plant in front of boxwoods

What to Plant in Front of Boxwoods: Boxwood Companion Plants

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Are you wondering what plants that go well with boxwoods? In this guide, we discuss the best boxwood companion plants for your garden.

Boxwood (Buxus) is a very popular shrub that is often used in residential and commercial gardens. There are quite a few varieties of boxwood but the most popular boxwood varieties include the common boxwood or American boxwood (B. Suffruticosa), The Littleleaf boxwood (B. Microphylla), and the Green Mountain boxwood, also called the Green Velvet.

This ornamental plant is extremely popular because the shrub forms dense growth with lots of sturdy limbs and dark green leaves that can be cut into shapes.

Boxwood shrubs can be cut into all sorts of shapes. They are commonly cut into spheres, cones, rectangles, and hedges. Boxwood hedges are helpful for creating a backdrop for your garden while spheres and other shapes are practical for creating a focal point.

These beautiful evergreen plants don’t grow any flowers but they can be combined with flowering plants to conceal the ground in front of boxwoods or to bring some color into the garden.

In this guide, we are going to take a look at some perennials to plant with boxwoods.

Tips for Choosing Plants to Pair With Boxwood

Not all plant species are perfectly compatible with edging shrubs like boxwood because different plants require different growing conditions.

Boxwoods, for example, is an evergreen shrub that prefers a slightly shaded growing environment away from strong winds. These plants do not tolerate waterlogged conditions and should be established in well-draining soil.

To find plants that can accommodate these growing conditions, you can keep the following tips in mind.

  • It is a good idea to pair front yard boxwood shrubs with a shorter shrub or flowering plant so you won’t obscure the view of these gorgeous hedges.
  • Most gardeners suggest pairing with plants that have vibrant foliage so you can create more contrast between your hedge and the new garden plants. Companion planting with a similar-looking plant like Waterperry Blue, on the other hand, isn’t a good idea because these plants will blend too much and might reduce the overall appeal of your ornamental boxwoods.
  • Choose plants that are slightly drought tolerant, yet prefers to grow in shaded conditions. This is especially helpful since your boxwood will also cast quite a shadow over some surrounding foliage.
  • Keep the maintenance requirement of your new plants in mind. Boxwood bushes are perennial and evergreen. This means they stay green throughout the year and only require pruning to keep them in shape. If you don’t like a lot of maintenance then it might be best to find a companion plant with similar maintenance needs.

What to Plant with Boxwoods?

The boxwood plant is not an allelopathic plant. This means it won’t produce biochemicals that might affect the growth or development of vegetation in the surrounding soil. It is possible to grow just about any plant that has the same habitual needs as the boxwood next to it.

Some plant varieties do, however, fare much better as companion plants than other plants.

If you are wondering what plants go well with boxwoods then you should consider the following species.

Thyme

The thyme herb (Thymus) is at the very top of our list because this smaller plant is beautiful and has many practical uses.

Thyme is an aromatic perennial evergreen that grows low to the ground (6 – 12 inches maximum height). The leaves of this small bushy plant will blend well with the green background of your boxwood hedges and will do a superb job of hiding away bare areas below your boxwood shrubs. 

This short shrub blooms in spring and summer and produces tiny purple flowers that can make your garden look a little more vibrant.

The fragrant herb is commonly used to flavor foods but can also be used for medicinal purposes. This herb contains chemicals that could potentially relieve coughing, it acts as an antioxidant, and is believed to be helpful in fighting bacterial and fungal infections.

This herb is of Mediterranean origin but should take well to any location that isn’t too cold. Thyme takes well to any type of well-draining soil but you should be careful to plant it on the East side of your boxwood hedges. These perennials prefer full sun and can die out if they are placed in the shade cast by your boxwood foliage.

Begonia

Begonias (Begoniaceae) is an ideal solution if you want to brighten up your garden by adding lots of flowering plants. There are over 2,000 species of begonia which gives gardeners a huge variety of beautiful flower head colors to choose from.

Begonia varieties can look quite different from one another because they fall into three main categories; Wax begonias (B. Semperflorens), Cane begonias, and Rhizomatous begonias. The wax begonia is the most common of the three because these varieties produce vibrant flowers and bloom from early spring to late summer.

We recommend begonias for common boxwood hedges or larger species like the mountain green. This is because these plants typically reach a height of 8 inches up to 2 feet tall.

When planted in the right conditions, begonias can be low-maintenance plants. These plants will pair well with your boxwood foliage because they also prefer well-drained soil and need a planting area with partial shade.

Lilyturf

Lilyturf (Liriope Muscari), also commonly known as border grass or monkey grass, is a clump-forming evergreen that can often look like an ornamental grass with its long grass-like leaf blades.

When this perennial blooms, in late summer and throughout fall, it will produce tiny purple flower heads on spikes all over the foliage. After some time, these bright fragrant blooms will turn into small berries on a long stem. A field of these ornamental grasses can look like a beautiful purple oasis when these flowers are all in bloom.

