How and when to plant tulip bulbs for spring color?

How and when to plant tulip bulbs for spring color?

Few plants spell spring like colorful tulips. But if you want a parade of flowers once winter is over, you need to plan ahead. These elegant flowers, including those with single or double petals as well as leafy, peony-like varieties, are relatively easy to grow, as long as you keep an eye out for the squirrels and deer that like to eat them. All you have to do is plant them at the right time for a strong display.

To see flowers from March to May, you should plant tulip bulbs in the fall, when the weather finally cools and winter begins. “As long as temperatures are in the 40s to 70s F, and most temperatures are no higher than the 60s, start planting,” says Bobbi Schwartz, a certified landscape designer and award-winning consultant in Shaker Heights, Ohio, who founded her own landscape business. Design company Bobbie's Green Thumb, in 1977.

But before you put on your gardening gloves and start digging, think about what type of tulips you might want to see. “Tulips come in almost every color,” says grower Brent Heath of Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, Va., whose family farm raises nearly 200 different varieties of tulips. Determine a color scheme, then vary your selection by choosing varieties that bloom at successive times from early to late spring. This way, you will have a continuous cover of tulips until the summer flowers appear.

Read on to learn how and when to plant spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, in your garden and in containers.

When to plant tulip bulbs?

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The reason you want to plant tulip bulbs in late fall, sometime between mid-October and early December in most parts of the country, is because the bulbs need to go dormant for 12 to 16 weeks before warm weather arrives to awaken their growth.

Tulips grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 9, all but the hottest and coldest regions of the country. But in zones 8 and 9, which includes most of the Southeast and West Coast, you'll need to be sure to pre-chill the bulbs (you can buy them this way from suppliers) to ensure they get 10 to 14 weeks of cold weather. temperatures (about 40 to 45 degrees F) that they need to thrive. Alternatively, you can chill them in the refrigerator before planting them in late January. As long as you can get that shovel into the ground that isn't frozen, you can still grow your tulips.

The main problem with planting tulips late in the season is having to dig them into frozen ground, which is why experts recommend putting your bulbs in the ground after the first frost but before the ground freezes. “Farming takes a long time and hard work,” Schwartz says. Having soil you can actually dig “makes the task not seem so daunting.”

In terms of weather, it's best to plant tulip bulbs after a rainy day because wet soil is easier to dig into – just avoid any spot that's too muddy.

Where to plant tulip bulbs?

Pink and yellow flowers around the garden lawn
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Tulips love full sun and look best if exposed to direct sunlight for six to eight hours daily. Planting tulip bulbs in shade can stunt their growth, so make sure the spot you choose in your garden receives at least partial sun.

You also want to avoid planting tulip bulbs anywhere that is damp, attracts puddles of water, or is located directly under a tree. “Tulips are beautiful around trees as accents, but remember that tree roots will get in the way of easy planting as they need to be dug and the roots can add a challenge,” says Joan Mazat, director of Ball Seed's cut flower business.

In terms of soil, the pH should be around 6 to 7. “If you have heavy clay soil, consider adding amendments to improve aeration and drainage and allow the bulb roots an easier time growing,” says Mazat. “If you have sandy soil, consider adding topsoil and bone meal to improve the quality and texture. Providing some nutrients will be a big help, too.”

Otherwise, plant tulips anywhere you want to see their color. They pair well with other spring bulbs, such as daffodils, alliums, and lilies. Mazzat also suggests planting bulbs near perennials that bloom in late summer. “This will bring color as the perennials begin to grow while displaying flowers later in the season,” she says.

How to plant tulip bulbs

Gardening and gardening The gardener plants seeds in an earthen hole

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Dig a hole four times as deep as the height of the bulb or bulbs you want to plant. Mazzat suggests that you can use a bulb planter or drill bit to work super quickly.

If you are planting several bulbs in each hole, they should be large enough so that the bulbs can be spaced a few inches (or about three times their width) between them. Place the bulb or bulbs in the soil pointy upwards, with the roots at the bottom. It is not necessary to add fertilizer to the hole, instead cover the area with compost to improve the soil.

Tulips look best when planted in groups or large areas rather than one here and there. Following a design principle known as the rule of three, odd numbers of objects in a group look more interesting than even, so we suggest planting at least three to five tulip bulbs in each hole. It's also nice to plant an entire area — for example, a few feet wide and long — for maximum aesthetic effect.

How can I protect tulips from pests?

