How to Plant Tulip Bulbs

Tulips are one of the iconic flowers of spring but to have a successful display of tulips in April and May you have to plant the bulbs now. Tulips are relatively easy to grow but they do have some particular needs that must be met or they won’t grow or may not bloom properly. It is important to purchase tulips from reputable sellers to ensure the quality of the bulb is what it needs to be and you can get these tulips right here at Blooming Secrets. The Netherlands does have tight regulations on tulip growers so Dutch tulips are usually of good quality. If you do buy somewhere else you want to be sure the tulip bulb is not soft or moldy.

There are over 100 different varieties of tulips in just about every color on the spectrum. There are also tulips that are variegated and others that have different shapes to their flowers. Trust me; there is a tulip for you out there! Tulips are bulbs that require a cool dormant period to bloom. This is why they grow best in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 8 but if you live in warmer zones you can still grow tulips. You just have to “trick them” by giving them a 6 to 8 week cooling off period in your refrigerator and then plant them in December or January.

Although tulips are considered to be perennials and many do come back year after year they often don’t last for more than a few years in most gardens. This is because they do require cold winters and hot dry summers to truly maintain their perennial nature. Regardless, their beauty makes having them, even for a few growing seasons, worthwhile. Tulips require full sun conditions and soil that is well-drained. Too much water will rot the bulbs so be careful not to plant them in places where the soil can become saturated such as the bottom of a slope. Most tulips come with planting instructions and usually, they need to be planted 6 to 8 inches deep and about 5 inches apart. I use a tool that is specifically made for planting bulbs but a shovel and a tape measure can work just as well.

Once the hole is dug you should put the tulip in place with the tip facing upward. You don’t want to know how many gardeners have planted them upside down. Believe me, it happens. Once you fill the soil back into the planting holes you should toss a handful of fertilizer on the soil surface and scratch it in the soil with a hand tool. There are fertilizers specifically made for bulbs but I usually use 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 which seems to do just as well for me. After fertilizing give the planting area a good watering in and in a few weeks you can add a layer of mulch on the bed to help retain moisture during the winter.

Finally, while tulips are capable of standing on their own they also can work effectively when combined with other plants. I’ve found that low-growing annuals and perennials work very well with tulips. Some of my favorites are pansies, candytuft and an alyssum known as "basket of gold". Now that you know how to plant tulips why not give them a try this fall.

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