Grow This Colorful Plant Near Your Spring Bulbs

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Grow This Colorful Plant Near Your Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs are a sight to behold. Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths can add a splash of color to your garden as it wakes up from winter. It might seem like these bulbs are the only flowers in your garden during early spring, but planting creeping phlox alongside them can be the perfect solution.

For best results, plant your spring bulbs in the fall in most zones. Some varieties require several weeks of temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal blooming, but growers in warmer zones can either chill their bulbs in a refrigerator or buy prechilled ones. Daffodils are convenient as they don’t require chilling. When planting bulbs in autumn, it’s best to use a fertilizer specifically formulated for bulbs. If you plant your bulbs in a spot with good drainage, mildly acidic soil with a pH between 6 and 7, and at least 5 hours of sunlight, they should provide a colorful display throughout the spring season.

Creeping phlox is an ideal companion plant for bulbs

creeping phlox and tulips

Catherine Anne Thomas/Shutterstock

Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), sometimes called moss phlox, is a native of the Eastern United States. An evergreen groundcover, it rarely grows over 6 inches in height but can spread to up to 3 feet in width and is covered in white, pink, or purple flowers in early to mid-spring. Its beautiful colors, unique mossy foliage, and early bloom time make creeping phlox a perfect complement to spring bulbs.

A creeping phlox plant requires similar growing conditions to most spring bulbs. It also grows best in well-draining soil with full sun and can grow well in acidic or neutral soil. Creeping phlox is hardy in zones 3 through 9, making it an ideal plant in almost all parts of the United States. It is also a hit with many pollinators, encouraging butterflies and bees to visit your garden early in the season before many other flowers have opened.

Creeping phlox provides year-round interest

purple creeping phlox

katatonia82/Shutterstock

Creeping phlox doesn’t just complement spring bulbs when everything is in bloom; it can also help to disguise the bulbs’ yellowing leaves after they finish blooming and begin dying back. While the dying foliage of bulbs may not be attractive, it’s important to avoid cutting it back if you want your bulbs to return the next year. Therefore, disguising the yellowing leaves with other plants is the best strategy. Creeping phlox’s lovely colors distract attention from the spent tulips and daffodils.

Even after spring bulbs have entirely died back for the summer, creeping phlox still provides beauty with its moss-like evergreen foliage. While creeping phlox does not bloom as vigorously in the summer as in spring, it can sometimes produce another flush of blooms if trimmed back after flowering. Even when it is not in flower, creeping phlox’s foliage remains green year-round, making for a beautiful front-of-the-border companion to myriad summer, autumn, and winter plants, and providing charming low-growing interest in all seasons.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.