Annuals Atop Tulips

tulipQuestion: Can I plant annuals on top of tulips? When their foliage dies I have a big gap in my garden.

Answer: The problem with planting annuals over tulip bulbs is that tulips prefer to be kept totally dry over the summer. When you water the annuals, you increase the chance your tulip bulbs will rot.

Many gardeners treat tulips as annuals themselves—pulling up the bulbs after they flower, discarding them and planting fresh bulbs in the fall. With this method you can fill the space however you like over the summer.

If you want to reuse the tulip bulbs, you can lift and store them. See tip #5 in “Tulips That Come Back.”

If you want to leave your tulips bulbs in the ground in hopes that they return next year, you could fill the gap with potted annuals. Wait until the tulip leaves die completely and clip them off. Then put pots of annuals on the bare patch where the tulips stood. You can move the pot aside when it needs to be watered, so the any water draining out doesn’t reach the bulbs.

Read about bulb-and-perennial combos.

Can I replant potted tulips?


A must-read for bulb lovers: Bulb by Anna Pavord.

Follow the adventures of Chris Wiesinger in Heirloom Bulbs as he rustles up the best flowering bulbs for the South.

Check out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s All-Region Guides to Spring-Blooming Bulbs and Summer-Blooming Bulbs.

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6 thoughts on “Annuals Atop Tulips

  1. I am experimenting with local wildflowers atop my bulb bed. Their water needs will be lower than that of other plants. We’ll see how it goes – or grows 🙂 or not.

  2. What is your opinion of perennial tulip bulbs that are supposed to be left in place for years. Will they come back with good blooms?

    • Hi Judy — certain tulips can be expected to return more reliably than others. These include those tulips classified as Single Early, Single Late and Darwin Hybrids. Species tulips are also somewhat more reliable, though they also tend not to offer the big, bold flower that the hybrids do. Check out this article for the reason why some tulips seem less perennial than others and more tips on getting them to return.

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