show some free seeding companions

Moccasin(z9aMobileAL)July 7, 2014

I can always use something which is a polite and lovely free seeding companion plant. I don't worry so much about them choking the hosta, since I am a pothead. However, I like to have the pots nestled in the protective shade of nice companion plants.

Most of what I have is the liriope muscari, which spreads by underground runners. I have some which is 2 foot tall (well, within an inch or so of being that tall), and I'd like to have a bit more variety in the sunny end of my garden. The liriope is better for the shadier locations.

The new section is the north end of the 25 foot wide x 100 foot long hosta garden. It currently has blueberries in two rows and a few roses against the privacy fence. One boundary to the east is the 7 foot tall jasmine-covered chainlink fencing. I want to locate my largest pots in between the blueberries, which may soon find themselves without a home. Also at this end will be my "garden bench" potting area, not especially pretty under the best circumstances, but utilitarian and as nicely arranged to look like honest tools of a do-it-yourself gardener. That will go in when the fencing guy shows up to install the latticed screen to shade the 40 foot long strip of garden now exposed to the western sun. Currently I'm using about 5 big patio or market umbrellas which I do dearly love, and without which I'd have many crispy critters instead of lovely hosta. But, their shade is fleeting and only "spotty."

I'd much prefer to keep the plants in some sun and the pots in some shade. Therefore, I'd like to see some free seeding plants which can prevail against mulch and pine bark and shade my black pots and the exposed earth thereabouts.

I love gold and green. I also have huge rosemary officinalis in the front on the west of my house, but I do not think it will like being watered so much. It works well where it is because all the plants are able to endure dry conditions. It is in a bed I do not water......well, DH has a drip hose there, but I don't think he watered that bed this summer so far....

Any ideas and pictures please? Tell me how you use it and how extensively it reseeds. I don't worry about "too much" because I have hundreds of wild birds coming to the smorgasbord of insects, worms, water, and fruits already present. .

Gotta take the SUV and pick up more mulch and compost/manure bags at Lowes. After while, Crocodiles!

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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Mocc, I've been giving your request some thought and have come up with two suggestions so far that came to me quickly.

1. Aquilegia aka Columbine

2. Alchemilla Mollis aka Lady's Mantle

Both seed freely, both like the sun (here at least) and both are very attractive amongst hosta. I will take some photos when the sun goes down. Right now it is so hot and the humidity is so high you can wring your shirt out, lol. I cannot imagine your heat...mine is bad enough.

Alchemilla is blooming right now but the columbines are almost all done...I have pics at the ready though. I'll compose a collage for easier viewing instead of posting several pics individually as is my habit. See you a bit later. :-)


P.S. I have no idea whether these are even available in your area. Just throwing out suggestions.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 4:12PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Found a photo from yesterday of lady's mantle.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 4:56PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Agree with columbine. Easy to control and although some folks say they're hard to transplant, I've never had a problem moving them around.

Same plant with montana Aureomarginata and a Pinus parviflora.

Look for ones with upward facing flowers.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 6:21PM
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I like columbine too. They do tend to seed easily everywhere, sometimes in unexpected, far away places. I find that if you cut off the seed stalks before they open that will prevent unwanted seedlings. I keep the stalks until they are dried then just shake them out over the areas where I want them to be.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 6:27PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Here are various the very busy picture there is a white columbine near top right..I have more colours that the bees have helped with..a light mauve but I can't seem to get my hands on it.

Even after the flowers are done the foliage remains a pretty cool looking blue/green. They like the sun here and like TJ mentioned, I've not had problems transplanting them either.

Do you like HEUCHERAS? They too would look great in your garden to shade those hosta pots. I've found some delightful surprises this season....heuchera unexpected places! Here's a peek.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:00PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Free seedlings that found themselves inside the dwarf Thalictrum aka Meadow Rue pot. They could be Heuchera 'Blackout' or Palace Purple seedlings which were in the area of the pot of meadow rue. :-). My first heuchera seedlings ever! I left some stalks to dry out last year and got rewarded.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:16PM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Does anybody have problems with spider mites or worms on their columbines?? A few years ago I did and was grossed out and instead of spraying I yanked all the plants out!! Oops!!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:21PM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Sea hollies also seed freely and get annoying,, the mother plant just gets massive.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 10:22PM
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tj, YOU JUST bowled me over with that picture of the purple columbine and the pinus parviflora with its cones and the H. montana aureomarginata. That is seriously beautiful, brings out the best and the very DIFFERENT nature of each plant.

