Tulips 101 | How to Plant Grow and Care for Tulips Flowers

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Looking forward to seeing your brightly colored jewels bloom as the ground wakes up from its long winter sleep? 

Well, tulips usually begin emerging from the ground in March, but its growth might be delayed or obstructed due to certain factors. That’s why it’s crucial to pay close attention to the tips and tricks on planting, growing, and caring for the flower bulbs. 

Even ardent gardeners forget that bulbs are not seeds, so it’s quite natural that their planting and growing process differ. And here’s where we come in.

Through this informative guide, we’ve addressed the primary concerns of new garden enthusiasts. The article highlights the factors and steps that need to be considered while planting tulip bulbs. Furthermore, you can go through the growing and caring tips for tulips that should be followed after the plantation process.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

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How to Plant Grow and Care for Tulips

Planting Tulip Bulbs

The cup-shaped flowers with three petals and three sepals are usually perennial in the botanical perspective. However, hybridization over centuries has managed to weaken their ability to come back year after year. This is why gardeners today consider tulips as annual flowers, planting new bulbs every autumn before the grounds freeze for winter. 

You may plant varieties of tulips around October-November to watch them bloom from early to late spring. But for new gardeners, this can be tricky because tulips are always eager to grow, so if you plant them too soon, their leaves will begin growing only to freeze in winter. 

To help you out, we’ll be taking you through an in-depth guide to planting tulip bulbs. Before that, let’s know more about choosing the right tulips for your garden.

  1. Choosing Tulips For The Garden

Tulips have an embryo tucked away inside, waiting to begin growing, so when choosing tulip bulbs for your garden, make sure they’re fat and firm. You don’t want bulbs that are soft, moldy, and flabby with missing papery petals.

That said, tulips may be single, double, fringed, ruffled, or lily-shaped, depending on its variety. Triumph hybrids make up the largest grouping of single, classic cup-shaped tulip types, with the top varieties being Cracker tulip, Calgary, Ile de France, and the Darwin Hybrid. 

On the other hand, Wild or “Species” tulips like the “Lilac Wonder” are tougher than hybrids, ranging from 3 to 8 inches in height, and they usually bloom in the South. 

So, once you’ve decided on the type of bulb you wish to plant in your garden, you may purchase them sometime around late August or early September. However, don’t plant them before mid-autumn or early winter (if you live in areas with mild winters). We’ll be explaining more about this in detail later in the guide.

  1. Selecting A Planting Site

Now that you have the flower bulbs on hand, it’s time you selected an appropriate site for planting them. 

Note that tulips prefer growing in areas with full or afternoon sun. But you can also select a shady site in zones 7 and 8 or any other site with only morning sun since they don’t prefer a lot of heat.

Just ensure that the soil is well-draining, fertile, dry or sandy, and neutral to slightly acidic in nature. It shouldn’t hold excessive moisture as that’s something tulips dislike. You’ll also have to space the bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart while planting them, so the site has to be large enough.

  1. When To Plant The Bulbs?

The flower bulbs need time to establish themselves, but planting them too early may lead to plant diseases and frosting. So, the best time to plant tulip bulbs is in fall, around 6 to 8 weeks before the ground freezes. 

As a thumb rule, you should begin the planting process when the average night temperature of your area ranges from 40 to 50 degrees. September or October is ideal for planting tulips in colder northern climates, while December is excellent for warmer climates.

That said, you’ll need to refrigerate the flower bulbs for about 12 weeks before planting them. And in case you miss the optimal planting time, there’s no need to wait for spring or the next fall. Bulbs aren’t seeds so take your chances if you find an unplanted sack of tulips in January or February.

  1. How To Plant Tulips In A Garden?

Planting tulips in a garden is not that challenging, provided you know how to go about it. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the complete plantation process. 

Step 1 

Before you begin planting the bulbs, you’ll have to prepare the garden bed using a garden fork or tiller in order to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Once that’s done, mix in a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost.

Step 2 

You can now plant the bulbs at least 8 inches deep, measuring from each bulb’s base. Hence, you’ll have to dig the soil deeper to loosen it and allow drainage. Just remember that the bigger the bulb, the bigger the hole has to be. 

Step 3 

Once you place the bulb in the hole with its pointy end facing up, cover it with soil and press firmly.

Step 4 

After you’re done planting the flower bulbs, water them right away as they require water to grow, even though they dislike moisture.

Step 5 

This is definitely another crucial step for planting perennial tulips. Make sure you feed them balanced fertilizers, compost, organic material, or balanced time-release bulb food. That said, tulips come with their own storage system, comprising all the nutrients they need for the year. So, you don’t have to worry about this step too much. 

Step 6 

It’s always a good idea to place holly or any other thorny leaves in the hole while planting the flower bulb to deter mold and mice. You may also consider crushed gravel or kitty litter for this. However, if rodents are a serious problem, you’ll have to take more measures like planting tulips in buried wire cages.

  1. How To Plant Tulips In A Pot?

You may also plant tulip bulbs in a pot to get a dense and flowery spring pot display. For this, you’ll have to layer the bulbs one on top of the other similar to what we refer to as a bulb lasagne. The largest bulb has to go deepest, while the smallest and earliest goes in the top layer.

And as the emerging shoots of the lower layer keep on growing and bend around anything they hit, you’ll have to plant them further apart than what you would in a single-layered pot. Ideally, this is something around 2 to 3 cm.

The first layer can be 28 to 30 cm deep with 5 cm of potting compost followed by the next layer of bulbs.

Growing & Caring Tips For Tulip Flowers

Your responsibility doesn’t just end after planting the flower buds in a garden or pot. In order to help them grow, you need to take care of them like your own. And by following our tips mentioned below, rest assured your garden will be brightened with these brightly colored cup-shaped jewels by early spring. 

  1. Tulips don’t grow well in excessive moisture as wet soils lead to disease and fungus, and eventually, the bulbs start rotting. So, if it rains, refrain from watering them. But if it’s a dry spell with no sign of rain, water the bulbs weekly till the ground freezes. 
  2. You can add sand, shredded pine bark, or any other rough material to the soil in order to foster smooth drainage. 
  3. Don’t forget to add compost annually to provide the essential nutrients needed for the bulbs to bloom.
  4. When you notice leaves emerging in the spring, feed your flower bed the same bone meal or bulb food that you’ve used +during the plantation process, and water well.
  5. After flowering, allow the leaves to remain on your plants for about six weeks until every leaf dies by early summer. This is important as tulips need their foliage to gather energy for the following year’s bloom. You can prune them off once the leaves turn yellow and die.

Final Words

Planting tulips is simple, provided you know when and how to go ahead with the process. And it doesn’t just end there. Once you’ve placed the bulb in the hole and covered it with compost, shredded leaves, a mulch of pine bark, and more soil, you’ll need to care for them and pay attention to the details. 

Only then will you be able to achieve the glorious spring display that you desire. On that note, we now come to the end of our informative guide on planting, growing, and caring for tulip flowers. 

And here’s hoping we were able to help you gain all the required insight related to the topic. With this, we’ll take your leave. Till next time, happy gardening!

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