How to Plant and Grow Tulips Along With Caring Tips

How to Plant And Grow Tulips in Your Backyard

The annual tulip festival at Guggenhouf in the Netherlands is every flower lover’s dream. But it is not very difficult to recreate the magic in one’s backyard. With their contrasting striations and ruffles edges, tulips can be a sight for sore eyes. Native to the foothills of the Himalayas and East Turkey, tulips grow the best in areas where winters are cold, dry, and have hot summers. Relatively easy to grow, tulips are ideal for planting across flower beds and borders. But how does one plant, grow, and care for tulips in their garden or backyard? If you want to know how to grow tulips in your backyard, you must first familiarise yourself with a few tips and tricks.

Important Facts About Tulips

  1. Tulips were first found in ancient times during the Ottoman Empire ( now Turkey) and found their way from the wild to cultivation.
  2. Charles de l’Ecluse imported tulips to Holland in the 1500s, where it became a popular subject for artists and a coveted plant for the higher echelons in society.
  3. In the 17th century, tulips were a huge rage and fashion statement. It is evident from the cost of a handful of bulbs soaring up to $44,000. When the prices dropped, many investors suffered huge losses.
  4. The Netherlands is the world’s largest cultivator of tulips.
  5. Tulips are available in all colors, except blue. Traditionally they were grown only in two colors – red and yellow.
  6. Solid or variegated colors, ruffled, fringed, single or double row of petals are the words used to distinguish between the petals and sepals of tulips, making for a more exciting array of choices.
  7. The foliage comprises of green leaves with a flesh tinge and purple along with a leafless hollow stem.
  8. Red tulips are known and believed to symbolize a declaration of true love.
  9. It is not the same that you planted in the fall if you dig a tulip bulb during midsummer. It is her daughter. While they are blossoming, tulips are dividing for the next generation.
  10. To get a longer shelf life in a vase, cut the stems of tulips diagonally and wrap the upper 2/3rds of the flowers in a newspaper or funnel. Stand them in cool water for an hour or two. Recut the stem, and the tulips will last for a least a week.

Types Of Tulips Plants

There are so many varieties and species in tulips that one is spoilt for choice. Some types are easy to care for and look the prettiest too. A few of the most popular types are:

1. Triumph Hybrids

The classic single, cup-shaped tulip makes up the largest group in the tulip varieties. Some types are:

  • Cracker Tulip that blooms in mid-spring and comes in pink, purple, and lilac petal shades
  • Ile de France is another midseason bloomer with deep red blooms and grows upto 20 inches tall.
  • Calgary, with its snowy white petal and blue-green foliage, is another mid-spring bloomer.


2. Lady Jane Tulip

This variety has attractive red and white striped petals with blue-gray foliage. It combines well with plants with silver foliage. Its stem is 810 inches tall and blooms in mid-spring.


3. Appledorn Elite

A classy variety of the Darwin Hybrid, recommended for perennial growing, has classic blooms with a broad base and narrower tops.


4. Fusilier Tulip

These produce a cluster of reddish-orange flowers with throats in yellow that form a bouquet on the plant. They grow about 10 inches tall and bloom early.


5. Honeymoon

White and satiny in feel, the cup-shaped flowers are what lend it the exquisite look. Blooming from mid to late spring, they add a textural twist to the garden.


6. Honky Tonk Tulip

Called the lady tulip, or candlestick tulip, its blooms are yellow on the inside and peachy outside. It is a low-growing variety and grows only about 8 inches tall.


7. Apricot Parrot

Another variety of ruffled beauties, this type embodies the essence of spring in their green, cream, and pink hues.


8. Peppermint Stick Tulip

Named after their candy cane red and white striped blooms, these are apt for neutralizing rock gardens in the backyard.


How to Choose Tulips

Tulip bulbs have an embryo flower tucked inside. The embryo is just waiting to begin growing. While choosing tulip bulbs, one must make sure they are fat and firm. Bulbs that are soft, flabby, and with a missing paper covering must be avoided. Purchase bulbs in August or September and plant them in autumn. Tulips are eagerly waiting to sprout and, for this reason, must be frozen in winter. They must be stored in paper bags and not plastic and kept in a cool place.

When And Where To Plant Tulips

Tulips don’t like too much shade or too much sun. Pick a site that enjoys full afternoon sun and partial shade. The soil must be well-drained, fertile, slightly acidic, and with a low level of moisture. Taller varieties must be guarded against strong winds, and bulbs must be spaced at least 4-6 inches apart. Lastly, loosen the soil to achieve a good depth and add in a 2-4 inch layer of compost.

How To Prepare Soil For Planting Tulips

The ideal soil for planting tulips is of average quality and well-drained. Conduct a soil test to check the nutrient content and the pH balance. The pH level must be slightly acidic to neutral ranging from 6.0-7.0. Use compost or leaf mulch to amend the soil as needed. Sand or gravel will also help to achieve a loose and crumbly consistency.

