How to grow tulips

Bouquet of purple tulipsThis week sees a whole new departure for the Quickcrop team as we stick our pretty little toes into the wonderful world of flowering plants. It is not that we have fallen out of love with our vegetable garden and, as Uncle Monty (the late Richard Griffiths) would say, still ‘find the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium’ but our heads have been well and truly turned.

In particular we have been lured by one of the sirens of the Spring garden, the tulip. Tulips have become very fashionable in the last few years with many new and exciting varieties becoming available to the home grower. For Spring 2018 the trend for rich candy colours continues with mouth watering mixes of blackcurrant, burgundy, apricot and orange. As you know we are very trendy ourselves so have chosen a range of the most desirable colours but have also made sure they are the most reliable varieties to grow.

Display of tulip ballerina and triumphI feel I should come clean here, I have a lot of help with this. I am not allowed to mention whose ear I have had the benefit of or whose years of experience guided our selection but let’s just say they know what they are doing. As I mentioned last week we have put together a selection from first hand experience rather than just choosing the colours we like from a catalogue. Our varieties have been chosen for their beauty but also for attributes like sturdy stems which make them less likely to topple over or droop. All the tulips below will look amazing on their own but can also all be mixed to create some fabulous colour combinations in your garden or used for sumptuous displays of cut flowers in your home.

Double tulip angeliqueSome tulip growing tips
The great thing about tulips (or any flower bulbs) is they are like primary school children; they bring their own lunch with them. The bulb you plant in Autumn is the food store for next year’s flower and for that reason they aren’t fussy about the soil they are planted in. Bulbs will grow happily in most soil types or in pots, the exception will be heavy clay or waterlogged soils as bulbs may rot. If you do have a heavy soil it is often recommended to make a deeper than normal planting hole and partially fill with sand or grit though I am unsure how effective this is. I have some pretty wet areas in my garden so will do some tests and report back in the Spring.

Windy locations
Tulips, especially double types, will prefer shelter from strong winds so exposed sites won’t be suitable. If you have a windy garden double tulips like Angelique and Black Hero are best planted in pots in a sheltered spot as the heavy heads will be at risk of blowing over.

Planting tulip bulbsPlanting depth and Perennialising.
As all you geniuses know a perennial plant is one that comes back every year. As a rule of thumb daffodil bulbs will perennialise, i.e. once planted they will come come up again every year but most tulips tend to treated as annuals (they will bloom for one year only). Most of our tulip range, however, will flower the following year (with the exception of the double and parrot varieties) with varieties like ‘Couleur Cardinal’, ‘Pink Impression’, ‘Merlot’, ‘White Triumphator’, ‘Spring Green’ and ‘Ballerina’ making very good repeat varieties which should be good for 2-3 seasons.

It is generally accepted that deeper planted bulbs will be more likely to perennialise with a depth of 10-12 inches recommended. I am not sure what alchemy is afoot here but it would appear that the pressure of the surrounding soil at this depth helps prevent the bulb from dividing. Unlike garlic where we want the cloves to divide and produce a new bulb, when tulips divide they form smaller bulbs which produce leaves but not flowers.

Planting Bulbs – You can either dig a trench or a make separate planting holes, either way they should be 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) deep for tulips or 2/3 times the height of the bulb for most other bulbs. If you are planting a large area you can speed things up by using a bulb planter which quickly makes a planting hole by removing a plug of soil. I have included our long handled and hand held versions at the bottom of the page, they are excellent in good soil but not so good if you have very stony ground.

It is probably obvious but when planting place the bulbs with the root side facing down and the pointy end facing upwards as in the photo above.

Bulbs sprouting over the surface of compostPlant Care
As we’ve said flowers grown from bulbs have the advantage of carrying their own food supply which will be enough to produce an impressive show in the first year. To support yearly flowering or perennialising it is important that the plant is allowed to store sufficient nutrients in the bulb before it goes dormant in Summer.

Newly purchased bulbs will normally flower well in their first year on any kind of soil, but in poorer soils performance may rapidly decline without some additional nutrition. To feed tulips or daffodils you can apply a general slow release fertiliser like blood, fish and bone meal as the growing points emerge in the Spring. You can also feed with a high potassium liquid feed (tomato feed) when the flowers begin to die back and until the foliage yellows; this is not so important with bulbs planted out but is recommended for those grown in pots.

Daffodil stalks ties upYou should also avoid cutting back the foliage after flowering as the they are the plant’s solar panels and are needed to process energy for storage; allow them to die back naturally before tidying. There is an odd practice of tying up daffodil leaves after flowering but this is more for neatness than to benefit the plant; tying will decrease the surface area exposed to the sun and therefore make the leaves less efficient.

Purple tulips planted in potsPlanting in Pots
Alliums, crocuses, daffodils and tulips can all be grown very successfully in pots and look stunning on a patio or by your front door when the rest of the garden has yet to get going. Large and deep pots are better for perennialising while more shallow, bowl like pots can be used for annual flowering.

Use a ready made John Innes mixture (a soil, compost and grit mix) or make your own by mixing approx 20% good quality topsoil with compost. As above remember pot plants can only get their nutrients from what you put in so make sure you feed them if you want to keep them coming back.

You might want to grow the more showy tulips like ‘Rococo’, ‘Angelique’, and ‘Black Hero’ in pots, rather than in your beds. Because the flowers are so elaborate, they can look overly conspicuous when the rest of the plants are in their more restrained spring mode.

Field display of tulipsA big reward for only 30 minutes work!
Planting bulbs takes very little work, they are relatively cheap, fun to plant and give a optimistic boost to the tail end of your growing year. You are essentially burying treasure in your garden and (if you plant our varieties) will be rewarded with a hoard of sparkling jewels in the Spring. Our pick of the tulip crop are all featured below and are available to order now for delivery in mid September.

Order spring tulip bulbsOrdering our Spring Flowering Bulb Selection
You can view and order our selection of Spring bulbs by clicking on the image above where you will be directed to out flowering bulb shop which includes stunning tulips, daffodil and allium varieties.

 

Wooden raised garden pond shop

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4 Responses to How to grow tulips

  1. Conor Ronan says:

    You should sell pots in the picture above…

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Conor

      That is a fair point. We have always shied away from stocking terracotta pots because we felt they were likely to get damaged in transit but we should probably re visit this. We’ll look into it.
      Andrew

  2. aculpepper4 says:


    You should also avoid cutting back the foliage after flowering as the they are the plant’s solar panels and are needed to process energy for storage; allow them to die back naturally before tidying”
    I do not agree, read: https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/outdoor_living/2010/03/26/cullen_everythings_coming_up_daffodils.html

    • Andrew says:

      I don’t understand why you don’t agree as the article makes the same recommendation that I do. Are you saying you don’t agree with either of us?

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