University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
may seem premature to be thinking about next spring already, but fall
time to buy and plant tulips so you'll have tremendous color to begin
gardening season. Knowing what to expect
from them, how to plant, and how to protect from wildlife will help you
the best spring show.
may not realize that most tulips are generally grown as annuals,
year and either not living or few flowering the next. I don't
mind, as I only have room for so many
tulips, and this gives me the chance to try some new ones each
year. There are tulips, however, marked as
"perennial" such as Darwin types that will rebloom each year.
Many of the smaller species tulips are
perennial also, just check to make sure these are hardy in your
area. Planting tulips deeper than the usual 5 to 6
inches may help them "perennialize" as well.
are an elegant, formal flower best suited to formal plantings.
These are most often geometric, such as
rectangular, beds using even numbers of bulbs. If planting in either
curved rows, use several parallel rows (even if short) for best effect.
choosing bulbs, look at the time of bloom so you can choose varieties
to late flowering in spring. If
combining tulips for certain color combinations, make sure the
varieties you choose
bloom at the same time of the season.
as soon in fall as possible to allow roots to develop. Planting
late, however, is better than trying
to hold until spring. Dig the bed, or trench if planting in rows, to
inches deep. Mix good
compost or organic matter in the soil, especially if it is sandy or
clay. Choose a well-drained site as bulbs may rot
if too wet. Tulips bloom best in full
sun, not a problem near deciduous trees that only begin leafing out in
tulip bulbs about 6 inches apart, planted with the pointed side
up. Backfill with soil, and that's all there is
to it. I like to label my different
varieties as I usually don't remember all the names come spring.
fresh tulip bulbs already have their needed food stored inside, the
International Flower Bulb Center (www.bulb.com) recommends to not put
fertilizer in the planting hole or bed.
Besides, too much fertilizer can easily burn the base of the
bulbs. Definitely don't use bone meal as you may see
in older recommendations, as it provides little nutritional value and
is an invitation to dogs and skunks to dig up your bulbs!
If growing as annuals, you wont need to
fertilize tulips. If perennial ones,
sprinkle bulb fertilizer (you can buy as such when buying bulbs in the
top just as the bulbs emerge in the spring.
Some also fertilize again as the foliage dies down in summer.
planting, you may consider layering-- an effect used by the Dutch to
bloom period. Layering is simple-- just
plant the tulips, backfill with several inches of soil, then plant
bulbs such as crocus or squill before adding the remaining couple
soil. This way you can have early
blooms, followed by the tulips emerging through them later.
If you have deer and squirrels and other
critters that like to dig and eat tulips, or eat the flowers once up,
several tricks you can use. Dig a bed as
you would normally to plant tulips, then line with wire mesh or poultry
planting and backfilling. This, or using
ground shells or sharp stones (you can purchase these at many outlets,
poultry grit at feed stores) also helps discourage diggers.
tulips emerge in spring, keep new growth sprayed with repellents, use a
around larger areas, or interplant tulips with daffodils. No
animal eats daffodils, and by seeing these
come up first, gardeners tell me animals move on and generally don't
return. Training early is one of the
keys to successful wildlife management, not just with bulbs but with
might save out or buy a few tulips for potting and forcing into bloom
as well. Merely plant 4 bulbs in a pot
6-inches across with the bulb tips at the surface. Keep the potting
moist, and give about 12 weeks at 40 degrees (F) as in an unheated
cellar or refrigerator. Some tulips are
marked as especially suited for forcing.
each 10 tulips I buy I'll plant 6 and pot 4.
I then just sink these plastic pots in the ground until spring.
Once the shoots emerge in April, I dig the
pots and sink into potting mix in large containers. This way I
get blooms in these mobile and
visible containers, in areas where I might not grow bulbs
otherwise. They are easy to remove after bloom to make
room for annuals.