Tulips: The Bloom of Royalty

Tulips: The Bloom of Royalty
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Tulips: The Bloom of RoyaltyEntire books have been written on growing and caring for tulips. They have been bought, sold and traded since the 1500s, and were once desired by kings and other royalty. Tulips caused quite a ruckus and many fortunes were won and lost during "tulipomania", which occurred during the 1700s.

Today there are hundreds of tulip cultivars, and it would be impossible for me to guide you in the growth and nurturing of all of them, but I can give you some basic pointers on how to get started.

First let me mention that growing tips vary greatly with tulips. Some people insist you should treat them as annuals, and replant each year. It is true that many tulips do wonderfully the first year and are smaller and fewer each year after that.

You can plant them a couple inches deeper than instructed, which may help, or you can cut JUST the bloom after it fades, leaving the stem and leaves until they turn brown, then dig them up and store them in a dry place for the summer. In the fall, you would replant the bulbs again. As you can imagine many people don't like to do this.

Species tulips, also referred to as wild or botanical tulips, will naturalize, and are very early bloomers. Consider planting some of these, they will multiply easily and even reseed!

They are truly old fashioned, and perfect for those who have hot, dry summers. Kaufmannianas are also a variety that is long-lived. Another option is to look for what growers call "perennial tulips", which are hybrids, and often reported to last for at least 5 years, some longer.

I personally think all tulips are beautiful in the landscape, and if you look for mixtures that are offered at a good price each year, you can fill in the spots and try new ones each season. Keep a notebook of which varieties you planted, with notes on how they did. Over the years you will develop your own collection, and will know which ones to order and which ones to avoid.


Tulips should be planted in late fall. In the north you can start planting in September, depending on how hot your days still are, and plant right up until December if the ground is still workable. You don't want to give the bulbs any chance to sprout, so plant them immediately after you purchase. Tulips do need a frost, which is why they are planted in fall.

In warm states you can fool them by storing in the refrigerator for about 6-8 weeks, then plant them in your beds.

Tulip bulbs should be planted in full or partial sun. Keep in mind that you can plant under trees-this is actually a great location for tulips-they will get the sun they need in the spring, and shade during the hot part of the summer. They need good drainage; no soggy soil. You can plant them 6-8 inches deep, no deeper than 12 inches. Spacing will depend on the variety, so check labels.

Bone meal is a nice fertilizer to mix right in with soil, but it will no doubt attract dogs if they can get to your beds. There are special bulb fertilizers available, or you could venture into making your own manure "tea", which the bulbs would love. If you have problems with cats, dogs or rodents, consider laying down a piece of chicken wire over the bulbs, and removing it before spring arrives.

My husband banned chicken wire from our yard after I used it everywhere in my war against the squirrels. I now use hot pepper flakes and powder on the surface whenever I see they are starting to dig. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. There are solutions available in garden centers too that I have not tried-fine wire mesh, bulb baskets, repellents etc.

Lastly, consider buying some tulip bulbs to plant in containers. Plant a nice mixture of tulips, mixed with daffodils if you wish, in a weatherproof container. During harsh winters you can bring them into the garage or shed, but they do need to be watered as if they were in a flower bed. You'll be able to place the container on your porch for a beautiful spring display!

I know I've only touched on all the tips and methods for growing tulips but I hope you'll venture into growing them this year, or be inspired to add to your collection!

Image: Wikimedia.org


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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