Hello I live east of Toronto about 10 miles north of Lake Ontario. I believe my zone is 5a or 5b. In the fall I planted some tulip bulbs in a small garden area. I’m wondering if I can ‘scatter’ some seeds like Cosmos, Clarkia, or Virginian Stocks in the space with the hope that they will grow and flower so I don’t have an empty space when the bulbs are done. If so any suggestions for other plants that may work well? I’m open to any information. If you need a picture I can get one. Thanks so much for your help and information.
Thank you for your question.
It is always a good idea to plant tulips with companions, both so that the area is not “empty” after they die down, and also to hide the yellowing foliage, which will need to be left for approximately six weeks (for more information on the care of tulip bulbs, see our guide here: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/growing-tulips-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide-2/).
Annuals are a good idea and any plant that will germinate at the correct time and thrive in the same conditions as tulips (fertile, well drained soil and full sun) would work – there are many options and the ones that you mentioned would all be excellent, as would baby’s breath (Gypsophila elegans), mallow (Lavatera trimestris), coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolate), nigella (Nigella damascena), phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) and cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus). For more ideas, you could look at the gardening guide on drought tolerant annuals (https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/drought-tolerant-annuals-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/). In terms of germination method, scattering the seeds with a light covering of soil would work for many of these options.
Another, more permanent, possibility would be to interplant with perennials whose foliage would emerge as the tulips begin to die down, although you would need to be careful not to disturb the bulbs when doing so. If you were interested in this idea, herbaceous peonies (Paeonia spp.), daylillies (Hemerocallis), Euphorbia, and hostas (Hosta) would be amongst the many options to consider.