Tulips have long inspired poetry and romance, and it's easy to see why.
With their statuesque elegance, they make a beautiful addition to any garden. With a little know-how, this flower once described as a 'tray of jewels' can make a long-lasting contribution to your floral displays.
They also make a great cut flower and we have some care tips that will keep them at their best for as long as possible.
Read on for our ultimate guide to tulip care.
Before Planting Tulip Bulb Care
Tulip care actually begins before the bulbs are even put into the ground.
They benefit from storage in a cool dry place. If you buy them during the summer, keep them cool (even in the refrigerator is fine) until you're ready to plant.
Wetness, both before planting and after, is bad for tulips. It's really important that you monitor them during storage and ensure that they are kept dry at all times.
When you come to plant if any of your bulbs are soft or moldy, you'll have to ditch them. Sadly, these will not produce the results you're looking for.
Right Time to Plant
In New York State, the best time to plant your tulip bulbs at the start of the fall, late September/early October. The cold ground temperatures through the winter are essential for the tulips to develop properly.
While you can plant them later than this, make sure that they've been stored in a cool place first, as the cool period stops them from sprouting too early. If they do this, you will not get the great blooms you're hoping for!
It's worth mentioning at this point that this tip is important for other types of bulbs too, so make sure your daffodils and crocuses get time to cool off too!
Planting Tulips Successfully
Bulb plants, including tulips, are easy and rewarding, whether you're a novice or a green thumb.
Here's our foolproof guide to getting great blooms.
Location, Location, Location
First of all, carefully choose the location.
You're looking for a balance of cool soil and sun. Not always an easy combo. Carefully note when your garden gets the sun.
Make sure they're not going to be in full sunshine for many hours of the day. This will heat up the soil too much and they won't thrive.
At the same time, make sure they're not in full shade either. Takes a little effort, but the gorgeous tulips that result will more than make up for it!
Tulips can also be grown very successfully in pots, which can give you more flexibility about where you locate them.
The soil should be well turned over. As mentioned earlier, wetness is the enemy of tulips. They will do best in pH neutral, or slightly acidic soil, that is well drained.
The tulips will benefit from some organic fertilizer, high in nitrogen. Give them a feed when they are planted, and then again when the shoots emerge in springtime.
Rules for Successful Planting
Plant the bulbs at a depth of about 6 inches and about 5 inches apart from each other.
Here's a fun fact - the pointed part of the bulb will produce the sprout. However, even if you planted it with the pointed part facing downwards, it would still rotate and point in the right direction.
Aside from being a cool factoid, this also means that you don't need to stress about them getting knocked over when you cover them with earth afterwards.
Plant in groups of about 10-15 bulbs for a great looking display. Planting in rows make them look like they're being grown commercially. They will look much better planted in clumps in your garden and put on an amazing show.
Caring for Tulips After Planting
Now, it's pretty much a case of sitting back and letting nature take its miraculous course.
If you have an incredibly dry period, you could consider some light watering. However, this would not be something needed under normal circumstances. The natural rainfall should be all that the bulbs need.
When the spring comes, you'll be glad that you planned ahead. You'll have a fabulous display that will look amazing in your garden!
Care for Cut Tulips
Once the tulips bloom, it can be nice to cut some to display inside the house.
First of all, cut the stems on a diagonal. Even if you buy shop bought tulips, recut the stems in this way. Cutting them under running water may reduce air from entering the stems. This makes it easier for the flowers to take up water.
Whether you buy your flowers, or harvest them from your own garden, the key to long-lasting blooms is cut flower food.
These little packets usually come with cut flowers, but can be bought from supermarkets and florists as well. Follow the directions on the packet.
Tulips look great in tall, straight vases, with a height of roughly 50% more than the height of the vase. Make sure that you use room temperature water rather than cold water. This will be much easier for the tulips to take up.
You may have heard suggestions such as adding sugar, soda and other additives to the water. While you may want to experiment with those, studies suggest that cut flower food is still the most effective.
Keep the water topped up, keep them away from heat sources and they'll reward you with a good display for up to ten days.
The Takeaway: How to Care for Tulips
If you're planting tulips, the key tulip care point is - chill! (the tulips, not you)
Keep them cool and dry, both before planting and when they're in the ground, and they'll reward you with a stunning display.
If you're keeping them as cut flowers, the key tulip care point is - feed!
Keep the water clean and topped up, pop in some cut flower food, and enjoy your display for up to ten days.
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