Companion Planting With Bulbs
So, you want to grow bulbs but aren’t sure what to grow them with. We hear that all the time. While you could, of course, have a dedicated bulb garden (nothing at all wrong with that, in our opinion!), we most often tuck bulbs in and around other plants. Or, in this case, tuck other plants in around your bulbs.
Now, the thing with companion planting with bulbs is that you have to combine plants carefully. You want to be sure they are all getting what they need, and that there is interest in that garden during most times of the year. But we downloaded Easy to Grow Bulbs’ Jim Threadgill’s brain for his best tips on companion planting, and this is what he told us:
Combine plants that have a similar culture. And by culture we don’t mean all Swedish plants (is there such a thing?); we mean what those plants all need in terms of sunlight and water. That means no Cacti (low water plants)planted around Colocasia (medium to high water bulbs), for example.
That being said, know what kind of sun you have. While that also sounds like a funny statement, it’s quite true: Not all sun is created equal. If you live in southern California or the Deep South, your sun will be stronger than, say, the sun in Nebraska or Maine. So if a plant tag says “full sun,” you can probably get away with pushing the envelope with part sun or dappled sun if you live in one of those strong sun states. Start experimenting and see what happens.
Pop in some annuals. Annuals are a no-brainer companion plant for bulbs. They provide form and color as bulbs’ foliage is just starting to pop up out of the ground, and they do a great job of hiding fading bulb foliage as well. Plus, they’re a perfect watering reminder—when the annuals need water, bulbs do, too. What could be easier?
Tuck bulbs in around perennials. Perennials really are the workhorses of the garden, creating loads of contrast for flowering bulbs by way of size and texture. Growing perennials is a great opportunity to play around with the color wheel, too. Planted some sunny yellow flowering bulbs? Contrast them with purple-flowering perennials! Want a more monochromatic look with your red-flowering bulbs? Try orange- and yellow-blooming perennials.
- Don’t forget those evergreens! No great garden exists without them. These plants create that steadfast structural backdrop in the garden, help form planting areas, and give valuable height. And let’s not forget that their green foliage gives the eye a place to rest from all of the color and flowering and whatnot of the bulbs, annuals, and perennials.
Now, we all think Jim’s a genius, but what we really want to know is, what are your favorite bulb + companion plant combos? You might have a dream team planting we’ve never even considered!
- Katie Elzer-Peters