You know the spring has come when tulip flowers start to bloom. This colorful plant can be a beautiful addition to any garden. Tulips are very appreciated for their inspirational beauty with the instantly recognizable shape and abundance of colors. Growing this floral gem can be a bit difficult if you don’t pay attention to some important aspects. We’ll explore the most important growing and caring tips for tulips so you can enjoy this lovely flower.
Although very famous in the Netherlands, these flowers were initially cultivated in Turkey. Thanks to its stylish appearance, the tulip became very popular throughout 17th century Europe. There was a huge market for tulip bulbs back then and some of them were even more expensive than purchasing a house. Fortunately, tulip flowers are quite affordable nowadays. This is a perennial plant that doesn’t live for long depending on location.
1. Choosing Tulip Bulbs
There are lots of tulip bulbs you can find on the market. Choosing the best is a matter of paying attention to some important details. Go for bulbs that are larger and firmer instead of those with soft and flabby characteristics. It’s recommended to buy tulip bulbs at the end of the summer or in early fall. You will then have to wait a bit for the best planting period which is usually mid-autumn or even early winter for warm climates.
2. Planting Tulip Bulbs
When it comes to selecting a good planting site, there are a few factors to take into account. Tulips like the afternoon sun but can’t endure too much heat. This means that you should stick to a shady location for 7 and 8 hardiness zones. The best soil for tulip bulbs needs to be neutral and fertile. Consider the water draining qualities carefully as tulips can encounter lots of issues with excessive moisture. Bulbs should ideally be positioned 5 inches apart so this means you have to opt for a reasonably large planting site.
As we’ve previously mentioned, tulip bulbs have to be planted in the fall. You need to get the timing right to around 7 weeks before any tough frost comes. The soil’s temperature should be lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Tulip bulbs can grow very quickly so it’s important to store them carefully until the right planting time comes.
Leaves can develop and freeze in the winter so keep tulip bulbs in a cool and well-ventilated area. Avoid placing them next to fruits that ripen such as bananas because that process can damage the flower bud of the tulip bulb. The fridge can be a good spot if you don’t have any other available space but steer clear of the freezer.
3. How to Plant
It’s a good idea to loosen the soil before you go ahead and plant the tulip bulbs because it helps with the drainage. When it comes to how deep should you plant, the most important rule to remember is to go for a depth that’s about three times bigger than the size of the bulb. Alternatively, you can opt for a raised bed.
Once the tulip bulbs have been planted, it’s highly recommended to apply mulch. This helps to maintain the soil in good quality and prevents weeds. Some gardens can have issues with rodents or other pests. In that case, it’s worth considering to add a fence around the bulbs or placing some thorny leaves together with the soil.
4. Caring for Tulip Bulbs
Tulip bulbs will need a good start initially when it comes to watering. Then you’re simply better off forgetting about them. Take a minimalistic approach when watering tulip plants as they have very modest requirements. You might risk creating the ideal environment for diseases if you irrigate them too often. The occasional weekly rain is more than enough for a tulip but longer periods of drought will require some proper irrigation to maintain good soil moisture.
While annual tulips can grow pretty well without the help of fertilizer, it can make a difference for perennials. If you choose to fertilize your tulip garden, it’s recommended to use a balanced liquid type and to do it two times. The first fertilization should be made in early fall while the second one can be applied in the spring to help your tulip plants grow at a healthy rate. Tulips are very well adapted to store nutrients during winter “hibernation” so there’s no need to use a large dose of fertilizer.
5. After-Bloom Care
Once the beautiful blooms of tulips start to fade, you will notice the emergence of seeds that create an unattractive look for the flower. Deadheading can help in that case. It involves the use of pruning shears to remove the spent flower head. Be careful to avoid tearing off too much from the stem and make sure you don’t remove the leaves. Tulips depend on their foliage to prepare for the next blooming period. Prune off the leaves only after they become yellow and die.
- Check for Diseases
Inspect the tulip flowers for blights and diseases to prevent the start of an infection. Blight can be easily recognized by checking for brown marks on the plant’s leaves. It’s best to get rid of any diseased bulb before blight spreads to the entire tulip garden. With the help of good prevention measures, you might be able to detect this kind of disease early when only a part of the plant is affected. Aphids are common pests that can damage tulips but strong water spray can deter them.
6. Best Tulip Varieties
There are countless tulip varieties with vibrant colors and eye-catching patterns. The following is just a sample of the most appreciated ones to try:
- Olympic Flame Tulip – a very reliable tulip for perennial planting with striking golden petals streaked with red.
- Negrita Tulip – a hybrid type that blooms in rich purple shades and has 8-inch tall stems.
- Red Hunter Tulip – one tall perennial tulip variety that shows off brilliant red blooms.
- Orange Emperor Tulip – a tulip variety that gives off some regal vibes thanks to the interesting shape and orange color of its blooms.
- Persian Pearl Tulip – a petite tulip that only reaches a height of around 5 inches with rosy red-violet petals and a bold yellow flower center.