Monkey grass is a smaller plant that reaches a maximum height of 12 – 18 inches in height. This height makes them suitable companions to grow along a boxwood hedge since they won’t overpower a hedge or rounded boxwoods.

Lilyturf is a great selection for a formal garden because they are evergreen perennial plants. As with your beautiful boxwood growths, this grass-like plant takes well to well-drained soil and requires regular watering. They should be planted in full sun to partial shade but can even be grown in full shade.

The low-maintenance plant also self-multiplies. You don’t need to invest in too many of these smaller plants because they will multiply within just a couple of months.

Angel Wings

Angel Wings (Caladium bicolor), also called Caladiums, candidum, elephant ears, pink cloud, and mother-in-law plants, are a great option if you want to brighten up your garden or create more contrast between a boxwood shrub and a surrounding lawn.

These bicolored perennials do sometimes form flower heads but are usually not grown for their flowers. Instead, garden enthusiasts choose this plant for its unique leaf design.

The heart-shaped leaves usually have a red or pink center and are outlined with green (There are over 1000 cultivars with various colors). The vivid red or pink (sometimes white) center draws plenty of attention and creates a bright contrast against a green backdrop. The unique leaf design of this foliage will also help create some textural contrast against the fine leaves of your growing boxwood.

Angel wings are best paired with taller established boxwoods because they have a maximum height of 12 – 30 inches tall. These plants prefer well-drained soil and can be grown in partial shade or even full shade.

One thing you should keep in mind about Angel wings is that the tubers cannot overwinter outdoors. You will need to dig them up and store them during winter and replant them again in early spring.

Vegetables

Some garden enthusiasts recommend you plant vegetables in front of boxwoods. Vegetables are always handy in the kitchen and some veggie plants can look very charming when you grow them around spheric or cubic bushes of boxwood.

There are a huge variety of vegetable types that will flourish in the same well-drained soil as your boxwood. We recommend you choose plants with mixed colors or contrasting textures so you can enhance the look of your boxwood hedges.

Some of the best vegetables to add in front of boxwoods include bush tomatoes because they produce tiny cocktail tomatoes that are healthy and offer great visual contrast. Frilly purple kale can also be a very ornamental vegetable to add along the borders of your boxwood. Pumpkin vines can also produce bright orange blooms and the large leaves of these plants can add lots of texture to your garden.

When you are choosing vegetable plants to plant in front of hedges, it is usually best to focus on varieties that do well in partial shade.

Sage

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is another good option to grow alongside green shrubs but you do need to be careful when selecting a cultivar since some varieties can grow up to 2 feet tall and may obscure the view to shorter hedges.

A common sage plant is an appealing option because it is edible and aromatic. Sage creates furry leaves with a greyish tone that will form good contrast against the dark green leaves of the boxwood bush. In the blooming season, they can produce tall stems of flowers with a blueish-lavender tone and a camphor scent.

Sage should be planted on the sunny side of your hedges because they prefer full-sun conditions.

Other Features To Add To Boxwood Gardens

A new plant is not your only option when you want to enhance the look of boxwoods in a garden. 

There are quite a few additional features that you can add around boxwoods or around the plants you grew in front of boxwoods that can make these gardens even more beautiful. 

Here is a quick look at other great features to add to this type of natural fence or ornamental plant.

Mulch

Expert gardeners recommend mulch around boxwood growths. This is because this type of foliage has shallow and delicate roots that can easily be damaged by traffic. An inch of mulch will add quite a bit of protection to the root system. Mulch will also nourish the soil and will help retain some moisture.

Just remember not to add mulch around the base of the shrub. This could create a damp environment and can leave your shrub vulnerable to diseases.

Retaining walls

Adding a retaining wall around your ornamental plants can help protect them from traffic. These walls will also create more contrast between the green shrubs and a lawn that might have the same hue. We recommend a light retaining wall color like sandstone hues for more contrast.

Walkways

Adding a walkway in front of boxwoods is another good way to create more contrast or make your shrubs stand out. This will also keep people and pets off your lawn and away from the delicate root system of your hedges.

Final Thoughts

There are many flowering plant varieties and other plants with high-texture leaves that can be grown in front of boxwoods.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will need to select a plant variety that won’t overpower your boxwoods and requires the same growing conditions as boxwood shrubs. Check our guide on how to grow boxwoods to learn more.

Once you have these two elements down, you can be quite creative with your garden design. A huge variety of other shade-loving plants like plantain lilies, lady’s mantle, Japanese holly, and black-eyed Susan can be a very attractive option for your garden.We hope that this guide was useful for finding a good plant to grow next to your boxwoods. We also welcome you to have a look at some of our other guides if you want to learn more about other beautiful plant species and shrubs for the backyard and front yard.

*Image by maykal/depositphotos

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