Growing the Perfect Tulips

Tulips are largely one of the most popular flowers today, and they are virtually fool proof to grow if you have a little knowledge about their likes and dislikes. Just the very site of tulips brings thoughts of spring as these breath taking beauties are eye candy with their vast array of colors. Tulips are a strange breed of flower though, as they need to be planted in the fall to thrive in the spring, before the winter frost, in order to bloom to their maximum capabilities in the spring. The reason for this is that they are considered a hardy-bulb, and they require the cold of winter in order to sprout later.

Proper Drainage and Soil Preparation for Tulips

By properly preparing your garden soil before you start to plant, you’ll save yourself endless hours and considerable expense in trying to make up for error’s later. Any gardener that takes pride in their hard work should cultivate the garden soil before planting anything. This makes the planting process so much easier and helps the bulbs’ new roots get off to a good start. Cultivating the soil with a rototiller is the easiest way, but a small area can be easily turned over with a shovel.
Bulbs need well-drained soil or they will eventually rot. You can check your soil for drainage problems by pouring water onto the dirt. Soil that drains well will absorb the water quickly. Some soil has clay or sand in it, and this is not good for tulips. You can improve your soil by adding a soil-based compost which will also add nutrients to the planting bed.

Problem Soil for Tulips in the Southwest

A common problem in the Southwest is soil heavily embedded with strong alkaline. This can easily be remedied by adding ground limestone purchased from a local garden center or you can simply save the ashes from the fireplace and spread them through the dirt before you are ready to plant your tulips.

Arranging and Planting your Tulip bulbs for the Best Results

For breath taking tulips that are eye catchers it is best to plant the bulbs into clusters. Tulips should be planted into good rich soil anywhere from 5-8 inches into the ground. Larger bulbs require deeper planting. Tulips can also be planted into containers which can be useful for people that have no room for flower beds and gardens.

Choose a sunny, well-drained spot for your flower bed. Bulbs thrive in the sun, but blooms last longer if they do not have to endure full midday sun, and for tulips to do their best they must be planted deeply enough. Ideally each bulb should be covered twice its own height with soil. This means that the hole needs to be three times the height of the bulb. The tulips should be planted at least 8″ apart for proper growth and the best results.

Arranging tulips into artful displays is a favorite pass time for gardeners. You can show off your skills by placing the bulbs into an array of colors or varieties. Tulips are most often planted in groups, and the best place for displaying their beauty is in landscaping schemes, large borders, around tree’s and mailbox posts. Another favorite for avid gardeners is mixing them with other bulb varieties and spring-flowering plants to create an even more elaborate display.

Tulips Need Room to Grow

Give yourself plenty of room, and lay the bulbs out on the ground to get a sense of the arrangement you would like. This is especially helpful if you are planting masses of bulbs in different colors. You will need to decide if you want to group colors together or mix them up. Be sure to keep different colored bulbs separate if you want groupings of color. Next you will dig 6″ to 8″ holes for each tulip bulb you are planting, but before placing the bulb into the ground you should add bulb food or bone meal into the holes, and work it into the soil. The bone meal will fertilize the bulbs through the winter and promote vigorous blooming in the spring. Tulip bulbs should be planted with their tips facing up, because if their tips face down, they waste their energy trying to grow in the opposite direction and you will get better results.

Popular Tulip Varieties

Early Single Tulips reach the delicate height of 8″ to l5,” and they come in shades of orange, pink, red, white, and yellow.

Early Double Tulips come in a large variety of shades from orange, yellow, pink, rose, red, yellow to a snow white.

Triumph Tulips are exquisite flowers, but they come in fewer colors like white, rose, violet, and yellow.

Late Tulips are taller then most other tulips, and they usually grow to a height of 24″to 30,” and their colors are as diverse as there are breeds of flowers. They are one of the most popular tulips as gardeners get a choice from pink and white blends, blood red, purple, peach and yellow blends, various yellows, red and white blends, and crisp snow white varieties.

Cottage Tulips can grow to heights of l8″ to 24,” and these late Tulips are best known by their deep salmon color. Not to be outdone by more popular tulips, this variety also offers gardeners many picks when it comes to brighter colored tulips. This particular tulip is known for its traditional egg shape, and besides salmon color, it is mostly seen in various hues’ of reds and yellows.

Darwin Tulips are a standard 24″to 30,” and sometimes they can get even taller then that. These long stemmed tulips offer some very old varieties, with shades ranging from dark maroon-purple, deep crimson, reds, rose pink, mauve, white and yellow.

Lily-Flowered Tulips have long recurved petals, and their most popular colors are yellow, ruby-violet, pink and white.

Parrot Tulips have scalloped and fringed edges, and offer growers a numerous variety of colors that range from blueish gray, deep blood red, gold, orange, and rose with green stripes.

When to Plant Tulips by Region

In general, tulips should be planted around September or October, but this can vary with the different temperatures ranging from state to state throughout the year. Below is a general guide to follow for your area:

Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon

Washington, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware

Late October to Early November
Missouri, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Oklahoma

Late November to Early December
Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida

Late December to Early January
California, Arizona and New Mexico

If you live in Texas or California, bulbs should be refrigerated for six to eight weeks before planting. Place them in a paper bag away from ripening fruits, due to fruits producing ethylene gas, which destroys the flower bud within the bulb.

Enemies of the Tulip

Tulip bulbs are a favorite with pests such as deer or squirrels. If deer are a problem in your area, planting pest-resistant varieties is a good idea. For squirrel problems, it’s a good idea to put a few old window screens over bulb beds after planting, while the ground settles, removing them once the weather turns. To limit these types of problems, it’s a smart idea to clean up after planting. Planting supplies and bits of the bulbs’ papery tunics left on the ground just sends bulb-sniffing critters a signal that there may be delicious edibles nearby.

Tulips become weaker each year, and since most gardeners plant these colorful wonders with the expectation of a long life, then its best to choose a tulip that can stand the test of time. Species tulips will last year after year, unlike the hybrid tulips, species tulips will also spread out in the garden producing more tulips, year after year. Two of the most popular species tulips are the Fosteriana, and the Greigii, mainly due to their splendid colors and repeat performance each year.

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