23 Complementary Companion Plants for Japanese Maples

Japanese maples are often found in gardens for their striking leaves and unique shape. However, their appeal can be even greater when planted alongside complementary flora.

These companions not only complement the aesthetic of the Japanese maple but also create a diverse ecosystem that benefits all plants involved.

In the following, we will explore 25 complementary companion plants that can be paired with Japanese maples, each with its unique characteristics and growing requirements.

Companion planting can be beneficial and rewarding, but there is much more to learn! Discover the key care aspects, different varieties, problems to watch for, and much more in my Japanese Maple Guide.

1. Hostas

Several hostas planted under a tree with a wagon wheel for aesthetics.

Hostas are a popular choice for companion planting with Japanese maples. Their lush, broad leaves create a beautiful contrast with the delicate, lacy foliage of the Japanese maple.

  • Growing Zones: 3-9
  • Light Requirements: Partial to full shade
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

2. Ferns

Close look at a fishtail sword fern.

Ferns add a touch of elegance and an interesting texture to the garden. Their feathery fronds pair well with the intricate leaves of the Japanese maple.

  • Growing Zones: Varies by species, most commonly 3-9
  • Light Requirements: Partial to full shade
  • Mature Size: Varies by species, typically 1-6 feet tall
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

3. Azaleas

A row of pink azaleas in full bloom in a shady yard.

Azaleas are renowned for their vibrant spring blooms. The color of their flowers can create a striking contrast with the foliage of the Japanese maple.

  • Growing Zones: 4-9
  • Light Requirements: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Mature Size: 2-8 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Spring

4. Rhododendrons

Purple rhododendrons in full bloom in spring.

Rhododendrons, like azaleas, offer spectacular spring blooms. Their large, glossy leaves also provide a nice contrast to the delicate foliage of the Japanese maple.

  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Light Requirements: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Mature Size: 2-10 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Spring

5. Japanese Forest Grass

A row of Japanese forest grass.

Japanese forest grass, with its cascading, bamboo-like foliage, adds a soft texture and movement to the garden, complementing the Japanese maple’s structure.

  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Light Requirements: Part shade to full shade
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

6. Bleeding Hearts

Pink blooming heart flowers up close.

Bleeding hearts are cherished for their unique, heart-shaped flowers. They add a touch of romance to the garden and pair well with Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 3-9
  • Light Requirements: Part shade to full shade
  • Mature Size: 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Spring

7. Astilbes

Feathery pink astilbe flowers.

Astilbes are known for their feathery, plume-like flowers and fern-like foliage. They thrive in the same conditions as Japanese maples and make great companion plants.

  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Light Requirements: Part shade to full shade
  • Mature Size: 1.5-5 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide
  • Season of Interest: Summer

8. Japanese Anemones

Pretty Japanese anemones blooming happily.

Japanese anemones produce delicate, poppy-like flowers in late summer and fall, extending the season of interest in the garden when paired with Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
  • Season of Interest: Late summer to fall

9. Evergreen Ground Covers

A close look at light-purple vincas blooming.

Evergreen ground covers, such as vinca or pachysandra, provide year-round interest and a lush carpet that contrasts beautifully with the upright form of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: Varies by species, typically 4-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to full shade, depending on the species
  • Mature Size: 6-12 inches tall and spreading
  • Season of Interest: Year round

10. Hellebores

A clump of white and dusky pink Hellebores.

Hellebores, also known as Lenten roses, bloom in late winter to early spring, providing early-season color that complements the budding leaves of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 4-9
  • Light Requirements: Partial to full shade
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Late winter to early spring

11. Japanese Iris

A purple Japanese iris up close.

Japanese iris, with their elegant, sword-like foliage and stunning blooms, adds a touch of sophistication to any garden and pairs well with Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 5-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
  • Season of Interest: Late spring to early summer

12. Camellias

Pretty pink camellias blooming on a healthy bush.

Camellias are known for their glossy, evergreen leaves and large, showy flowers. They offer a stunning contrast to the delicate, colorful foliage of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 6-10
  • Light Requirements: Partial sun to partial shade
  • Mature Size: 6-12 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Fall to spring, depending on the species

13. Coral Bells

Pretty light-purple coral bells in garden.

Coral bells, or heucheras, offer a wide range of foliage colors from vibrant reds to deep purples, making them a great match for the Japanese maple.

  • Growing Zones: 4-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 1-2 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

14. Dwarf Gardenia

A lovely gardenia bush covered in fragrant white flowers.

Dwarf gardenia, with its fragrant white flowers and glossy-green leaves, adds a touch of elegance and a sweet aroma to any garden.

  • Growing Zones: 7-10
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Late spring to early summer

15. Forsythia

An untrimmed forsythia bush in full bloom in spring.

Forsythia is known for its bright yellow flowers that bloom in early spring. The vibrant blooms contrast beautifully with the emerging leaves of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 5-8
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-10 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Spring

16. Barberry

A branch of Rose Glow barberry with small white flowers.

Barberry shrubs, with their thorny stems and colorful foliage, offer a unique texture and a pop of color that complement Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 4-8
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 1-5 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

17. Nandina

A nandina bush with clusters of red berries.

Nandina, also known as heavenly bamboo, offers multi-season interest with its evergreen foliage, spring flowers, and fall berries.

  • Growing Zones: 6-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-8 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide
  • Season of Interest: Year round

18. Dwarf Conifers

Several mounding dwarf conifers in a rock garden.

Dwarf conifers, such as dwarf spruce or juniper, provide year-round structure and color, making them an excellent companion for Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: Varies by species, typically 3-8
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: Varies by species, typically 1-6 feet tall
  • Season of Interest: Year round

19. Mountain Laurel

A branch of mountain laurel in full bloom.

Mountain laurel is known for its stunning, cup-shaped flowers and glossy, evergreen leaves. It offers a beautiful contrast to the delicate, colorful foliage of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 4-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 5-15 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Late spring to early summer

20. Viburnum Shrubs

A viburnum bush loaded with pretty white flowers.

Viburnum shrubs offer multi-season interest with their fragrant flowers, colorful berries, and vibrant fall color. They pair well with Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 2-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 2-15 feet tall and wide, depending on the species
  • Season of Interest: Spring to fall

21. Daylilies

Cheerful yellow and orange daylilies blooming happily.

Daylilies are cherished for their vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They add a splash of color to the garden and complement the Japanese maple’s foliage.

  • Growing Zones: 3-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Season of Interest: Summer

22. Spring Bulbs

Two pots of purple tulips set in front of a tree.

Spring bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, bloom in early spring, providing a burst of color that complements the budding leaves of Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: Varies by species, typically 3-8
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to part shade
  • Mature Size: Varies by species, typically 6 inches to 2 feet tall
  • Season of Interest: Spring

23. Creeping Sedum

Green creeping sedum growing among rocks in garden.

Creeping sedum, with its succulent leaves and star-shaped flowers, tolerates drought well and offers a unique texture, making it a great companion for Japanese maples.

  • Growing Zones: 3-9
  • Light Requirements: Full sun
  • Mature Size: 3-6 inches tall and 1-2 feet wide
  • Season of Interest: Summer to fall

Closing Thoughts

Choosing the right companion plants for your Japanese maple can enhance its beauty and create a more diverse and healthy ecosystem in your garden.

From the lush foliage of hostas to the vibrant blooms of azaleas, each of these companion plants listed above brings something unique to the table.

By considering their growing requirements and seasons of interest, you can create a garden that offers beauty and interest throughout the year.

If you enjoyed this article, you should also check out: