The tulip is a quintessential plant for any avid gardener, with a rich, vibrant array of colors lighting up the garden when spring arrives. Despite their beauty and luster, achieving a bed full of tulips requires some careful planning and deliberation.
So, when is the best time to plant tulips? Well, read on and you shall find out everything you need to know to get your garden looking as pretty as can be this spring.
When to plant tulip bulbs?
Tulips are an exercise in patience and planning, with bulbs needing to be planted around October to early November for them to blossom in the spring. It’s important to plant the bulbs deep into the ground before the frost sets in, with the cold actually acting as a deterrent for pests and infection to the bulb itself.
Those looking for a more exact way of determining the timing for their bulbs could also look to use an outside thermometer to check the temperature. If the average temperature is sitting between 4°C and 6°C then you can be sure that its time to put your bulbs in the ground.
This does depend on where you live however, those living in colder climates should plant between September – October, and for those in warmer climates, planting between October and December is fine.
There are other options for those who want to or have to, plant their tulips later than autumn. Although not a guaranteed success, it is possible to dig into the ground during the winter and plant your bulbs around 2 ft below the ground, providing you can dig through the frosty soil. Failing that, it is possible to plant them in plastic containers and store them in an area that sits at around 4°C.
How to Plant Tulip Bulbs
Make sure to prepare your patch early by sifting and loosening the soil, digging a hole of around 7 – 8 inches in depth. You can go deeper into the soil if preferred. Next up add in some compost and mix it in with the soil, sharp sand and horticultural grit can also be beneficial for growth.
With the pointed end facing up, plant the bulb into a hole and cover it with soil, pressing the tulips so that a firm layer of soil covers it. Repeat this process, watering your bulbs in the process, something which needs to be done during the planting process.
If you are looking for an easier option, bulb planters and bulb planting trays also exist to aid in getting you the best tulips in the spring.
How to Plant Tulips in a Pot
Not everyone wants to fill their gardens with tulips, instead opting for pots to fill with their pretty flowers. Similar to planting in the ground, tulips must be planted in a pot around Autumn using the same timings as mentioned above.
It’s important to find a pot that is at least 18 inches in diameter and 15 inches off the ground, to ensure that the bulbs are given adequate space to grow. Although, unlike in the ground you can keep your tulips closer together. This should fit around 15 – 20 tulip bulbs, which can lead to some interesting garden decor if different color tulips are planted together.
Remember to keep your pots away from direct sunlight if you are growing in pots, they thrive better within sheds or garages away from constant temperature shifting. It’s integral that the bulbs aren’t constantly freezing and thawing out, which will just destroy the bulb altogether.
Growing Your Tulips
The main factor to consider when growing tulips is the amount of water they are receiving, with the bulbs not taking well to over, or under, watering. This requires keen attention to the weather, watering the plants during a dryer period, and not watering them when there has been a bout of rain.
It’s important to maintain the irrigation of the bed in which the tulips are planted, using materials such as sand and bark to provide proper drainage. Keep them well-drained and dry to prevent any fungus or infection setting in.
Keep your tulips fed with some compost, fertilizer, and plant nutrients. Check out our guide here on the best fertilizers for this year. Continue doing this even as the tulips start to flower in the spring.
Once you have a nice bed of flowering tulips, keep them watered and around 6 weeks later start deadheading any spent plants, removing the head, and leaving the leaves be. Tulips will start to die when their leaves fade to a yellow hue, meaning they can then be removed.
Do tulips grow back next year?
Although tulips are technically perennials, they aren’t guaranteed to return year after year. Typically, the ability of a tulip to grow back the following year depends on the climate in which they were grown and the variety of tulip planted.
One of the best ways to keep your tulips in good shape and ready to grow back is to make sure that the plant is storing its energy. You can ensure this by waiting until the end of summer to cut the leaves off the plant.
Best Practice for Tulip Care
One of the biggest threats to tulips is rodents and pests, typically voles and rabbits which will eat your tulip bulbs. Not everyone will have this issue, but those in areas in which those pests live may find some use in planting gravel around your tulips or even enclosing them with wire mesh. Tulips can also be susceptible to other pests, such as slugs, aphids, and even nematodes.
It’s also worth looking out for the likes of tulip fire and bulb rot, which can destroy your future flowers. Tulip fire, also known as Botrytis blight, can be identified as small, singular spots on the flower.
Tulips are a beautiful addition to any garden and are definitely a plant that should be considered for a lovely bloom. Few flowers have the ability to mark the beginning of spring quite as tulips do, and they also make every yard look like a wonderland of elegance and color.