If I didn't already have the m. aureomarginata, I'd go right out and buy it tonight. I'll have to look for the columbine, the aquiligia (?sp)

I think we might be on the outer limits for heuchera like we are for nasturtiums (but I got to grow both of them to my heart's content up in zone 5b MA).

Sometimes there are look-alikes that can take the conditions here, provided they freeseed w/o invasiveness. I might have to ask that question of someone local...although I trust you guys to know what to mix with potted hosta. .

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:58PM
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Ligularia "Britt Marie Crawford" and Ligularia "Midnight Lady".

Both drop lots of seeds in the fall and lots of seedlings in the spring (many of which I pot up and give away.)

Pictured is Lig. BMC. I bought the original plant 8 or 9 years ago. Gave some seedlings to a friend, who gave me this seedling spring of 2012.

If anyone is interested I have a bunch of these potted up. ready to give away....I am in Oshawa



    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 7:33AM
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I'm making notes of all the ones mentioned so far.
Now. What about that really fine looking gold thing that spreads?

Creeping jenny? Which doesn't seem to really "creep"?
And how do you use solomom seal or whatever it is? Isn't that yellow too?

I have a good bit of milkweed, but that is tall, and it gives shade too, plus it invites the butterflies into the garden.All I must do is keep DH from doing his efficient weeding....he does not recognize good seedlings from the bad ones. He specializes in growing VEGGIES. :)

Want to hear a funny thing? He is shaving....not to go anywhere....but to go work in his garden. I suppose that is reason enough to spruce up. He pulled out the tomato and squash yesterday. Now for some other crop. Raised beds, square foot gardening.

Both of us like to see seedlings growing.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 11:56AM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Moc, you must really enjoy all those nice fresh veggies. One of my neighbours grows veggies and shares. I give her hostas and perennials which need dividing.

I'm really liking the corydalis lutea seedling which decided to self-seed beside Queen Josephine. Such an intelligent plant. LOL says it is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9 in partial to full shade, blooms from early to mid-summer. I like the delicate foliage. I used to have a blue flowering one, which survived only 2 seasons because I tried to divide it. I haven't been able to replace it.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 12:33PM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

I'm really enjoying everyone's pictures of their seedlings and hosta companions.

Jim, I lost my ligularia,'Osiris Fantaisie' over winter but I see some seedlings coming up. In your experience, do your seedlings come true to the mother plant? I bought Othello and wish I had bought Britt Marie Crawford. I think the BMC's foliage is much darker and nicer.

Jo, that heuchera looks like Palace Purple to me. It self seeds in the crevices of our retaining wall. Blackout has never produced seedlings for me. your dwarf Thalictrum is so cute.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 12:47PM
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irawon(5a Ottawa)

Moc, here's another free seeding perennial that is supposed to be good up to zone 9: campanula carpatica.. there's also a white flowering one. I haven't tried campanula persicifolia (taller) with my hostas but it is pretty. I would stay away from campanula glomerata though, because I find it invasive...unless you have an area where you can contain it.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 6:32PM
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Of course! I've seen those down here somewhere. I like the star shapes after the flowers drop too. The leaf and growth habit reminds me of nasturtiums, the most happy flower of them all. But, not for here, sad to say. And talk about aphid magnets, that is what I was told they were planted to draw the aphids away from other more desirable plants. Can you imagine? I wouldn't want to DRAW the aphids anywhere near any plant. And when the stems became covered in black mushy gooey BLACK STUFF, I learned that aphids come in multiple colors. Not just lime green. But that does not keep me from liking the look and carefree habits of nasturtiums. I could go for the campanula. I'm writing down the specific varieties to avoid and to choose properly.

Thanks, Irawon, and everyone else for the brainstorming you are doing for a spot rather a wee bit out of your comfort zone! But you know how they mix with hosta. No one here has any IDEA about what works with hosta, both in the same water requirements and life cycle compatability.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 10:52PM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

The only Ligularia I have is what the call the rocket.....two plants of them. Green leaves. James I like yours nice and dark leaves.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 11:25PM
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I looked up The Rocket ligularia (not the Bottle Rocket, or the Little Rocket, but The Rocket). It likes wet conditions, maybe even in a bog....which I don't have, but I have something just as good, and that is the a/c condensate drip from the Teahouse. Hirts website says they ship dormant in the winter. I'll be redoing that bed this winter, making it "hosta copaceti" and even if ligularia grows 5 feet tall, it will be a welcome sight. The unruly elephant ears now in that spot are too undependable and really sloppy looking. My taste has changed as my love for hosta grows, I'd rather something different now, if you know the feeling?

