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How to Plant Tulip Bulbs

How to Plant Tulip Bulbs

A garden without colorful flowers is like a body devoid of a soul. So, if you want to enliven your garden, you need to spruce it up with beautiful flowering plants. There are many flowering plants out there, and one such lovely plant is the Tulip.

If you haven’t yet tried planting tulip bulbs before, I think this article is best for you. Tulips like to be planted at a certain time. So, the trick is, you should wait for the right time so that your tulips will grow well and heartily bloom during spring.

Tulips are classified as perennials, and they are naturally hardy to zones 3 and 8 (USDA). They would not really thrive in warmer regions. Thus, if you happen to grow tulips in your place, which has warm weather, you should dig up the bulb before hot weather arrives and stack those bulbs inside a cool and dry place. Then, you can plant them back when the weather cools down. If you cultivate them right, you will surely enjoy a bountiful bloom when spring comes.

Understanding the Evolution of Tulip

Tulip is a lovely flowering plant with a fascinating evolution. Its distribution corresponds to Latitude 40° north. This means it grows naturally from Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey to Syria, Palestinian Territories, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon, down to the Sinai Peninsula. It also grows naturally in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Caspian sea’s eastern shore up to Turkmenistan, Bukhara, Tashkent, and Samarkand. It also grows in Central Asia, Western Himalayas, Inner Mongolia, southern Siberia, and even in northwest China. So, when it comes to hardiness, it is definitely widespread along the Latitude 40° north.

The term “tulip” etymologically came from the Turkish word “tulbend” which means “turban” because it resembles the shape of a turban. Tulip became popular in Europe in 1636 up to 1637 when a “Tulipmania” erupted in Europe. During those times, the tulip bulb became so precious that its price became even higher than that of a house.

As a plant, tulips belong to the perennial plants. The types of tulips are subdivided into 15 types, depending on the shape of its flower and its time of blooming. Its leaves are broad and strappy. They also have a waxy coating that provides them with their blue-green color. Each plant usually has 2 to 6 leaves.

Its flowers are cup-shaped and feature three petals and three sepals. Some types of tulips come with star-shaped flowers. These types of tulips are products of hybrid cultivation. Their flowers have a base that is somewhat darker in color compared to their petals. The majority of tulips have one flower on each stem. However, there are some with many flowers.

Thing You Must Know When Planting Tulips

Factors to Consider & Thing You Must Know When Planting Tulips

Flowering plants like tulips will surely blossom if they are cultivated in good soil. They thrive well in crumbly, loose soil that is well-drained. Here are the factors that you should consider when planting tulips:

1) Prepare a Good Soil Mix that Drains Well

The aspect of drainage is crucial to its growth because its bulb would rot in a soil that is saturated with water. In Holland, for example, tulips are usually grown in the sand to ensure that their bulbs will not get saturated with water and rot.

The point is, you should carefully prepare the soil wherein you would cultivate the bulb. You can include enough organic matter or compost to the soil mix. Though, more often, you don’t need to prepare the soil if the soil drains well. 

Generally, tulips like sandy soil that is rich in compost and organic materials. However, it does not grow well in clay soil. Hence, you should add some compost and a bit of sand to your clayey soil to improve its texture, before planting the bulbs.

2) Stretch and Spread your Bloom Using Different Varieties of Tulips

Tulips generally bloom during spring right after the crocuses have bloomed and before the blooming of the peonies. If you want tulips to bloom longer, you should choose tulip varieties that could bloom for six weeks. 

Tulips come in different varieties. Some tulips have a lone flower in a stem. Other varieties have two, while some have much foliage. Some tulips flower earlier than others, while some bloom late. Moreover, the flowers of tulips come in varied colors of pink, red, white, purple, orange, and yellow.

If you want to stretch the bloom of your tulips, the trick is, you should carefully select tulip bulbs according to types and varieties. You should also select according to form, flower, local adaptation, bloom time, and color.

3) Select a Good Sunny Spot for your Tulips

Tulips thrive in lots of sunlight. Hence, you should put it in a spot where there are lots of sunlight. With enough sunlight, your tulips will achieve their maximum growth and optimal bloom. They can also thrive in half-day sun. Even underneath a deciduous tree, they could thrive. So, if you want to cultivate them in a warmer region, you should plant them under trees to shield them from extreme sunlight.

4) Choose a Good Planting Location

A tulip bulb is easily affected by fungal diseases, especially if it is cultivated in moist and cool soil. To limit susceptibility to fungal disease, you need to uproot the old bulbs after a tulip had bloomed. Then, you should plant fresh new bulbs during the fall. You should also give the soil a three-year rest in between so that the soil can regain its nutrients. You should also rotate planting areas to provide soil its needed respite.

5) Plant Them in Group

Tulips are ideally planted in groups of fifty bulbs or more. Per square foot, you can plant around 12 to 20 bulbs. Dig the area of planting up to 8-inch deep. Then, leave the soil in the nearby tarp. Make a 4-inch spacing for the bulbs. This will give you a nice and full blossom when they flower. Afterward, you can cover the bulbs with soil from the tarp.

You might get frustrated the next year if the bloom is not that explosive as the last year. Well, this is pretty natural since tulip bulbs sometimes need more nutrients to bloom. So, the soil should be replenished and given rest for a while. Tulip bulbs, of course, need cool and moist springs. You can choose perennial tulips as well as species tulips that could reliably return for several years of cultivation. You should stick with these types of tulips if you want to have a beautiful bloom every year.

6) Timing of Planting is Crucial!

The best time for planting tulips is in fall. Planting them during this season will definitely give you lovely blooms during spring. So, if you want to ensure good blooms, you should time your planting during fall. Time it about 6 weeks before the first heavy freeze. If you miss that time, you can still start cultivating your bulbs during winter or in early spring. As long as you can dig through snow, during winter, you can catch up with your planting. 

If you engage in late planting, you should plant your bulbs about six inches deep into the soil. If you find it hard to dig into the snow, you can cover your bulb with soil. The good season for planting is in November. This time is apropos for planting because cold weather can prevent fungal growth that affects bulbs. You should also not plant during the peak hoarding season of chipmunks and squirrels, for you may have some problems with them.

7) Have Your Bulb Delivered on the Right Time!

Sometimes, you would order bulbs from flower stores. You should have them delivered about six weeks before planting season. Once the bulbs arrive, you should keep them chilled. Some of them would surely arrive pre-chilled. So, make sure that you chill them. You can chill them by putting them inside a paper bag; then, place them inside a refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks. In this manner, you can ensure that the bulbs would be significantly stimulated and could provide you with enormous growth and bloom.

How to Plant a Tulip

Here are several steps that you can take to ensure that you plant the tulip bulbs properly. 

  1. First, place the bulbs into the hole.
  2. Second, ensure that their roots are pointed downside.
  3. The bulb’s bottom should firmly rest on the hole’s bottom. Then, cover the bulbs with soil and pat it lightly down.

If you plant them in fall, the soil temperature will plummet to around 60° F during winter. This temperature can keep the tulip bulbs in a hibernation state during the cold months. You should add mulch to the soil bed. This will protect the soil from extreme cold weather. The mulch should be around 2″ to 3″ thick to keep the temperature of the soil at a proper level. Then, thoroughly water the tulip bulbs.

Outdoor Planting or Container Planting: Which is Better?

You got two options when planting tulips. You can either plant them directly into an outdoor soil bed or in a container. Both options, of course, have their pros and cons.

A) Outdoor Planting

If you intend to plant outdoor, you should choose a soil with good drainage. If the soil does not drain well, you can change the texture of the soil by adding organic materials. You can also raise the soil from the ground by 2 to 3 inches to enhance drainage. You can use peat moss, ground bark, decomposed manure, or compost to improve the texture of the soil. 

You should also consider the amount of sunlight that the place gets. Tulips want more sunlight when they are growing. But they also need a winter cooling period — these are the things you need to bear in mind. 

In Zone 8, tulips thrive because they get the ideal ambiance for growing. But in Zone 9, you may get frustrated because they don’t return to growing year-round. 

You should also dig deeper when planting the bulbs. You should dig around 8 inches deep from the bulb’s base to the ground level. Thus, you need to dig deeper than 8 inches. You should bear in mind that if the bulb is bigger, the hole must be deeper.

B) Container or Pot Planting

You should choose a container or pot that is of good quality. Make sure that the container has draining holes that are not clogged. If the tulips sit longer in saturated soil, their roots will rot. So, make sure that you use large containers with drainage holes. Then, plant your tulip bulbs into the container. Cover them with well-draining soil. Make sure that the soil mix has mulch made of organic materials. Position the pot or container in an area that gets enough sunlight. You should bear in mind, however, that tulips need a winter cooling period so that they could return next spring.

Generally, you should plant tulip bulbs deeper if you live in a colder region. You should plant them 4″ apart and around 7″ deep. Make sure that the roots are facing downward. Then, water the bulbs thoroughly, soaking the soil gently around the roots. Roots usually form in autumn, while flowers typically appear in spring.

Proper After-planting Care For Tulip

After successfully planting the bulbs, you should ensure that you follow these tips:

  • If there is heavy rain during the week, you should not water the plant. if a dry spell occurs, however, you should weekly water the bulbs until the first hard freeze.
  • Do not willfully water the tulips unless there is drought. Wet soil allows fungi to develop and can rot the bulbs. You can put sand and shredded pine bark, or any other material that could improve the drainage of the soil.
  • You should also apply compost to supplement the nutrients of the soil. You should do this annually.
  • During springtime, when leaves started to appear, you should feed the plants with bone meal and bulb food. Then, water them well.
  • Let the leaves stay on the stems of the plants until 6 weeks after they bloom. They would need their foliage to collect energy from the sun. Afterward, you can prune their leaves when they turn yellow.
  • Bear in mind that the small types of tulips usually multiply and naturally spread even if you don’t help them. But the large varieties need some replanting after several years.
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Carlos Warren

Growing up in Texas, I was fascinated by the world of science and invention, thanks in large part to my father's work at Dow Chemical Company. However, my true passion lay in the natural world, and I became an expert in organic gardening and composting at a young age. I spent hours studying the microbiological communities in our family garden, using a microscope to define the quality of the soil. My love for farming and gardening led me to explore new techniques and methods, constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible.