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Companion plants for spring bulbs

By: Garden Gate staff
Combine the right perennial plants with your spring bulbs for lasting beauty. Here are our best tips for finding the right companions and a list of our favorites!

Good perennial companion plants for spring bulbs: Here you can see hostas and hellebores make great perennial companions along with tulip bulbs.

Flower beds filled with spring-blooming bulbs look marvelous in the spring, but what happens when the heat of summer arrives and the bulbs fade? Keep your garden full of beautiful blooms by planting perennial plants that complement the bulbs in spring and then become the center of attention when the season turns. It can be difficult to coordinate which perennials will fill this role well, but we’ve made it simple. Read through our 6 tips for choosing the right companion plant for your spring bulbs, and then peruse our lists of perennial plants below to find something that will take your garden from good to “goodness, this is amazing!”

6 tips for choosing companion plants for your spring bulbs

  1. Choose companion plants with similar growing requirements. Below you’ll find companion plants for hot, dry sun, plants for moist soil and plants for the shade.
  2. Choose perennials that are short when the bulbs are in bloom so they don’t block the view.
  3. Plant perennials first and then plant the bulbs 6 to 12 inches from them.
  4. Include perennials that don’t need frequent division so you won’t disturb the bulbs.
  5. Choose perennials with dense foliage to disguise the ugly yellowing bulb leaves.
  6. Extend your enjoyment by choosing plants that bloom later than the bulbs.

Good Companion Plants for Hot, Dry Sun

Plant Name Botanical name Size Light USDA Hardiness Zones Comments
Basket-of-gold
Aurinia saxatilis
6 to 12 in. tall and 9 to 12 in. wide Full sun 3 to 10 Yellow flowers and silver foliage complement spring bulbs; prefers well-drained, sandy soil; great front of the border or rock garden plant
Catmint
Nepeta x faassenii
12 to 36 in. tall and wide Full sun to part shade 3 to 8 Lavender-blue flowers bloom from midspring to fall; covers ripening bulb foliage; cut back by half midseason to keep tidy
Coreopsis
Coreopsis spp.
9 to 48 in. tall and 12 to 24 in. wide Full sun 3 to 7 Bright yellow, white, pink or red flowers attract birds and butterflies; blooms complement late-spring and summer bulbs; pest-resistant and low maintenance
Cranesbill
Geranium spp.
6 to 36 in. tall and wide Full sun to part shade 4 to 9 Mounding habit covers ripening bulb foliage; flowers in shades of pink, purple, blue and white bloom from midspring to fall; cut back old foliage to 4 in. after flowering
Garden phlox
Phlox paniculata
12 to 48 in. tall and 12 to 36 in. wide Full sun to part shade 3 to 9 Flowers in many shades of lavender, pink, red and white; mid- to late summer blooming won’t overshadow spring bulbs
Globe thistle
Echinops ritro
36 to 40 in. tall and 18 to 24 in. wide Full sun 3 to 8 Round blue flowers bloom in summer; deep taproot means it doesn’t need dividing so you don’t have to disturb bulbs
Peony
Paeonia spp.
24 to 48 in. tall and wide Full sun to part shade 3 to 8 Flowers of various colors and shapes bloom in spring; mounding foliage covers ripening bulb foliage; rarely needs dividing
Speedwell
Veronica spicata
6 to 18 in. tall and 18 in. wide Full sun 7 to 1 Blue, white or pink flower spikes start blooming in midspring; complements mid- and late-spring bulbs; well-fed plants may require staking
Tall sedum
Sedum hybrids
18 to 24 in. tall and 18 in. wide Full sun to part shade 3 to 9 Rose flower clusters in late summer attract butterflies; low maintenance, so won’t disturb bulbs; drought- and heat-tolerant
Thyme
Thymus serpyllum
1 to 2 in. tall and 10 to 12 in. wide Full sun 4 to 8 Dense carpet of bright pink flowers begins blooming in early summer; prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soils; fragrant foliage

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Great Companion Plants for Moist Soil