So I'm making note of the ligularia, and looking for the shorter versions of it too. Wow...5 feet tall.....It will like it here.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Rocket Ligularia Hirts

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 12:30AM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Wow, 5 feet tall?? Well mine don't get that tall. One is by the AC also and water tap which has a drip when we turn it on so he's always watered. The second and oldest one is obviously not in ideal area but it thrives. Its in my shade garden under an ash tree. It blooms and does all its supposed to do except get that tall. It might get three feet, and yes its definitely the rocket.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 1:11PM
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Not kidding about corydalis lutea, I just pulled mine out last week, no worries, I have a billion more. It is lovely and Corydalis comes in a few different varieties.
My recommendation is perennial geranium Samobar. I grow several types, but Samobar is a prolific reseeder. Tall, green and purple leaves, dark small flowers that open above the leaves. My neighbor lets it freely grow in her hostas and i was shocked at how striking it looked threading among the leaves so delicately, its dark flowers dangling everywhere. When the bloom is over she lets it set seed, then trims it back to her tastes.
The really nice thing about it is, i had one plant in my hostas and when I realized it reseeded and I decided I wanted a cleaner look, it came out without becoming the nuisance some plants do.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 2:02PM
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Moc there is a garden trick to planting Lingularia if you don't have the right conditions. You did a hole for the plant at least 3' x 2'deep. Line the bottom with a plastic bag , slope the bag up the sides of the hole a bit, as if you are making a shallow bucket. Do not poke holes in the plastic. What you are doing is making a reservoir of damp soil, underneath the plant. Fill it all in making sure that soil in that ground is wet. , keep filling , and plant your lingularia. I planted several in a row, so i dug a long ditch and used thick black trash bags. This is year three, there are 4 plants tucked behind the downspout, the last is smaller, and may be planted too far from the buried bog. Oh, there is a geranium planted in there too.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 2:21PM
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I noticed a few suggestions for columbine. I'm pretty sure columbine won't thrive in your zone. It struggles here in zone 7a - too hot and too acid, I think. I grew it in Montana with huge success - not hot and alkaline and it did seed freely.

One plant that I grew when I lived in north Louisiana (8a) was hymenocallis. It doesn't seed itself, but it grows quickly and then can be divided and redivided. I loved it. Big strappy arching green foliage and tall white flower stalks. It did well in sun or part sun and was carefree. I divided it frequently by just chopping down into the clump. I remember once throwing half a root/bulb section onto the compost pile because I thought it was ruined, and a few weeks later it was growing like crazy in the leaf mold. My kind of plant, and I would guess it might like your yard. It looks wonderful as a specimen and also as a long border.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Hello Moccasin,
I had another idea. Balsam. It is an annual, but self sows freely and in your zone probably will do best in part sun/part shade. Very easy to grow, it was the plant we always chose to grow with the girl scouts because of the ease. A little forest of balsam among your pots might look very nice. Comes in pink, lavender, rose, raspberry, coral and white, bicolors and spotted, but in my experience seems to revert to coral. The touch-me-not seed pods are fun and bring out our inner child.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Eleven(Metro Detroit 6A)

Corydalis lutea is a great reseeding perennial. Mine actually prefer the sunnier areas and croak every time I try to transplant them to shade. Though I think that may be more an issue of rocky (i.e. well draining) soil in the sun. You can also try Corydalis Blackberry Wine. It reseeds like crazy and blooms purple.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 10:31PM
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I ordered seeds for a lot of things so to sow in the ground.
Then I'm noticing that Jo has a columbine like one of the Origami series in pink.....I see this site online selling the plants.

Would this be too late in the year to get the plants? Should I rely on the seeds only? I really would like to get 2 of the blue Origami and 2 of the pink or red Origami since my bed will be ready to go by first of next week.

Sam the fence guy says Monday for sure they will be here to install my tall latticed screen. After that I'll be able to raise/elevate a bed for companion plants, and locate the pots between the planted companions. Next spring perhaps I will try some duplicates of my hosta in the ground in this location too. A lot depends on how my experimental in-ground bed along the driveway survive the winter. The coming winter will mark their second dormancy in the ground here. Cross your fingers.

I'm also about to order some alchemilla mollis (I think that is what it is)....oops, they are out of stock. Maybe later.
My clematis include C. florida sieboldii, c. diamantina, and Sweet Summer Love.

