THREE EXPERTS TELL YOU – COMPANION PLANTS FOR BULBS!
We hear the mantra every September – “Fall is the time to plant bulbs!” Yes, that is true, but are you also wondering: “What companion plants do I combine with my bulb choices?” This is a good question to ask, and Blumen Gardens has the answers! We asked three experts of the horticultural world here in northern Illinois to give their three favorite and most successful companion plants for spring-blooming bulbs.
Our panel of experts: Jill Selinger – Continuing Education Manager, Chicago Botanic Garden, Carolyn Ulrich – Editor, Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and Katie Piper – Designer, Blumen Gardens gives us their expert insight!
Jill Selinger – Manager of Continuing Education, Chicago Botanic Garden
- Geraniums – Shorter cultivars such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’ or ‘Brookside’ with their blue-purple blooms weave around and through the garden, providing a nice undergrowth for mid-sized bulbs. Also Geranium ‘Biokovo’ (white with pink accents) works well!
- Nepeta – This purple blooming, fragrant perennial is beautiful along with bulbs such as mid-season daffodils and tulips. Try varieties like Tulipa ‘Purple Prince’ or ‘Pink Impression’ and Narcissus ‘Mount Hood’.
- Daylilies and Daffodils– This is always a classic combination—by the time the daffodils are fading, the emerging daylily foliage covers the yellowing foliage of the daffodils.
JILL’S ADVICE FOR PRAIRIE PLANTINGS & NATURAL AREAS: Grasses such as Sporobolus and Sesleria mix well with minor bulbs such as Allium moly, muscari or chionodoxa luciliae. These combinations create a lot of interest. The grasses and bulbs have similar foliage texture, so when they are planted together a seamless flow of blooms and glassy foliage forms. As the flowers die, the ornamental grassed grow up to cover them.
Carolyn Ulrich – Editor, Chicagoland Gardening Magazine
- Bergenia is a superb companion plant for tulips and daffodils. Blooms of Bressingham came out with a smaller leaved bergenia a few years ago. Carolyn has been exceedingly impressed with her sample plant. It has nice early pink flowers and foliage that turns somewhat burgundy in fall
- Hellebores – Also known as Christmas Rose, the part-shade/shade perennial is one of the earliest blooming. Hellebores will be in their prime when the early minor bulbs such as Gallanthus begin to flower, and they are also lovely with daffodils.
- Phlox subulata is a wonderful groundcover to have growing with bulbs. This phlox and its blanket of foliage and blooms looks splendid with spikes of bulbs poking up through. For that matter – plant any variety or height of tulip, daffodil, allium or smaller bulbs amidst other groundcovers such as Vinca, Pachysandra, Euonymous, Ivy, Lamium, Creeping Jenny.
CAROLYN’S ADVISE FOR WOODLAND PLANTINGS: For early spring, Carolyn recommends planting bulbs with woodland ephemerals. She loves the combination of the bulb scilla ‘spring beauty’ with perennials Liverwort (Hepatica), Rue anemone (Thalictrum), and Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). Bloodroot is also a favorite. She stresses that you can’t plant just one. Plant a cluster of these woodland ephemerals at the base of whatever larger bulbs you’re growing. The wildflowers may not stay in bloom very long, but neither do the early-flowering bulbs. They will shine together and then make way for the next blooms to come!
Katie Piper – Designer, Blumen Gardens
- Hostas and Daffodils are always a winner! In the shade garden, bulbs planted around large hostas provide interest while waiting for the hostas to emerge and fill out their space. Once the daffodil blooms are finished, the large hosta leaves grow up and cover unsightly, strappy foliage.
- Grasses – Combine the early-greening and upright Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ with enormous flowering Allium giganteum or plant the native grass Sporobolus heterolepsis with Allium christophii. These combinations create a lovely, natural effect.
- Larkspur – pair this true annual with any of the taller growing Allium spheres such as Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Allium ‘Ivory Queen’ or Allium “Mount Everest”. Either choice in Allium color – bright purple or white – will complement the bright blue spikes of the Larkspur.
KATIE’S ADVICE FOR FULL SUN COMBINATIONS: Think outside the box and combine Sedum with Bulbs. Interplant Crocus, Species Tulips or shorter varieties of Allium amidst Sedum acre or Sedum sieboldii. Not only will the blanket of foliage texture be a lovely backdrop to the bulbs, but the wave of bloom color washing across the garden bed will also be stunning underneath the bulbs!