15 perennials to plant with tulips

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Do your tulips need some company? While tulips are lovely in spring, they can leave the ground bare for the rest of the year. There’s often bare ground in the early spring, and again in the summer after the foliage dies. It’s a perfect opportunity for succession planting and companion plants! Let’s dig into the perfect perennials to plant with tulips.

Low-maintenance, drought-resistant perennial plants like flowering groundcovers, native woodland flowers, and foliage plants are the best companion plants for tulips. Avoid perennial plants that need frequent water and fertilizing in mid-summer. This “TLC” can rot your tulips during the summer months.

Read on to learn all about the best perennial plants to grow alongside tulips.

Here are 10+ great options for perennials that return year after year to plant with your tulips:

Arabis plant

1. Arabis

Arabis is a lovely flowering perennial groundcover to plant with your tulips. This plant tends to bloom at the same time as many tulips, creating a beautiful backdrop to your living tulip bouquet in the landscape. Also called rock cress, this plant is available mainly in shades of white, pink, and purple.

2. Aubrieta

Aubrieta is another great choice for a low-growing flowering perennial that blooms alongside your tulips. It has a similar growing habit to arabis, and is mainly available in purple tones.

3. Crocus

Crocus bulbs are much smaller than Tulips and can be planted in the same bed. These little flowers will come up first thing in the springtime while the tulips are still waking up. They are kind of like a preview version of the future tulip flowers! Some later-blooming spring Crocus varieties will bloom alongside the tulips to create a layered look in the flower bed.

Some of my favorite Crocuses to plant with tulips are:

4. Grape hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth, or Muscari, is another early spring bloomer that pairs well with tulips. These dainty little flowers dot the landscape between tulips and return reliably each spring. Larger hyacinth varieties can also pair nicely with blooming tulips. Muscari/Grape Hyacinth tend to be purple or lavender-blue in color. Here are some of the best types to grow:

Brunnera forget-me-not jack frost at nursery

5. Brunnera

Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), sometimes referred to as the Great Forget-Me-Not, blooms alongside tulips in the springtime, but its attractive foliage remains attractive during the summer (unlike tulips). You will enjoy the beautiful foliage that will make your tulips garden look beautiful during the entire growing season. It creates a blossoming carpet of heart-shaped silver leaves with green veins. Here are some classic Brunnera varieties:

If you are looking for a foliage perennial that will retain its striking look during the whole growing season, Brunnera is certainly a great plant to consider. Brunnera is resistant to pests, diseases, deer, and rabbits and is a low-maintenance plant overall.

Brunnera and hellebore by juniper hedge
These brunnera and hellebore plants are in a partial sun garden bed in front of an evergreen juniper hedge.

6. Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are a great companion for tulips planted in shadier spots. They have lovely foliage which is a soft complement to the long leaves of the tulips. They are also low-maintenance, thus making them one of the best perennials to plant with tulips.

Both plants have foliage that dies back to the ground during summer. Consider including a later part-shade perennial plant like hosta or astilbe in the area to minimize the extent of bare garden soil later in the season.

7. Snowdrop Anenome

The Snowdrop Anenome (Anemone sylvestris) is a charming European woodland perennial with low green foliage and simple white flowers. This enthusiastic plant is drought-resistant and does not require extensive watering that can harm tulips. Its foliage is also similar in color to tulip leaves, and can somewhat camouflage the dying tulip foliage after the tulip bloom.

Creeping phlox in white with pink centres for around the tulips

8. Creeping Phlox

Ah, Creeping Phlox!…. it’s a sure sign of spring. If you are wondering what perennials to plant with tulips, be aware that creeping phlox is certainly a popular option. Since Creeping Phlox creates a strikingly fine-looking carpet, the tulips in your garden will have a perfect partner. The dying Tulip leaves do stick up through the phlox, but the pretty little flowers more than make up for it!

9. Hellebore

While not a common combination, it’s possible to plant tulips alongside hellebores. The secret is in the planting site location. Tulips are full sun plants while hellebores are more partial shade. BUT – in the early spring, under deciduous trees, both perennials can thrive.

Before the canopy of the tree above fills out, the tulips can bask in the full sun. By the time the extreme heat of the summer mid-day sun arrives, the tulip plant foliage will have died back to the ground, and the leathery dark hellebore leaves will be shielded by the tree canopy. Here are some beautiful Hellebores to consider planting:

Just like the above-mentioned perennials, hellebores are easy to take care of, which is an added advantage. Hellebores are known for their attractive foliage and abundant blooming capacity in winter and early spring. Furthermore, they have evergreen foliage that remains beautiful all year-round. It is important to note that they are deer and rabbit resistant, so you don’t have to worry about them being eaten up.