How To Plant Tulips

It is easy to plant tulips in the garden or even grow tulips indoors. Make sure to pick a sunny site that has a good drainage. Dig the area and loosen the soil to about 30 cm deep. Add fertilizer and compost to the soil and mix well until homogenous. After preparing the site for the tulips, dig the planting holes. Each hole needs to be dug three times the length of the tulip bulb in depth. There must be twice as much soil over the tip of the bulb as the height of the bulb. For instance, if the bulb is 5 cm tall, the hole must be 20 cms deep so that you have about 13 cm of soil above the bulb. If planting them in borders, the bulbs must be planted in groups of ten and spaced about 5 cm or a couple of inches apart. The pointy end of the bulb must face up. After planting the bulbs, water them thoroughly and cover the area with a mulch made of pine bark or shredded leaves to protect them from insects and harmful elements.

How To Care For Tulips Plant

Caring for tulips in a pot or border is vital for a rewarding experience. A few tips for caring for tulip plants are:

  • If you live in an area where it rains every week, then it needs no watering. However, if you experience a dry spell, water Tulips once a week to ensure full bloom and reduce rot.
  • Wet soil, irrigation systems, and rainy summers could be detrimental to tulips. Excessively damp soil could lead to disease and fungus, which could rot the blooms. Shredded pine bark, sand, gravel, or any other rough material will help to encourage fast drainage.
  • When leaves emerge, feed the tulip the same food or meal used when you planted them and water it well.
  • Let the leaves remain on the plants for about six weeks once they flower. Tulips need the foliage to gain energy for the blooms next year. You can prune the foliage once they turn yellow.
  • You may need to replant large varieties every year than the smaller types, multiplying and spreading independently.

Tips For Cutting Tulips

Cutting tulips is also needed to prevent the chance of rot for the healthy part of the plant. For this purpose, specific actions are necessary to ensure a healthy bloom:

  • Deadhead the tulips within the first three weeks of bloom, right before the petals fall off.
  • Falling petals may get caught in the foliage, cause mold, and die before nourishing the new bulbs that grow underground.
  • To get tulips to last longer in the vase, make sure to cut the stem diagonally. Wrap the upper two-thirds in a newspaper funnel. Leave the tulips in water for an hour or two. Remove the newspaper and trim the stems.
  • Cut the stems when the flowers are in the bud stage and begin to show what color they will be.

Growing Tulips in Containers and Pots

Growing tulips in a container or pot is no different from planting them in the ground. You will need a significantly large pot with a well-drained potting mix. Once the plant is dormant, let them dry out. Store the pots in a cool, dry area until spring. You could even bury the pots in the ground before winter. Pull them out in spring and place them where you can enjoy the blooms.

Common Pests/Diseases

Tulips are prone to several diseases and infestation by pests. Some common pests include slugs, gray mold, snails, and Nematodes. Squirrels, rabbits, mice, and voles are also very fond of tulip bulbs. Some common diseases that affect tulips are:

  • Basal Rot, also referred to as gray rot, makes its way from the bulb to the flower rotting everything on its path.
  • Botrytis Blight, also known as tulip fire, affects the foliage restricting growth and causing deformities.
  • Tulip Mosaic Virus, one of the many mosaic viruses, causes discoloration of flowers and leaves, resulting in tepal and foliage breaking.

How Many Times Do Tulips Bloom

From a botanical perspective, tulips are perennials, and centuries of hybridizing have developed their ability to return annually. Most gardeners treat them as annuals and plant bulbs every autumn. Every part of the world cannot replicate the climate of the place where it originated. Most gardeners in the western region of the USA, which is mountainous, feel that the environment is closest to its origin and have successfully annualized tulips. Tulips generally bloom between May to July in the year.

How Deep Do You Plant Tulip Bulbs

The general rule of thumb is a depth of thrice the bulb’s diameter, which translates into 4-6 inches deep. Some gardeners swear by the 8-inch depth in warmer locations, where pre-chilled bulbs and deep planting are critical for healthy roots. Some researchers at Cornell University suggest “top planting,” where bulbs are planted at a depth of 2 inches with an application of mulch upto 2-4 inches to the top. It is advisable to space bulbs 2-6 inches apart depending on the variety and kind of arrangement you prefer.

How Long Does it Take for Tulips to Grow

Tulips generally need 10 to 16 weeks of chilling. They grow anywhere between one to three weeks after the required time. Tulips need 8-16 weeks of artificial winter, and once the plants are brought into spring weather conditions, the plant will sprout to emerge into a flowering plant within 15-30 days.

Tulips have become a symbol of paradise on earth with a spectacular sight for viewing. Tulips have acquired a divine status as a flower with numerous flower shows dedicated to enjoying various species and colors. From the Netherland to the USA, there are several tulip festivals organized to revel in its beauty. The above guide helps in knowing everything from the history to tips on cultivation and even cutting and styling them in a bouquet.

Also Read:

Tips to Plant and Grow Artichokes
How to Grow and Care Basil in Your Garden
Growing Sweet Potatoes in Your Backyard

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