The Q&A Archives: Tulip Bed and Perennials

Question: I have a 10x5' bed planted with about a hundred or so tulips. In April and early May, it's gorgeous. However, the rest of the spring and summer it's empty. What perennials can I plant that won't harm the bulbs? I also have a bed full of hyacinth and iris. Any ideas for that area?

Answer: It can be difficult to mix perennials with tulips for several reasons. The tulips bloom relatively late and must grow and mature their foliage which takes a long time, well past when the perennials begin to grow. The perennials tend to have deep enough roots and larger crowns so that they interfere with the tulips. And watering the perennials to keep the soil evenly moist may cause the tulips to be too wet during the summer. In my experience, tulips seem to do better in their own separate planting area. If however you want to try to mix summer flowers with the bulbs, you might try something like marigold or cosmos that will grow in full sun and well drained soil with little if any supplemental watering. Or, you could arrange the plants in such as way that the tulips are in clusters with perennials in front and to the side of the tulips rather than on top of them. If you try this, a traditional companion is the daylily.

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