The Beautiful Perennial You’ll Want To Grow Next To Your Spring Bulbs

The Beautiful Perennial You'll Want To Grow Next To Your Spring Bulbs

Brunnera macrophylla, also known as Siberian Bugloss, is a stunning perennial plant that is worth having in any garden. Its attractive leaves contrast beautifully with its delicate blue or white flowers, making it a must-have for any landscape. Brunnera thrives in shady areas with ample moisture, and you might think it could be challenging to find suitable plant companions for it, but quite the opposite is true. Even though this plant grows in clumps with rhizomes, it goes well with bulbs like irises, daffodils, and crocuses. The leaves provide shade for tender bulbs and cover for bulbs that are dying back. Brunnera and spring flower bulbs also share a similar growth schedule, making it easy to care for them.

There are many varieties of brunnera to choose from, each with its unique look. The green heart-shaped leaves range from silvery to almost blue, and the small flowers are either blue or white. You can find a variety that will complement the bulbs in your garden for an aesthetically pleasing pairing. Here’s what you need to know about using brunnera as a companion plant for your bulbs.

Brunnera leaves help with bulb care

silver-green brunnera leaves


Spring bulbs are irresistible but they do come with some challenges. They thrive in full sunlight; however, the blooms will last much longer if they receive some sun protection during the heat of the day. Luckily, brunnera can help with this problem, since it will have developed large leaves by the time the weather warms up and the bulbs need shade from the intense mid-day sun. Brunnera can cast much-needed shade on the bulbs when the two are planted close together. Since brunnera has a clumping growth habit, you don’t need to worry about roots spreading and choking out your precious bulbs, though you may need to divide the brunnera occasionally.

Spring bulbs eventually die back, but you’ll want to keep them around so you can have gorgeous flowers next year. You need something to cover up those wilted flowers, and brunnera can get the job done. Its leaves are showy and large, so they’ll not only cover up a now blank space, but will demand attention with their pretty colors.

Brunnera and spring bulbs have similar needs

brunnera as ground cover

Elena Rostunova/Shutterstock

The best way to make gardening easy is to pair like-minded plants together, so caring for them won’t require much thought. Fortunately, brunnera has needs similar to those of many spring bulbs. Brunnera thrives in afternoon shade, making it the perfect partner for shade-tolerating spring bulbs. Some bulbs like irises, thrive in full sunlight, though in hotter climates, they can benefit from shade during the hottest part of the day to make the flowers last longer. Daffodils and crocuses, however, are only tolerant of partial shade conditions, so while they may not reach their full potential in shady conditions, brunnera is still a companion plant option if you have limited space to work with.

Bulbs and brunnera need moist soil that drains well so the soil doesn’t remain too wet. This allows the plants to go together in the same bed since they have the same watering requirements. Brunnera grows up to 18 inches tall and wide, so they often don’t overtake other plants, making them a good groundcover that can share the sunlight. However, size compatibility will depend on the bulbs you’re using.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.