Some interesting facts about tulips are that wild tulips are native to the arid regions of Central Asia. The original species have a limited color range of mostly reds and yellows, and tend to have smaller flowers than modern cultivars and hybrids, which come in strong bright colors and pastel shades. Today’s tulips can provide you with a wide palette of colors to “paint” your garden with. Learning how to take care of tulips will make adding these flowers to your garden easy.
Choosing Tulips for the Garden
Spring bulbs like tulips already have an embryo flower tucked away inside. This embryo is just waiting to begin growing. When choosing tulip bulbs, make sure they are fat and firm. Avoid any bulbs that are soft, flabby, moldy, or whose papery cover is missing.
You will want to purchase your tulip bulbs in late August or early September (late summer/early fall), but wait to plant them until mid-autumn. Sometimes, even early winter (December) works best if you live in mild winter areas.
Tulips are so eager to grow that if you plant them too soon, they’ll send their leaves up right away. This will only freeze them in the winter. For this reason, you should store tulip bulbs in paper bags, not plastic, while waiting to plant them, and keep them in a cool place.
Care of Tulips During Storage
When it comes to tulips, care and proper storage before planting is essential. If you have the room, you should keep tulip bulbs in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Don’t put them with apples and other fruit. Apples and bananas give off ethylene gas, which helps fruit ripen but kills the flower bud inside any bulbs. If you don’t have room in the fridge, don’t put tulip bulbs in the freezer; it will kill them. Instead, keep the tulip bulbs dry and in a cool, well-ventilated area like an unheated garage.
Tulip Planting Tips
It is easy to plant tulips in the garden. Pick a sunny site that has good drainage. Tulips won’t grow well in shade and will rot in wet soil. Soil preparation is important when taking care of tulips.
Dig the area and loosen the soil about a foot (30 cm.) deep. You should add some compost or dried manure to the soil. Also, add some 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 granular fertilizer to help the bulbs grow. Mix the existing soil, amendments, and fertilizer, just like a cake batter until well blended.
After you have properly prepared the site for the tulips, you can easily dig the individual planting holes. You need to dig each hole three times as deep as the tulip bulb is tall. There should be twice as much soil over the tip of the bulb as height of the bulb, so if your tulip bulb measures 2 ½ inches (5 cm.) tall, dig your hole 8 inches (20 cm.) deep, so you’ll have 5 inches (13 cm.) of soil above the bulb.
You should plant the bulb in groups of ten if you’re putting them in your perennial border, and space them a couple of inches (5 cm.) apart.
Set the bulb so the pointy end is facing up. Don’t worry if you get some upside down. They should flower anyhow, but it will take them longer to come through the ground in spring and they may not be as tall as they should.
After the tulips bulbs are planted, you need to water them thoroughly and then cover the area with a mulch of pine bark or shredded leaves to protect them.
With tulips, care and attention to detail will reward you and your garden with a glorious spring display.