Planting Tulip and Muscari Bulbs

Here is a pretty bulb combination of tulips and Muscari (grape hyacinths) that I’m planting to bloom in the spring garden. They should flower at the same time in pink and blue, both with the extra petals of doubles.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' bulb package
Tulipa 'Fox Trot' bulb package

The double early blooming pink Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’ are planted at the back. Aren’t those tulips pretty? They remind me of my favourite peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. These have a multitude of light pink petals, like the double peony. They are short, about 30 cm tall (1 ft). I fell for these ‘Foxtrot’ tulips when I saw the picture on the label, even though I didn’t originally plan to plant any tulips. I saw the double pink photo and instantly imagined a large group of them, highlighted with a large group of smaller blue bulbs in front.

Muscari armenicaum 'Blue Spike' bulb group
Muscari armenicaum 'Blue Spike' bulb group

The above photo of Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ is from my garden last June. ‘Blue Spike’ became my favourite grape hyacinth last spring, when a newer group of them bloomed for an extended period. They bloomed for almost a month, which is a long time for the little blue bulbs. They also have large flowers for such a small bulb. Their extra petals, with very open flowers, creating a dense spike of intense blue. Here is a post from earlier in the year about the Muscari.

The Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ grow about 15 cm (6 in). When planted in front of the 30 cm (12 in) pink tulips, the difference in their heights should be just right to show off each type of bloom. I’m hoping the tips of the Muscari will be just under the bottom of the tulip flowers.

Muscari 'Blue Spike' (grape hyacinth) bulbs being planted
Muscari 'Blue Spike' (grape hyacinth) bulbs being planted

For the grape hyacinths, I dig  hole about 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in) deep, and about 30 cm (1 ft) across, between some later growing perennials. Then I put the bulbs with their pointy side up, about 5 cm (2 in) apart, and cover them back up. I leave a bit of loose soil in the bottom of the hole, so I can balance the bulbs upright with a bit of support, and then they don’t get knocked over when I pour the soil back back over top. Digging a series of large holes for groups of bulbs is the most efficient way when you have a number of them to plant.

Tulipa 'Fox Trot' bulbs being planted
Tulipa 'Fox Trot' bulbs being planted

Here are the ‘Foxtrot’ tulips in their planting hole. It’s about13 cm (5 in) deep, and they are about 13 cm (5 in) apart. I make a number of these holes in the garden bed, between the perennials that will hide their foliage after they bloom.

Muscari  'Blue Spike and Tulipa 'Fox Trot'
Muscari 'Blue Spike and Tulipa 'Fox Trot'

Here is a composite of what the ‘Foxtrot’ and ‘Blue Spike’ should look like together. I think these two bulbs will bloom at the same time next spring with the taller pink tulips rising up behind the shorter blue Muscari. I could have planted a few first to test the bloom time, but instead I decided to jump in with planting 54 tulips and 180 more Muscari bulbs. I need a larger number of the Muscari, since they are smaller bulbs, and planted closer together. About 3 times as many grape hyacinths should balance out the tulip planting. If they don’t manage to bloom in tandem, they will still make a nice sequence, but I’m hoping for an overlap.

Here’s how the tulips and Muscari look in the spring. The flowers of these double early tulips did bloom at the same time as the Muscari, making a beautiful display. You can see more detailed photos of  the ‘Foxtrot’ tulips in this post.

Have you been planting any bulbs for spring blooms?

23 thoughts on “Planting Tulip and Muscari Bulbs”

  1. They will look wonderful together~Timing is quite different for us (zone 7)…The muscari usually blooms earlier then these lovely tulips, but I think there may be other pretties to plant with them here. Thank you for the ideas. gail

    1. Gail, this year my Muscari bloomed from the end of May into June, so I’m hoping that the double early tulips will bloom about then too, but I guess I’ll see next year. It’s always fun to keep track, and see if things work out. I keep a bloom chart, and record the dates the flowers start and stop.

      Helen, I hope the digging is a little easier when your bulbs arrive. I have some bulbs that are still on order too, and I hope they make it before the snow does.

      Town Mouse, your native bulbs should make a great display, and create more habitat for local fauna too. The brown bulbs in their holes give very few clues about the flowers to come. I love burying the little nuggets, to have the treasure reappear in spring.

  2. Great color combo!

    Yes, I’m also waiting for my order to arrive. I ordered around 200 native bulbs (what was I thinking?) I’ll do a post on them soon, but will try for more “exciting” posts to please the masses in the final dash to the awards ;-> I don’t even have great photos of the bulbs yet, so it’s really going to be a specialist post.

  3. Wonderful combination, the tulips are beautiful, and I agree about the resemblance to Sarah Bernhardt. I really appreciate your detailed posts with planting descriptions. Do you mulch overtop of the bulbs right away, or wait until the ground freezes?

