In early spring, a lot of gardeners discover empty spaces or blank spots among their tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other blooming bulbs, especially in their garden beds. How can you fill those spaces? Can you do it in spring or should you wait until fall? Here are some answers.
Tulips emerge from a planting of hardy geraniums. As the geraniums continue to grow, they will hide the ripening foliage of the spring bulbs.
Photo courtesy Cornell University
What to do now
Purple and white pansies form a colorful mat under red tulips.
- Transplant daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinths and other spring bulbs that have been forced to bloom, if the ground is not frozen. Forced bulbs are readily available at garden centers about the same time or slightly before when spring bulbs bloom in the garden. Once planted, treat them like any other spring-blooming bulb of its type.
- Plant perennials, if you can dig in the soil.
- Plant cool-season annuals. If you can dig in the ground, plant violas, pansies, dianthus, sweet alyssum or snapdragons.
- Add a few early spring vegetables among the bulbs by sowing seeds of lettuces, spinach or micro greens.
- Transplant cold-tolerant edibles, such as kale, mustards, cilantro, culinary sage or thyme. These transplants are usually available at garden centers beginning in March.
- Add containers of spring annuals, especially if you cannot dig in the soil. Place pots of violas, pansies and other spring annuals or greens among spring bulbs until you can plant what you want in those spaces.
Empty spaces help this gardener determine where to add more crocus or spring bulbs.
© Carol Michel
Prepare for the future
- Take a photo. If you’re in the Midwest or northern parts of the country, the ground may still be frozen, so filling in those empty spaces now is probably not possible. By taking a photo, you get a good idea where those spaces are in fall, when you can add more bulbs.
- Make a sketch. With a sketch on graph paper, you can record distances between bulbs or perennials, or how far from a shrub or tree do you need to plant more bulbs or perennials.
- A photo or sketch can guide your planting if you want perennials to fill in those spaces. Most perennials can be planted anytime from spring into early fall. As an added bonus, perennials help hide the ripening foliage of the spring bulbs.
12 Companion Perennials for Spring Bulbs
- Black-eyed Susan
- Cheddar pinks
- Hardy geranium
- Coral bell
- Siberian bugloss