Issue 50
Foamflower Companions

Why do certain plants look and grow better than others near foamflowers? There are many reasons.

Growing conditions — One of the first things to consider is growing conditions. Foamflowers prefer at least part shade. Many will do fine even into full shade. All of the foamflowers are woodland wildflowers so they need soil that is moist but well drained with lots of organic matter.

Leaf color — Try pairing them with leaves of similar colors, like the dark greens and burgundies of hardy begonias or red coral bells to help bring out their unique markings. Or contrast them with bight greens and silvers, such as Japanese painted ferns or pulmonarias, to highlight the entire plant.


Texture — Texture is important in any garden, but especially in a shade situation. Choose companion plants that have contrasting leaves. Maidenhair ferns or fringed bleeding heart are fine textured and pair well with foamflowers. Or try larger leaves, such as bloodroot or hosta, for a completely different look.

Flowers — Last, but not least, consider flowers. Spring-blooming perennials with soft pastel flowers, such as blue brunnera, pink bleeding heart or purple sweet violets, combine well with the pale-pink or white foamflowers. Try to keep all of these things in mind as you plan a garden with foamflowers. To help you out I’ve put together a list of 25 perennials that I think make good foamflower companions.

Plant Name Cold / Heat
Height / Width
Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 6 to 14 in. / Indefinite
Many cultivars with colored and marked foliage; airy spires of small red, pink or white flowers in late spring; part shade
Blue sanicle Sanicula caerulescens 5 to 7 / 7 to 1 4 to 6 in. / 4 to 6 in.
Mounds of fine-textured bronze foliage; brilliant-blue flowers May to September; part to full shade
Brunnera Brunnera macrophylla 3 to 7 / 7 to 1 12 to 18 in. / 18 in.
Mound of dark-green, heart-shaped leaves; airy sprays of small, blue flowers from early to late spring; part shade
Celandine poppy Stylophorum diphyllum 4 to 9 / 9 to 1 18 in. / 12 in.
2-in.-wide, bright-yellow flowers in spring; large, deeply lobed, gray-green leaves; part to full shade
Coral bells Heuchera hybrids 4 to 8 / 8 to 1 12 to 30 in. / 12 to 18 in.
Many cultivars with colored and marked foliage; airy spires of small red, pink or white flowers in late spring; part shade
Liriope spicata
5 to 11 / 11 to 1 8 to 12 in. / Indefinite
Perennial with evergreen, grasslike foliage; pale-violet to white flowers in late summer; part to full shade
Dwarf goatsbeard Aruncus aethusifolius 3 to 7 / 7 to 1 12 in. / 12 to 15 in.
Mounds of fernlike foliage; spikes of creamy white flowers in early summer; part shade
Epimedium Epimedium spp. 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 10 to 24 in.
Pink, white and yellow flower colors; early spring bloom; evergreen foliage; part to full shade
European wild ginger Asarum europaeum 4 to 8 / 8 to 1 4 to 6 in. / 9 to 12 in.
Low-growing mound of glossy, evergreen foliage; inconspicuous brown flowers; part to full shade
Fringed bleeding heart Dicentra formosa 4 to 8 / 8 to 1 18 to 24 in. / 18 to 24 in.
Clump-forming perennial with fine-textured foliage; spring and summer blooming, heartlike flowers in shades of pink or white; part shade
creeping Jenny
Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’
4 to 8 / 8 to 1 2 to 4 in. / Indefinite
Bright-yellow flowers in late spring; gold foliage all summer; roots form along the stem; for the best leaf color, plant in part shade
Hardy begonia Begonia grandis 5 to 9 / 9 to 1 2 ft. / 1 to 2 ft.
Loose sprays of pink flowers from late summer into fall; green leaves have red veins and are red underneath; part shade
Hosta Hosta spp. 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 2 in. to 6 ft. / 2 in. to 6 ft.
Huge selection of sizes and leaf markings; easy to grow in part to full shade
Hybrid columbine Aquilegia hybrids 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 1 to 3 ft./1 ft.
Late-spring to early summer flowers in a wide range of colors; part shade to full sun
Japanese painted fern Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’ 5 to 8 / 8 to 1 12 to 18 in. / 24 to 36 in.
Silvery gray, fine-textured fronds with burgundy tints near the stems; part to full shade
Maidenhair fern Adiantum pedatum 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 10 to 18 in. / 18 in.
Fine-textured, branched fronds; stems are red-brown and glossy; part to full shade
Old-fashioned bleeding heart Dicentra spectabilis 3 to 9 / 9 to 1 2 to 3 ft./ 2 ft.
Clumps of arching stems with dangling, pink flowers; blooms late spring; foliage often dies down in the heat of summer; part to full shade
Pulmonaria Pulmonaria spp. 3 to 8 / 8 to 1 8 to 12 in. / 18 to 24 in.
Clumps of straplike leaves; many have leaves mottled with silver or white; early spring flowers in shades of blue, pink and white; many cultivars available; part to full shade
Polygonatum multiflorum
3 to 9 / 9 to 1 2 to 3 ft. / 10in.
Tall, arching stems with bright-green leaves; creamy white, bell-like flowers in late spring; blue-black fruit in fall; part to full shade
Spotted dead nettle Lamiastrum galeobdolan ‘Herman’s Pride’ 3 to 9 / 9 to 1 12 in. / 18 to 20 in.
Mounds of silver-variegated leaves; yellow flowers in spring; clump forming, not invasive; part to full shade
Sweet violet Viola odorata 5 to 8 / 8 to 1 6 to 8 in. / 12 to 15 in.
Fragrant flowers in shades of violet, pink and white; blooms in spring; very easy to grow; part to full shade
Sweet woodruff Galium odoratum 4 to 8 / 8 to 1 6 in. / Indefinite
Tiny, white flowers in late spring; foliage fragrant when crushed; pull to control spread; part to full shade
Vinca Vinca minor 4 to 9 / 9 to 1 6 to 8 in. / Indefinite
Periwinkle-blue or white flowers; evergreen foliage; shear to keep dense and control size; part to full shade
Virginia bluebells Mertensia virginica 3 to 7 / 7 to 1 12 to 24 in. / 12 in.
Colonies form by spreading roots and seed; nodding, blue flowers in early spring; goes dormant after flowering; part shade to shade
Woodland phlox Phlox divaricata 4 to 9 / 9 to 1 12 to 14 in. / 12 in.
Fragrant, blue flowers in late spring; part to full shade