Any other suggestions, please add them. I'm finding that the plants can take from zone 3 or 4 to zone 9b.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:54PM
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I have to agree that the combo of purple columbine, pinus parviflora with its cones and the H. montana aureomarginata is very very eyecatching...great photo!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:59PM
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Hi, DBarron, I notice on your member profile you've been around since 2001, but where do you hang out? Hope you stay with us a while. We like other plants besides hosta too, just that is the one we cannot stop talking about.

Welcome aboard!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:19PM
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With the corydalis lutea, I'm afraid my seeds won't produce much in my climate. This is what I read about them:

Blooming from May through September, Corydalis prefers well drained areas in full to part shade and will naturalize if conditions are met. Suitable for borders, rock, cottage and woodland gardens, this hardy perennial is intolerant of hot and humid summer conditions, and wet soil in winter that does not drain well. Hardy in zones 5-7 and reaches around 16 inches in height and will spread around 12 inches wide.

Chances are not good for this beauty, since the prime characteristic of our climate is hot humid summers and wet winters. Well, all I can do is put them in the ground and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, I have these columbines/aquilegia PLANTS, as well as seed (which are no problem), and I don't know quite where to put them now. Pot them up? They are in very small maybe 4 inch nursery pots squares, and look good, but of course not flowering. I like their looks, do not want to kill them just yet. :)

Must download some photos taken this morning early. See you folks later.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:08AM
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I know you asked for free-seeding, but you might like Crocosmia, which propagates with corms. It is good in zones 5-9 -- lucky you, they naturalize easily in zones 6 and up. I guess I will have to mulch mine in the fall and hope they make it through the winter. I had no luck overwintering Cannas...

Cannas could make great sun-loving, shade-making companion for your Hosta garden, and I believe they are good in pots too, so you could even move them around to cast the shade where it's needed.

Pictured here is Crocosmia 'Lucifer' arching over a young Sum & Substance.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:02PM
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Indeed, the cannas do create a good bit of shade. I have one pot of it, Tropicanna it's called. It lost some of its colorful striping, faded in the long rays of western sun. But as long as I keep the leaf roller worms out of it, it looks good. I also have Bengal Tiger (yellow/green stripes) spreading in the front flower bed near the street. It reminds me of variegated ornamental ginger, which I also have in the ground. I think potting both of those for a trial would work for next year.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:05PM
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mountainy man z8 Ireland

This is Ligularia przwalskii, it is the most reliable ligularia that I have grown it self seeds but not madly like alchamilla mollis does. I have tried the rocket and the slugs really enjoyed it!, I also have another purple leaved one called othello or desdemona not sure, its something Shakespearean anyway lol. it does okish here fairly good leaves but few flowers, I like the deep cut leavea on przwalskii more and they are quite varied on the same plant. Bees love it too!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:24PM
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mountainy man z8 Ireland

Close up of of one of its leaves.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:26PM
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mountainy man z8 Ireland

I had to include this Aquilegia, I rescued it from a "Death row" shelf in a garden centre a couple of years ago, I don't know its name but I really like it.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:37PM
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I can see why you like that Ligularia przwalskii.....but saying the name must be a tricky thing.

I have some aquilegia columbine on my back deck waiting to do something with them, but honestly I don't know what. Yours just above this post is intensely purple but almost looks tissue origami thin. I'm liking columbine more all the time.

If I plant my columbines out in the ground now, what will happen? They have no blooms, will thus set no seeds. I don't want to lose them, but perennials are going dormant at some point anyway, should I pot them and baby them along with my hosta and put them in the ground after they go to sleep? Will these plants come back? Or not? I did not read about that part.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:45PM
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mountainy man z8 Ireland

Ya the name is a bit of a mouthfull lol.

I have quite a few aquilegias that are kinda muddy pink/purple some double others single, this one is a bit of a star in comparison and I will be scattering seed hither and yon.
The aquilegias are tougher than their delicate flower belies, they have a fairly deep series of thin tap roots and will grow anywhere in my experiance, I have seedlings come up in the hard packed stone of my driveway. I would get them in the ground now and let them get their roots established before dormancy a la hostas.

They don't like to be transplanted according to all the books but I've found that if you do need to move them if you bring a decent ball of earth with it, it won't know it went anywhere.

Now all that said with the caveat that I'm gardening in a soggy wet place most of the time and the only knowledge of Alabama I have comes from Forest Gump lol ( that was Alabama wasn't it? I love that film.) good luck with them.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:28PM
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