    I have finished planting my narcissus and botanical tulips. Hopefully I will plant 32 cultivated tulips and spring & fall crocuses, muscari & galanthus tonight. The bulbs turned into a much bigger project than anticipated (when I realized I had nowhere to put them) so created a new bed along the front walkway and added some other shrubs & perennials. :)

    1. Rebecca, the deciduous trees drop their leaves over most of the garden in my backyard, and that is their winter mulch. If a few places get missed, I pick up some armloads of leaves from the lawn and throw them over the bare spots, or sometimes rake a bit from the lawn over the garden. The willow always obligingly drops some branches over half the garden to help keep leaves in place too. The trees are very lazy in spring, though, and leave it to me to remove the leaves. ;)

      I know what you mean about garden projects expanding. You start with a few new plants, and the next thing you know, you’ve landscaped a whole new area. All your new bulbs should look great in spring, and the shrubs and perennials will make a welcoming entry. Isn’t gardening fun?

    1. Rebecca, It’s fun to see pictures of the changes that gardeners make.

      Mary Delle, I like that shade of pink with the bright blue too. It’s a fresh spring set of colours. Right now, I’m enjoying the earth tones that are appearing in my garden.

  4. Hi Northern Shade,

    I’ve been trying to be bulb moderate this Fall, but your posting has pushed me over the edge. The order from Hole’s arrived about two weeks ago and went in to prepared beds immediately. The order from Holland won’t be here for a while (13 October last year – two weeks too late for our climate) but the beds are ready. After seeing your planned composition, though, I think I have been under-utilizing muscari. I’ve always thought of grape hyacinth as reliable, but not especially exciting and planted only a few clumps here and there. Now I can’t stop thinking about where they might help show off or extend groups of taller bulbs. I guess I’m just going to have to go see what is left on the shelves and then dig new beds for the Dutch.

    1. Dave, my spring bulb garden is also my winter garden. That is, all winter when I look out at the white, I imagine the spring flower display. Our bulbs probably thought they were being planted in summer, with the record setting high temperatures we’ve had for the last two weeks. I hope we have an extended fall like last year. I was planting perennials quite late, and they all did well. I wouldn’t want to get my bulb order after the ground freezes solid.

      I think the Muscari should work well with the shorter tulips, since the height difference won’t be too great. I’ve had some Blue Spike planted in a very shady area for a while, and they looked fine, but last year I planted some new bulbs in a different area and they looked fantastic.

    1. Joanne, it’s too bad that tulips don’t do well in your soil. Are you planting other bulbs, or is the drainage a problem for them? I’ve been putting in different groups of bulbs between my perennials.

  5. Northern Shade, What a beautiful combination. You’re going to have fun in watching for them next Spring! I’ve just planted a couple of lily bulbs. I will wait a bit before planting a few daffodil bulbs. That will be “it” this year. I hope the tulips that bloomed this Spring return, as I’ve had many menacing chipmunks digging in the flower beds this Summer! We’ll see. Happy planting!!

    1. Shady Gardener, you’ll have to teach your chipmunks, “bulbs are flowers, not food”. Now I’ll be watching out the windows for little gangs of chipmunks raiding my garden.:) The local squirrels and chipmunks have generally ignored my bulbs in the past, so I hope the large new groups don’t tempt them.

  6. Hi,

    Actcea I have one to, for the fist time this year, it has red leaves and the flowers is most white but also a little pink in the middle.
    I am so happy that you wrote on my blog, If you do not mind please come back and put this link or the other one about planting bulbs in Mck Linky so other blogers can find your post.
    I like that you have planted as a heart!

    /Maria Berg

    1. Maria, I like the Actaea for their late season blooms. So far, mine are white, but I also have a couple of new ones that haven’t bloomed yet. I was actually going for random patterns when planting the bulbs, but looking at the photos now, they are not so random. :)

  7. Wonderful combination really. We cannot grow tulips but muscari does well here. I am planning to plant 50+ bulbs of muscari in my 5 by 3 feet soil bed in late october. I wish i had a bit cooler climate to grow tulips and hyacinths. yours are looking awesome though

    1. Muhammad, your Muscari patch will look great when it blooms. I love the beautiful blue colour of the flowers. Do you have the M. ‘Blue Spike’ bulbs available locally? It is a really nice Muscari, since the flowers are large and showy in the garden.

      I can’t grow hyacinths outdoors either, since it is a little too cold for them here. However, I bought some for forcing indoors. The bulbs are chilling right now, and in a few months I’ll bring them out into the room, where they should bloom. It’s fun to have some fresh growing bulbs indoors, when it’s snowy outside, and to be able to enjoy their scent.

  8. You all are making me so jealous. I don’t get up to my garden until the end of May. Before that I live in Florida in the winter. What that means is I can’t grow any bulbs as they bloom before I can get up to see them. We are in zone 7 and I wonder if anyone knows of any bulbs that bloom later than the end of May? When we arrive my iris are just putting on a good show.

    1. Val, are the late season tulips still blooming in your zone at the end of May? One little bulb that might still be blooming then, is Leucojum (snowflake). They have petite white flowers, and look a bit like the snowdrops of early spring.

  9. I planted yellow tulips with my grape hyacinth and they look awsome, something that I haven’t figured out about this plant, is why its greens regro in the fall(B.C.) and then the flower grows in the spring after the winter.
    Barb Jones Delta, B.C.

    1. Barb, I have often wondered why they send up new foliage in the fall, too. It seems counter-intuitive to bulb behaviour. The leaves cannot collect much energy before the cold temperatures and snow of winter stop them. It must give them some advantage towards an early spring start.

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