Roe deer eating red lilies in the garden

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Deer and burrowing rodents, such as chipmunks, love tulips, so you can try to protect the flowers from hungry garden guests by spraying each bulb with an animal repellent before planting. “It smells sweet, so if you mask the fragrance, the critters tend to leave it alone,” Heath says. You can also spray the buds when they appear in the spring to deter deer.

To discourage other animals looking for a snack (they love tulip sap), Schwartz uses expanded aggregate (Turface MVP) to deter digging. “They are pieces of gravel that have sharp edges,” she explains. “I put some in the bottom of the hole and a little more on top of the soil.”

Schwartz uses the I Must Garden deer repellent. Unlike other repellents that are disgusting to both humans and animals, this product smells nice for you but not so much for deer and rabbits. When spring comes, Schwartz sprays the new leaves immediately. Then watch for the flower stalk to appear just above the leaves and spray again. You spray a third and final time when the bud is fully visible above the foliage.

One strategy taken by all experts? Overplanting. “Creatures are what they are,” Mazzard says. “I planted the tulip bulbs knowing I would lose some to my furry friends in the garden.”

Do tulips come back every year?

For the most part, unlike other spring bulbs, such as daffodils, which come back year after year, tulips are not truly perennials. You won't know until the following spring whether the tulips will bloom again.

“In certain parts of the country, some tulips are perennial and will come back. But in many parts of the country, they don't bloom again, so we treat them as annuals and plant new bulbs every year,” Heath says. Autumn.” If you're hoping for reblooming, Schwartz recommends planting bicolor varieties like Lilac Wonder or Lady Jane.

To give your tulips the best chance at making a comeback, plant them with other perennials and annuals, which will help keep them from getting too wet (tulips prefer a dry bed during their summer dormancy). You can also try deadheading or cutting off the small seed pod once the petals fall. Otherwise, the plant spends energy producing seeds instead of next year's flowers. It's also a good idea to remove the foliage about eight weeks after the tulips emerge or when they turn yellow and pull away effortlessly. Don't do it too early, because the plant needs its leaves to make food for next year's flowers (you know, photosynthesis!).

If you hope your tulips will grow again next year but have to change their location for whatever reason, you can move the bulbs. First, allow the foliage to die, says Mazzard; Tulips need to complete their growth cycle if possible. Then dig the bulbs, remove any soil, and let them dry. “They can be stored in dry moss or sawdust in a cool, dark place, then replanted in the fall,” Mazzard says.

Frequently asked questions about planting tulip bulbs

Do tulips reproduce?

It depends. Some species are more likely to come back and spread than others, such as tulip species or Darwin's hybrids, but they are never guaranteed. If you want to see your tulips grow big, your best bet is to make sure they are in a location that makes them happy, with plenty of sun and good drainage. (It will rot in wet soil.) Also leave the foliage in place until it dies off on its own.

Where can you buy tulip bulbs?

Local nurseries sell tulip bulbs in late summer and fall. Look for bulbs that are not bruised, that are bright and firm; They should have a “jacket” or brown outer skin with a leathery appearance. Skip the squishy lamps, and choose ones that feel as heavy as a golf ball, not as light as a ping pong ball.

You can also purchase tulips from online retailers earlier in the season for a wider range of choices. They will hold your order and ship it when it is time to plant it in your part of the country. This is a great option because you can choose from more species, colors and sizes with different flowering times. In fact, Schwartz buys all of her tulip bulbs online. Her top pick is Brent and Becky's Bulbs because it has an extensive catalog and accurate photos. For very unusual lamps, Odyssey lamps are used. Other reliable sources she likes are K. van Bourgondien and John Scheepers.

Is it possible to grow tulips in pots?

Growing tulips in pots is a great way to enjoy them if you don't have space in outdoor beds, plus it's easier to keep rodents away. Fill the pot three-quarters full with soil, then place the bulbs side by side to fill them, and cover them with soil to the top of the pot. Cover the soil with a piece of chicken wire, then add a layer of mulch. Keep the pot in the shade — or in an unheated place, such as a shed — during the winter, so the temperature remains fairly stable. Water once when planting, then again in early spring.

Once the tulips appear in spring, take them outside in full sun. Just be aware that sometimes the results are unpredictable: tulips certainly don't like extreme temperature fluctuations, so if yours aren't blooming well, they may have endured too many freeze-thaw cycles. Don't worry, just try again next year!

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