Spring Flowering Bulbs for Groundcover or Filler

My Garden Life
September 27, 2021
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A blaze of annual blooms at the height of summer is a wonderful sight. Equally, an established bed of perennials gives structure to a garden and repeated enjoyment year after year. But with both types of planting, there’s often a period in spring where a garden could use more color.
Bare soil of borders and beds looks untidy, becomes a haven for weeds and is generally an unwanted if temporary feature of the year’s early weeks. A great solution to this problem is to plant spring bulbs to fill in the seasonal gap, either as a solo groundcover or as a companion plant alongside slowly awakening perennials.

Why Plant Bulbs that Bloom in Spring?

grape hyacinth blooming among Hosta and sedum plants

1. Spring-blooming bulbs appear quickly and provide a welcome burst of post-winter color, as well as helping to cover bare soil with their leaves. What’s more, once the weather starts to turn warmer, many flowering bulbs die back and create space for plants that take longer to come into season.

2. Most varieties are also able to hold their own among perennial groundcovers. Descended from wild plants that thrived amid native grasses, they’re not overly sensitive about spacing and competition. These flowers will happily poke through surrounding plants to display their blooms.
3. And lastly, spring bulbs are easy to grow and will return year after year so long as you do a little maintenance after they flower.

Best Spring Bulbs to Plant with a Perennial Groundcover

Fritillaria

close up of fritillaria flowers in the spring garden

Fritillaria bulbs offer a wide variety of bell-shaped flowers, with a more formally ornamental look than most spring bulbs.

Grape Hyacinth

close up of grape hyacinth flowers in the spring

More formally known as Muscari, grape hyacinth produces clusters of blue flowers on stems 6 to 9 inches (15-23cm) tall.

Miniature Daffodils and Tulips

clump of bright yellow daffodils blooming in a garden border

Sharing the same general shapes and colors as their full-size relatives, dwarf daffodils and tulips grow quickly to a small size for ideal springtime groundcover.

Scilla

scilla plant in full bloom growing next to a tree

Also known as squill, scilla produces blueish flowers in early spring and can tolerate cold winters easily.

Tips for Planting Spring Bulbs

Enjoying spring bulbs can be as simple as planting the bulbs in mid-fall and waiting for the new growing season to arrive. But for the best results, here are some tips and tricks to bear in mind:
  • Plant the bulbs while the soil is still relatively warm. Enrich the planting holes with a little rotted compost to give growth a head start in spring.
  • Don’t worry too much about neat spacing. Bulb planting is one occasion where a dense natural look with clumps and gaps is the best approach.
person planting daffodil bulbs in freshly tilled garden soil

  • Match the heights of the bulbs you choose to any surrounding plants. Plant smaller bulbs among lower groundcover plants, taller ones among native grasses and so on.
  • Plant the right bulbs for the light and drainage conditions. Many bulbs are woodland varieties that can handle shade, while others prefer plenty of sunshine.
  • Some bulbs spread rapidly, others more slowly. Be careful of planting fast-spreading plants close to ornamental beds or other areas you want to keep clear.
grape hyacinth and daffodils blooming in a woodland border

  • Consider the typical flowering times of the bulbs you want to plant. This ensures they’ll come and go before they compete with later plants in the bed.
  • Also, consider planting several kinds of bulbs with staggered flowering times to enjoy a long-lasting display. From snowdrops through daffodils to tulips, you can extend the spring bulb season for months.

After Flowering, Remove Faded Blooms

To ensure a good display the following year, it’s important to give the bulbs a chance to replenish their reserves. Remove dead flowers from the stems as they appear, but leave the plants in place. They’ll continue to convert sunlight into the energy they’ll need to return in spring.
daffodil plants at end of bloom season with wilting and drying spent flowers

Once the leaves start to die away, trim the plants back to soil level to tidy things up. But if you’ve planted the bulbs among vigorous perennials, the newly growing plants may cover up the fading remains long enough for them to degrade and return their nutrients to the soil.
For more expert advice on growing these essential early-season plants, check our spring-flowering bulbs guide for tips on planting, feeding, garden design and more.
spring display of yellow and white flowering bulbs and perennial flowers

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