Best Companion Plants for Spring Bulbs
I love the way spring bulbs look in a naturalized setting. But I like them even better when they are blooming in a garden among other plants. Virginia bulb grower Brent Heath agrees. He describes these companion plants for spring bulbs as “socks and shoes” plants because they cover the bulbs’ feet.
I can think of at least two other good reasons for mixing spring bulbs with annuals and perennials. When the bulbs are in bloom, these companion plants set them off with a framework of complementary colors and textures. Once the bulbs pass their prime, these partner plants cover or distract your eyes from the fading flowers and foliage.
So Many Great Options to Choose From
My gardens are filled with thousands of spring-blooming bulbs, and over the years I have experimented with lots of different plant/bulb pairings. You’ll find some recommendations below. Note that my list does not include violets and sweet woodruff (which you can see in the photo above). While they are excellent socks and shoes plants, I find they can also be thugs!
If you grow your spring bulbs in containers, you’ll find that many of the recommended companion plants work as well in pots as they do in the garden.
Best Annual Companion Plants for Spring Bulbs
Gardeners in climates with mild winters (zones 8-10), can plant cold tolerant annuals in the fall, right on top of freshly planted bulbs. If you prefer to direct-seed rather than use transplants, sow the seeds in September so the young plants have time to harden-off before winter. Otherwise, wait to sow the seeds until November so they don’t sprout until it’s closer to spring.
In colder climates (zones 3-7) you won’t be able to plant annuals until early spring when garden centers start offering 6-paks of cool season annuals. Add these plants to bulb-filled containers or put them directly into your garden. You’ll find it doesn’t take many plants to make a difference.
Cold-tolerant annuals that pair well with spring bulbs include pansies, violas, wallflowers, alyssum, stock and snapdragons. Others are calendula, forget-me-nots, nigella, cerinthe, bachelor’s buttons, annual lobelia, annual poppies, larkspur and Chinese forget-me-not.
Best Perennial Companion Plants for Spring Bulbs
These are plants that emerge early and may even flower at the same time as your spring bulbs. Foliage plants that bulk up quickly (like hostas and ferns) are especially valuable for hiding yellowing bulb foliage.
My favorite perennials to combine with spring bulbs include: primroses, Virginia bluebells, brunnera, bleeding heart, cushion spurge, trillium, columbine and lungwort. Others are lamium, hellebore, epimedium, candytuft, dwarf bearded iris, bloodroot, dutchman’s breeches, ajuga, oriental poppies, creeping phlox, hostas, ferns, lady’s mantle and hardy geraniums.
Plant recommendations are tricky, because the same plant can perform very differently depending on where you live. As with all things gardening, you will need to experiment. But this makes it all the more rewarding when you come up with a great match.
You can shop our complete selection of spring-blooming bulbs HERE. They are available for pre-ordering in April. Shipping begins in late September and continues through November.
For more information about gardening with spring bulbs, you may be interested in reading: