planting scheme, while sticking to two or three bold colours ties the scheme together. In this blue and yellow scheme, yellow kniphofias take centre stage, with Russian sage and pale yellow coreopsis in the foreground, and purple toadflax dotted throughout. The variety of flower heights and shapes create depth and interest, while the different shades of yellow and blue create a unified feel.

Gardening for beginners: combining plants (1)

Using shades of the same colour

Different shades of the same colour can be used to dramatic effect. Here, bright orange geum 'Tangerine Dream' grows alongside the apricot-pink blooms of Verbascum 'Firedance'. Ornamental grasses act as a foil for both colours, while the pink astrantia 'Star of Beauty' offers a contrasting colour, which underlines the unity of the others.

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Using foliage to bring out flower colour

Plants with dark foliage can be used to bring out similarly coloured flowers, while ornamental grasses can soften a planting scheme. Here, the foliage of Hylotelephium 'Jose Aubergine' and Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' bring out the pink of round-headed garlic, Allium sphaerocephalon, while the pennisetum flowerheads soften the scheme.

Gardening for beginners: combining plants (3)

Planting flowers of one colour

Using one colour can be very effective, especially when using different flower shapes and heights. Here, white veronicastrum and Ammi majus bring a cool elegance and beauty to the border, while perfectly bringing out the fresh green of the foliage.

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Creating different planting styles

Sometimes plants can be used together to create a certain look or fit a certain style. Here, agapanthus and Stipa tenuissima work in an informal, prarie-style scheme, perfect for a hot, dry border.

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Using colour to create depth

Close shades of the same or different plants can work well. This combination of dark and light purple alliums brings greater depth and variety than would be achieved with just one variety. This technique can help to make small gardens appear bigger.


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Mixing styles

Mixing formal and informal planting can create a stylish, contemporary feel. Here, a formally clipped box square sets off the wafting catmint spires and rigid stems of the brightly coloured cirsium. Bronze-leaf fennel and Stipa tenuissima unify the scheme, while the euphorbia in the background sets off the different shades of blue and pink.

Gardening for beginners: combining plants (7)

Gardening for beginners: combining plants (2024)


How to combine plants in a garden? ›

By considering various attributes - plant type, size and habit; foliage shape; flower colour; season of interest - it's possible to create a harmonious, unified planting scheme. Contrasting, complementary and even, sometimes, clashing colours can all be harnessed to achieve particular effects.

How many plants should you plant together? ›

In general, plants with known positive relationships should be planted within two or three rows of each other. Plants that have negative or detrimental relationships, should be planted at least two to three rows apart. Infestation of pests or disease can occur more quickly if you plant all the same crop close together.

What is it called when you plant multiple plants together? ›

Sometimes this is positive and sometimes negative. Companion planting is the art of growing plants near each other, because of their ability to enhance or complement each other.

What plants grow well together chart? ›

Vegetables and Herbs Companion Planting Chart
PlantGood Together
PotatoBush Bean, Cabbage, Carrot, Corn, Horseradish, Onion, Parsnip, Peas
RadishBeet, Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Carrots, Cucumber, Lettuce, Parsnip, Peas, Spinach, Squash
SpinachCelery, Corn, Eggplant, Cauliflower
SquashCorn, Onion, Radish
15 more rows

How to combine two plants together? ›

Grafting and budding are horticultural techniques used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant. In grafting, the upper part (scion) of one plant grows on the root system (rootstock) of another plant. In the budding process, a bud is taken from one plant and grown on another.

What is the gardening rule of 3? ›

Three plants creates balance

If you have enough space, group them in an equilateral triangle. This looks particularly good with mounding or vertical plants. Be sure to leave some space between the plants, especially if they are three different kinds.

What are the best three plants to grow together? ›

The crops of corn, beans, and squash are known as the Three Sisters. For centuries these three crops have been the center of Native American agriculture and culinary traditions. It is for good reason as these three crops complement each other in the garden as well as nutritionally.

What should you not plant next to tomatoes? ›

10 Plants You Should Never Grow Next to Your Tomatoes
  • 01 of 10. Fennel. Fennel is not a good companion for any garden crop. ...
  • 02 of 10. Cabbage. Getty Images. ...
  • 03 of 10. Pole Beans. Neyya / Getty Images. ...
  • 04 of 10. Dill. Oxana Medvedeva / Getty Images. ...
  • 05 of 10. Corn. ...
  • 06 of 10. Okra. ...
  • 07 of 10. Potatoes. ...
  • 08 of 10. Broccoli.
May 18, 2024

What vegetables go well together in a garden? ›

Which Vegetables Grow Well Together?
VegetableCompanion PlantDon't Plant Together
PeasBeans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radish, turnipGarlic, onions
PotatoesBeans, corn, peasTomatoes
SquashCorn, melons, pumpkinsNone
TomatoesCarrots, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppersCorn, potatoes, kohlrabi
11 more rows
Jun 26, 2021

What is the best layout for a vegetable garden? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

Can 2 different plants grow together? ›

The main rule of successful cohabitation of different plants in one pot is that you can plant them together only if they have similar subsistence requirements. Pay attention to lighting, watering, temperature, ground mixture, and growth factors; they must be similar.

How do you layer plants in a garden bed? ›

Creating Horizontal Layers with Plant Material

There are two basic rules when arranging plants in the beds: 1) space the individual plants so that they touch each other when they reach their mature size, and 2) overlap the masses of plants and connect them so that they flow without space between them.

How do you mate two plants? ›

3. Plants can be pollinated either using a paintbrush or in some cases by rubbing the two flowers together. You can sometimes tell when the stigma is at its most receptive by the presence of a sticky or shiny solution appearing on the tip. In some plant types the stigma can also swell or change shape when receptive.

How do you make a hybrid of two plants? ›

It is achieved by combining the attributes of one plant with those of another; this is done by fertilizing one plant with pollen taken from another. This action is called a cross.

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