Plant Name Botanical name Size Light USDA Hardiness Zones Comments
Bergenia
Bergenia hybrids
8 to 24 in. tall and 12 to 24 in. wide Part shade 3 to 10 Pink to purple flowers bloom in spring; shiny, leathery leaves stay clean through summer; leaves turn purple-bronze in fall
Brunnera
Brunnera macrophylla
12 to 18 in. tall and wide Part to full shade 3 to 7 Leaves cover ripening bulb foliage; true blue flowers bloom in spring
Coral bells
Heuchera spp.
6 to 18 in. tall and 10 to 24 in. wide Part shade 2 to 9 Stalks of delicate red, pink or white flowers bloom in late spring; variety of variegated and purple foliage colors; morning sun and afternoon shade prevent leaves from scorching or bleaching
Daylily
Hemerocallis hybrids
8 to 60 in. tall and 12 to 48 in. wide Sun 3 to 9 Flowers in nearly every color; long bloom season, many rebloom
Japanese sweet flag
Acorus gramineus
12 in. tall and wide Sun to part shade 5 to 11 Bright green, evergreen foliage; tolerates moist to wet soils; slowly naturalizes
Toad lily
Tricyrtis spp.
24 to 36 in. tall and 12 to 24 in. wide Part shade 5 to 9 White, purple or spotted flowers in summer to fall; prefers moist, acid, fertile soil; complements late-blooming bulbs
Virginia bluebells
Mertensia virginica
12 to 24 in. tall and 12 in. wide Part to full shade 3 to 7 Early spring blooms complement bulbs; leaves fade by midsummer; prefers rich soil

Good companion plants for shade

Plant Name Botanical name Size Light USDA Hardiness Zones Comments
Bleeding heart
Dicentra spectabilis
24 to 48 in. tall and 18 to 30 in. wide Part shade 3 to 9 Pink or white flowers hang from arching stems in spring; foliage dies back in summer heat; plant in moist, well-drained soil; pest and disease free
Caucasian comfrey
Symphytum caucasicum
6 to 36 in. tall and wide Shade 3 to 9 Mounding habit covers ripening bulb foliage; flowers in shades of pink, purple, blue and white bloom from midspring to early summer; plant in dry shade; cut back old foliage to 4 in. after flowering
Columbine
Aquilegia spp.
12 to 24 in. tall and 12 in. wide Part shade to shade 3 to 9 Bright and pastel flowers bloom in spring; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies; deadhead faded blooms to prevent unwanted seedlings; tolerates poor, dry soils
Hellebore
Helleborus spp.
12 to 36 in. tall and wide Part shade to shade 4 to 8 Blooms in late winter to early spring; flowers in white, pink, yellow, green or burgundy; tolerates dry soil
Hosta
Hosta hybrids
4 to 48 in. tall and 10 to 60 in. wide Part shade to shade 3 to 9 Enormous selection of leaf colors, sizes and shapes; white or lavender flowers bloom in summer; plant in moist, well-drained soil; slugs and snails may eat leaves, but won’t kill plant
Lady’s mantle
Alchemilla spp.
4 to 18 in. tall and 12 to 24 in. wide Part shade 4 to 8 Chartreuse to yellow flowers in early summer; mounding leaves cover ripening bulb foliage; tolerates more sun in cooler zones; plant in moist, well-drained soil
Lily-of-the-valley
Convallaria majalis
8 in. tall and wide Shade 2 to 7 Fragrant, white or pink bell-shaped flowers in late spring; prefers moist, well-drained soil; no serious pests; all parts of plant are poisonous to people and pets
Lungwort Pulmonaria spp. 6 to 12 in. tall and 15 to 40 in. wide Shade 3 to 8 Mounding habit; rough leaves with silver markings; pink, blue or white flowers in early spring; deadhead faded flowers; plant in moist, well-drained soil
Periwinkle
Vinca minor
3 to 6 in. tall and spreads up to 36 in. wide Sun to part shade 4 to 8 Lavender-blue flowers in spring continue sporadically through summer; tolerates full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soils
Sweet woodruff
Galium odoratum
6 to 12 in. tall and 9 to 12 in. wide Part shade to shade 3 to 9 Tiny white flowers in spring; can be aggressive, but easy to pull; thrives in moist soil
Published: May 3, 2012
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