A guide to growing tulips

As autumn goes about its business of steadily dismantling the garden, ready for the winter shut down, it’s time for us to start planning some spring colour

At the top of the list marked ‘easy’ we have bulb planting, with the ever popular tulip being the flower we will turn to most frequently. There really isn’t much in the way gardening skill to acquire for this task—hole plus bulb nearly always equals tulip—but to maximise your floral successes there are a few simple guidelines it’s worth bearing in mind. 

 

When to plant 

The dormant months between September and November are the time to plant your tulip bulbs. You’ll know this because your local garden center is likely to have cleared space for large buckets loaded with bulbs promising a huge variety of colourful blooms. If you’ve jumped the gun and bought your bulbs early then keep them somewhere cool and dry until you’re ready to plant them. 

 

Choosing your site 

Tulips look best in borders or containers, planted en masse. Solo tulips tend to have a lost and lonely look to them, often drooping with embarrassment, so either give them a dedicated patch where you can create an oasis of colour, or combine them with an area of perennial greenery where their cheerful blooms will brighten the scene. 

 

Planting the bulbs 

Before popping your bulbs into the ground it’s worth digging in some nutritious goodness to help them along. This can come in the form of compost or a specialist plant feed. Dig a hole to a depth of roughly two or three times the height of your bulb and drop it in with the pointy end facing upwards before covering with soil. Tulip bulbs should be spaced at least twice the bulb’s width apart. It’s advisable to lay out all of your bulbs on the surface before you begin digging so you know where you’re placing them all. 

If you’re planting bulbs in a container then you can pack them in much tighter for a more compact display. Mix some grit into the compost and water well after planting. 

 

Caring for your tulips 

The bulbs in your borders won’t need much attention from here on in, other than watering if the ground dries out (this rarely happens during a tulip’s lifetime) and, for extra healthy plants, giving them the occasional feed when they start growing. Container grown tulips will almost certainly need watering and you’ll need to move them to a sheltered spot if there are signs that they’re getting too saturated with rain. 

Tulips are usually grown as single season flowers, but with some varieties there’s a good chance they’ll bloom in subsequent years if given the chance. To increase the likelihood of repeat displays, deadhead the flowers when they’ve past their prime and allow the foliage to start to turn yellow before snipping it off at the base. You could also try lifting your bulbs at this point as they’ll prefer to spend summer in more controlled conditions than your garden allows. Rub off any soil and allow them to dry out before storing in a cool, dry and dark place before planting them out again next autumn. 

 

Three tulips to try:

Tulip Red Impression
If we could only choose one tulip we would make it a classic red one, such as the magnificent Red Impression. Big, bold and bright it will look stunning in any border or container. 

 

Tulip Golden Parade
For many people it’s yellows and golds that most signify spring, and these tulips will stand out proudly within any spring garden scheme. 

 

Tulip Nachtwatch
New tulips are being developed all the time, with growers trying to create more unique and unusual blooms. This variety has showy peony blooms with each one having a different appearance, coloured from deep browns to rich purples, often flecked with cream or yellow markings. 

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