Friday, January 28th, 2011...12:00 am

Companion Planting or Underplanting

companion planting at Heligan, Cornwall by RoseBridger

As the snow sits on the lawn, TheGardenLady is sure that her readers are dreaming of the day the bulbs start pushing up their leaves.  This is a sure sign that the flowers will soon open signaling spring. This spring I am looking forward to hyacinths and tulips and other bulbs, because last fall I planted so many more bulbs.

One of the concerns when planting bulbs is the leaves after the flowers have died. We now know that it is important to NEVER cut the leaves after flowering so that the bulb will get the nutrition needed for next year’s flowering. And we now know that we should not tie the leaves in a bundle- a method that was used to make the leaves more controlled looking after bloom time. So what should one do with the unsightly leaves until they completely die back later in the season?

What should one do to hide the now boring leaves? There is something called underplanting or companion planting – planting other plants near or over the tulips or daffodils or other bulbs so that the second planting will come up after the bulbs have bloomed and the newer leaves of the later plants will hide the leaves of the bulbs. Some people plant annuals around the bulbs so that the annuals will bloom the rest of the season after the bulb area looks boring.

But others plant perennials near or over the bulbs so that the work is less intensive after the initial planting. But what perennials are the best companions for the various bulbs?

We are in luck. Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture has taken the guessing out of which plants to use next to each kind of bulb in the garden.  See here. Their combinations are well thought out so that the leaves of the bulbs after flowering will be hidden and the gardener will have a long period of flowers after the spring bloom of the bulbs.

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