planting in layers

July 29, 2009

Categories: Bulb Information, Growing Daffodils, Planting

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Dear all,

Two quick questions:

1.  If I want to plant daffodils (or any other bulbs) and perennials (shrubs) in a flower bed, how do I best go about it?  Should I squeeze the daffodil bulbs down in between the dormant shrubs?  Or should I plant the bulbs as deep as necessary and then plant the perennials on top of the bulbs and leave the rest to nature?  Will daffodils make their way to the surface and bore through perennials?

2.  Who has done the fine line drawings of daffodils in the Journal?  They are really quite something.  Congratulations!


5 responses to “planting in layers”

  1. Kathy Welsh says:
    Rebecca Brown did the drawings.  Yes, they are lovely.
    I don’t plant my really expensive dafs in my perennials beds, but do have some planted that way.  I plant the bulbs at the needed depth, but wouldn’t recommend putting a plant directly on top.  You will want to select perennials that don’t require much water during the summer, or select cultivars that aren’t suseptible to basal rot.  Also, digging bulbs once they are among perennials is a real pain.


  2. Clay Higgins says:

    If I can add to what Kathy stated, when daffodils are planted with perennials you don’t want to pant the perennials on top of the bulbs, however, some perennials are very agressive and will spread out and over the daffodil bulbs as daffodils are not as agressive.  I planted some of my Div 9 bulbs in a top-soil raised bed for perennials as the Div 9 don’t grow well in my normal “sand” based soil in Coastal North Carolina.  After a couple of years, the Div 9 daffodils that started alongside the perennials were in the middle of the perennial “bunch.”

    And, Rebecca Browns drawing are very-very nice.


    Clay Higgins

  3. Mary Lou Gripshover, Ohio Mary Lou Gripshover says:

    Hi Niels,
    I wouldn’t plant other perennials directly on top of the bulbs, but you can plant bulbs and perennials together.  Choose perennials that don’t need a lot of additional summer watering.  Remember that the bulbs will increase and the perennials will get bigger, so let enough room for them to grow.  Might look a little sparse at first, but it will get better.  You could fill in with some annuals the first year.
    Mary Lou

  4. Debbie Green says:


    I am more experienced as a gardener than a daffodil person, but having done many different garden beds incorporating bulbs, perennials, and shrubs, I’d use the following rules:
    1. Of greatest importance is to choose the right place for the plants and bulbs. Thus, as others have suggested, you want to plant things together that need the same growing conditions so nothing suffers when you are trying to water, fertilize, prune, etc.
    2. Think long and hard about what your goals are for this planting, as the combination of bulbs with plants and shrubs is (also as others have indicated) difficult to change as you’re inevitably going to spear or damage bulbs when trying to divide perennials or relocate shrubs, and if you decide you don’t want the bulbs there, you will never get them all out without damaging the perennials or shrubs!
    3. The thing that I have learned the hard way and that I now consider first when combining bulbs with other plants is what will everything in the planting look like at every season of the year? This is hard to judge if you haven’t already grown the things you want to combine in a similar location, so scrutinize these plants in neighbors’ yards or other gardens. Example: I had read that daylilies and hostas were great daffodil companions, but had to learn that where I was living at the time that I ONLY liked the daylilies that went completely dormant combined with daffs and I didn’t like hostas at all.  Reason? The evergreen or semi-evergreen daylilies had very ratty-looking foliage when the daffs were blooming and the daffs had very ratty-looking foliage when the hostas were putting up fresh new leaves.  For this same reason, I think about the prominence of the daffs foliage after bloom before putting them near other spring- or early summer-blooming things; better to put them near things that will be the focus of attention in mid- to late-summer or fall. Of course, if you know that a plant will put out a huge flush of foliage about the time the daff foliage will be disappearing, that is ideal! Anyway, not to belabor the point!
    Debbie Green

  5. Donna Dietsch says:
    To Debbie, Niels and the others who responded,
    Debbie, yours was a very good answer.  There are several things that can be combined with daffodils to make a nice display.  You found that hosta and daylilies are not a good combination.  The hosta need shade to grow without the leaves burning to a crisp and then the daylilies will not bloom and grow well in the sort of shade the hosta like.  You did discover that a deciduous daylilly is better than an evergreen one if you have hard freezes in the winter.  So, If I were going to do a bed combining daffodils with some perennials, I would go back to the advice of the genius of borders, Gertrude Jekyll, who did upward of 400 of them in her career.  She said to put the daffodils in the rear, then put iris in front of them.  The iris leaves will grow up and hide the dying daffodil foliage and look good even after the iris blooms  are gone.  Then in front put the daylilies which will bloom until the late summer. I would even add a few plants of mums for the fall.  You can stagger the rows in a zig-zag pattern so that they are not in rigid rows and you could have a relatively no fuss garden bed that will be lovely in waves of bloom all season.
    Donna Dietsch