Globe allium blossoms | home for the harvest gardening blog

10. Allium

Ornamental Alliums are flowering spring bulbs (like tulips), but they tend to bloom a few weeks later than tulips. Alliums that have leaves of a similar size to those of your tulips can help keep the greenery area somewhat green as the tulip leaves fade. The succession flowering of the Tulip-to-Allium sequence can also be very satisfying to the gardener who loves to always have something in bloom.

11. Daylily

The daylily (Hemerocallis) is an excellent companion plant for tulips. It grows similar strap-like foliage in the spring, which it then retains for the whole summer. The arching daylily foliage helps to hide the dying leaves of the tulip spring bulbs. And once the tulips are truly done blooming, the daylilies will start to flower (making daylilies a great perennial match for tulips). The daylily is one of the best companion plants for tulips due to its similar foliage, later flowering, and low maintenance requirements. Daylilies are also very easy to plant!

Dying tulip leaves with growing green ornamental grasses planted with them
Dying tulip foliage gathering its last energy from the sun for the season while camouflaged by green ornamental grasses

12. Ornamental Grass

Ornamental grasses, like the classic Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass, are an excellent companions for Tulips. These plants are not cut right back to the ground, and therefore have some dead (while often neatly trimmed) foliage around the bottom during the same time as the tulip foliage is fading. But then, these beauties take over with lush green leaves and wheat-colored stalks. And best of all, they are very low-maintenance, drought-resistant, and won’t require the kind of maintenance that would harm your tulip bulbs.

11. Woodland Forget-Me-Nots

Woodland Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sylvatica) make an ideal groundcover for tulips. The green leaves with blue flowers provide the perfect backdrop for your tulips. It’s a delightful sight to watch. Once the tulips in your backyard fade, forget-me-nots will keep the garden bed attractive. Forget-Me-Nots are one of the most common perennials to plant with tulips.

Asiatic lily foliage in may before blooming
Here is what the foliage of asiatic lily plants looks like in mid-may (zone 5) as the tulip blooms are fading.

13. Asiatic hybrid lilies

Asiatic Lilies are an excellent companion plant for Tulips. They sprout and bloom later than Tulips, and they have a lovely bright green foliage-covered stalk. Choose shorter varieties to interplant with tulips if you’d like the Lilies to be about the same height as the tulip flowers. Taller Asiatic Lilies can be planted behind the tulips to give a beautiful green backdrop which then follows the tulips into bloom.

Columbine flowers are an excellent perennial to match with tulips

14. Columbine

Columbine is a woodland flower that blooms after Tulips. The blue-green foliage grows to 12″-24″ tall, making it a feasible option to plant with tulips around your garden. Columbines are easy to grow and don’t need excess watering or feeding (key when pairing plants with tulips). Additionally, they have different color ranges and bi-colors, which can guarantee you an attractive garden all year long. Consider this perennial to improve the beauty of your backyard!

Veronica speedwell foliage in may before blooming with tulips behind it
Here is a veronica plant in mid-may. The tulips behind it have just bloomed, but the veronica has yet to bloom.

15. Speedwell/Veronica

Veronica (Speedwell) is another flowering perennial that blooms after tulips. It has light green foliage while the tulips are blooming. The ensuing blooms are tall, spiky, and available in a whole host of colors. Most Veronica types are about 2 feet tall, but there are also some shorter varieties that would mix well with shorter tulips.

Tulip bulbs in the garden

Perennials to plant with tulips

These perennial plants pair well with tulips to create an ongoing show of blooms in your garden. Plant a few crocuses to precede your tulips, consider foliage perennials to camouflage the dying tulip foliage, and think about any companion bloomers that would complement your Tulip variety. Time to get planting!

Tulip Tip: If you don’t love any of the plants on this list and instead are planting perennials that have a constant need for water, lift the flowering bulbs for summer (pull up and store the tulip bulbs when all the green in the leaves is gone).


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Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a Master Gardener and founder of the gardening website Home for the Harvest. She has been featured by Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Mother Earth News, and the National Garden Bureau. Mary Jane lives with her family in the Okanagan Valley.