Scientific Name: Tulipa spp.
Common Name: Tulip
Common Species/Varieties: Black Parrot, Triumph, Fringed, Ice Cream
Common Colors: Green, Multicolor, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Plant Type: Flower, from bulb
Annual or Perennial: Perennial
Hardiness Zone: 2-8 USDA
Self-Seeding: No, but they can self-propagate if left in the ground
Bloom Season: Spring
Grows Best In: Full Sun
Fun Fact: It is said that a merchant of Antwerp was gifted tulip bulbs in an order of cloth from Constantinople, and thinking they were onions, attempted to eat them. Upon finding them inedible, he thought that perhaps planting them in his Dutch earth would improve the flavor. He was shocked and delighted to see them flower the following Spring!
Tulips are a beautiful addition to any Spring garden or patio or kitchen counter. Available in over 3,000 varieties, anyone is sure to find at least one favorite version of this iconic flower, if not many! Wild tulips are native to Central Asia, but are perhaps best known by their location at Keukenhof in Holland – where over seven million tulip bulbs are planted each year. Tulips make lovely border or path plants, and are well-grouped with other spring bulbs such as hyacinth and daffodils. They are also easily planted in soil in any pot that has good drainage and stored in a cool, dry place to be brought out in Spring and placed on counters or patios and in displays. Just be sure to check them every month or to make sure the soil stays moist, but not wet.
In the language of flowers, tulips in general are said to represent great love, with yellow tulips symbolizing cheerful thoughts, and white tulips symbolizing forgiveness. Although they bloom in the Spring, tulips are the flower of those born in the month of July.
TULIP PLANTING AND STORAGE:
Tulips begin as bulbs, and those bulbs are planted in the Fall. You can plant tulip bulbs directly into your garden (they make lovely path liners), or into a pot stored in a cool (but not cold) dry, dark place through Winter. A good example would be an unheated garage, or shed, or a cold frame. The idea is to keep them cool but safe from rapid changes in temperature. Tulip bulbs can also be stored in a way that prepares them for being “forced” in glass vessels in Spring. Place them in a container and add soil, then a layer of bulbs stored close together but not touching, add a layer of soil deep enough to allow room for roots to begin to develop, and then plant another row, and so forth until all of your bulbs are planted. Moisten the soil and keep it from drying out, but do not over-water. Storing Tulip bulbs in this way can help your bulbs survive and begin to develop roots in order to be able to “force” the bulbs in a glass vessel in the Spring.
Tulips, and all bulbs that bloom in the Spring, need to make their home in soil that is kept moist but never soggy. These bulbs can be a favorite of squirrels, and they will often dig the bulbs up over the Winter for a nice big meal. To prevent this from happening, we have had success with staking hardware mesh over the areas that bulbs are planted in, and removing the mesh once the plants start to bloom. All bulbs should be planted in orientations and at depths specific to the plant. For tulips, plant the bulb pointy side up in a hole that is three times as deep as the bulb is long. It’s a good idea to loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole, as well. Tulips prefer a sandy/loamy soil and full sun.
FORCING BULBS IN THE SPRING:
To “force” bulbs in the Spring, select either a vase created specifically for allowing these bulbs to grow and bloom without soil, or a tall, slender vase and line the base with a generous amount of stones, nearly to the top of the vase, and place your bulb on top of the pebbles. You will fill the water to just under the base of the bulb, and keep the water at that level until roots form. At that point, keep the roots in water at all times until the bulb has bloomed. To prepare the bulbs for blooming, place them near a very bright source of light (a grow light is best) until they begin to develop leaves. Make sure the area they are stored in to soak up the light is no warmer than 65 degrees Fahrenheit at any given time. They are now ready to go in your vessel to bloom!
You may reuse bulbs again and again, but they must be allowed to collect energy from the sun via their foliage. The easiest way to accomplish this is to plant the bulb in some soil and place it in a spot where it will get plenty of sun. Wait until the foliage has browned and withered, then dig up your bulbs and store them as before.