Small groups of bulbs tucked among perennials, shrubs, or rocks create bright accents. Use types with large flowers such as daffodils, tulips, and alliums, and group several together so they make a strong visual statement.
Bulbs look great by themselves, but breathtaking in colorful combinations. Because choosing combos that bloom together can be a challenge, start with the prepackaged bulbs in catalogs or at your local garden center.
We see big, bold masses of bulbs in botanical gardens -- but it can be a challenge to re-create that look in your home landscape. So use masses of simpler combinations of just two or three colors laid out in informal shapes and forms that follow the lines of your beds.
Pansies are winter-hardy early bloomers -- so plant them in fall along with your spring bulbs for a knockout show. Vinca, hellebores, and creeping phlox are also good partners for your spring bulbs.
Mingle bulbs among perennials to help hide the bulbs' foliage as it fades. For example, peonies and perennial geraniums do a great job of covering allium foliage; brunnera is great for hiding daffodil leaves.
Siberian squill, crocus, and grape hyacinths are spectacular when blooming by the hundreds in early spring, and they readily spread. This makes them perfect for planting in lawns and under trees to create flowery "meadows." For a natural look, toss them by the handful and plant them where they land.
Because big bulbs go deeper than little bulbs, you can create spring bouquets by planting in layers. For example, plant daffodils about 6 inches deep, then plant grape hyacinths 3 inches over the top of them.
Extend your spring bulb display by planting similar-looking bulbs with different bloom times. For example try three golden daffodils: 'Arctic Gold', which starts in early to mid-spring, 'Primeur', which blooms in mid spring, and 'Pay Day', which blooms mid- to late spring.
Some bulb varieties have variegated foliage -- and choosing them adds interest to your landscape, even after the flowers fade. Some top choices include tulips 'Unicum', 'New Design', and 'Red Riding Hood'; Camassia 'Blue Melody' and 'Sacajawea'; and Fritillaria imperialis 'Aureomarginata'.
Some perennials, such as butterfly weed and perennial hibiscus, are notoriously slow to wake up in spring. To keep them from creating bare spots in your yard, mix in some spring-blooming bulbs. The bulb foliage will start to fade as the perennials begin to grow.