From the Desk of Ed Hume: Planting Tulips Now!

October 24, 2011 at 1:03 AM Leave a comment

Tulips, tulips, and more tulips!  There are so many types and varieties of these beautiful Spring-flowering bulbs.  They range in size from the dwarf species to the taller standard types and by selection of varieties you can have them flowering from March to May.  They come in single or double flowers and some that have pointed flower petals (lily flowering), others with feathery, frilled petals (parrot), and some that are striped or two-toned in color.  So where does one begin in choosing which ones to grow in their garden?  That’s a great question.  Probably the easiest way is to take a few minutes and either read-up on tulips or study the descriptions and pictures when you go to buy them.

Personally, I have a few favorites that I will share with you:

SPECIES TULIPS: These low-growing tulips are especially nice in rockeries, borders, or container plantings.  Some have very attractive striped foliage in addition to their attractive flowers.  They seem to be more consistent in flowering year after year without any special care.  They are also excellent for forcing indoors as early flowering potted plants.

LILY FLOWERING TULIPS: This group is one of my favorites because they seem to stay in bloom a little longer then most types of tulips.  The flowers generally are quite large, with incurved flower petals.  Flower size and lasting qualities make these wonderful tulips to use in flower arrangements.  They grow about 2 feet high, so plant them in mid-flowerbed plantings.

PARROT TULIPS: I call these novelty-type tulips.  The flowers are open, a bit floppy, fringed, and ruffled.  They are a conversation piece because of their unusual shape and beauty.  I recommend that they be planted in a spot where they are protected from strong winds and heavy rains.  Cut flowers are excellent for arranging.

DOUBLE TULIPS: These look like small 4-5 inch peony-shaped flowers.  There are early and late flowering varieties.  I grow the late ones because I find Spring rains and lousy weather are apt to spoil the flowers of the early varieties unless they are planted in a more protected area.  Most varieties grow about 12-20 inches and are excellent in container plantings.

All four types of tulips mentioned are available in a wide range of flower colors.  However, the selection varieties and colors get more limited as the Fall planting comes to an end.

Remember, these tulip bulbs are planted in the Fall, so they have a chance to become established, grow a firm root system, and begin aboveground growth in late Winter or earliest Spring.

Prepare the planting soil by adding some organic humus with your existing soil.   Compost, processed manure, peat moss, or coconut fibers are excellent forms of organic humus.   Also, add some bulb fertilizer at a depth below the bulbs to encourage a strong, sturdy root growth.

As a rule, the bulbs are planted three times deeper than the width of the bulb.   Plant small one inch bulbs 3 inches deep and two inch bulbs 6 inches deep.

It’s that easy!  But, you’ll want to get the bulbs in the ground while the weather is still suitable for planting and before the bulbs have been completely picked-over.  Enjoy!


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