For a One-Two Punch, Bulbs and Annuals Together

Sunset, November 1984 | Go to article overview

For a One-Two Punch, Bulbs and Annuals Together


Stuffed with annuals, pots of fall-planted bulbs stage a changing color show in spring. First the annual flowers appear, then the bulbs push up, bursting into bloom above them. Once bulb flowers are spent, the annuals carry on the show.

"You get a long-season display that packs a lot of color into a pot," says Dave Sollway of Crest Garden Center in Rolling Hills, California, who planted the two pots pictured at right.

In the mild- to moderate-winter West, now is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs and annuals. In very cold areas, you can plant hardy bulbs now, but protect pots and soil from freezing; plant annuals after bulb foliage emerges in spring. What to plant for pot companions

Low-growing annuals with relatively small flowers are the best bulb companions. Choose ones that bloom long enough to coincide with bloom times of the bulbs you want to use. Bedding plants from sixpacks (about $1 each) get pots off to a good start, but you can also start annuals in place from seed.

Since some bulbs aren't reliable year-after-year performers in pots--especially when combined with annuals--choose the least expensive varieties. You can try tulips (dust with fungicide before planting; we found them very rot-prone in containers with annuals), hyacinths, and--in mild climates--anemones, freesias, sparaxis, or ranunculus. Of the bulbs, daffodils and Dutch iris are especially reliable performers in mixed plantings in pots. Below, we suggest some ways to combine them with annuals.

Daffodils and other narcissus. Choices include yellow, white, and bicolors. Bloom comes between December and April, depending on variety. Least expensive kinds include yellow "King Alfred' (about 50 to 60 cents each) and white 'Mount Hood' (70 to 80 cents each).

Plant 'King Alfred' daffodils with yellow Chrysanthemum multicaule or white-flowered C. paludosum, or a carpet of rose sweet alyssum. Or surround yellow daffodils with purple sweet alyssum and a sprinkling of purple or yellow violas.

Plant a couple of orange-centered daffodils with clusters of purple-and-yellow Johnny-jump-ups and orange dwarf nemesia (in mild-winter climates) or apricot violas. …

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