Perennials to Plant with Tulips: A List of Perfect Pairings (Plus Overall Tips)

Do your tulips need some company? While tulips are lovely in spring, they leave the ground bare for the other three seasons. That sounds like a perfect opportunity for succession planting! Let’s dig into the perfect perennials to plant with tulips!

Low-maintenance, drought-resistant perennials like native woodland flowers and foliage plants are the best companion plants for tulips. Avoid perennials that need frequent water and fertilizing (annuals for that matter). This “TLC” can rot your tulip bulbs during the summer months.

Here are 10 great options for perennials to plant with tulips:

Perennials to Plant with Tulips
Two red tulips in my full-sun garden bed with daylily foliage in the background (mid-May, Zone 5).

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 bulbs. And once the tulips are truly done, the daylilies will start to flower. This is one of the best companion plants for tulips due to its similar foliage, later flowering, and low maintenance requirements.

Yellow Crocus in the April Garden | Home for the Harvest

Crocus

Crocus bulbs are much smaller than tulip bulbs 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 blooms!

Snowdrop Anenome foliage and flower in garden

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 the extensive watering that can harm tulip bulbs. Its foliage is also similar in colour to tulip leaves, and can somewhat camouflage the dying tulip foliage after the tulip bloom.

Globe Allium Blossoms | Home for the Harvest Gardening Blog

Allium

Ornamental Alliums are also 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 can also be very satisfying to the gardener who loves to always have something in bloom.

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

Ornamental Grass

Ornamental grasses, like the classic Karl Foerster feather reed grass, are an excellent companion 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-coloured 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.

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.
Short Asiatic Lilies to Pair with Tulips in the Perennial Flower Garden
Asiatic Lily plants are often sold in packs, making them affordable to plant in masses along with your tulips.

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 blooms. Taller asiatic lilies can be planted behind the tulips to give a beautiful green backdrop which then follows the tulips into bloom.

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. You don’t need a tedious maintenance routine to take care of them.

One note on Virginia Bluebells with Tulips is that both plants have foliage that dies back to the ground during summer. Consider including a later part-shade perennial like hosta or astilbe in the area to minimize the extent of bare garden soil.

Brunnera Forget-Me-Not Jack Frost at Nursery

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.

If you are looking for a foliage perennial that will retain its striking look during the whole growing season, then brunnera is certainly one to think about. Brunnera is resistant to pests, disease, deer, and rabbits. And… no need for tiresome maintenance work.

Brunnera and Hellebore by Juniper Hedge
These brunnera and hellebore plants are in a partial sun bed in front of an evergreen juniper hedge.
Green Hellebore Leaves among Fallen Autumn Leaves
Hellebore leaves in Autumn surrounded by fallen deciduous leaves from the tree canopy above.

Hellebore

While not a common combination, it is actually 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 foliage will have died back to the ground, and the leathery dark hellebore leaves will be shielded by the tree canopy.

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.

Creeping Phlox in white with pink centres for around the tulips

Creeping Phlox

Ah, creeping phlox!….its 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!

Columbine flowers are an excellent perennial to match with tulips

Columbine

Columbine is a woodland flower that blooms after tulips do. 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 guarantee you of 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.

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 colours. 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 a foliage perennial to camouflage the dying tulip foliage, and think about any companion bloomers that would complement your variety of tulip. 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 tulip bulbs for summer (pull up and store the bulbs when all the green in the leaves is gone).

Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a home gardener who loves creating healthy, welcoming spaces (indoors and out!) - About Mary Jane (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/authors/about-mary-jane-duford/)

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