|Cottage tulips in my garden last spring.|
If you’re a new gardener, learning how to plant tulip bulbs is fairly easy, and will bring you a lot of satisfaction when your tulips bloom next spring. Tulips are among a group of bulbs called “spring flowering” bulbs. Spring is a term used loosely by the gardening industry; spring means anytime between January and May, depending on where you live.
Tulips should be treated like annuals, which means they bloom for one year, die back and may or may not come back for a second year in a row. While most people do achieve a second blooming year out of their tulip bulbs, over the years the flowers will be less frequent or smaller. This is because the tulip puts energy into making more tulips, rather than into flowering. If you were to dig up a tulip bulb in year 3 or beyond, you may see a lot of little bulblets, sort of like cloves of garlic, on the parent bulb. These can be split off and grown into mature tulips but it takes a lot of time. I much prefer going back to the garden center in the fall and buying more!
Tulips are grouped into several types. It’s important to know which type you’d like to grow, since not everyone’s idea of a tulip is the same.
|Darwin Hybrid tulips in my garden.|
- Cottage tulips: Cottage tulips are the traditional, classic late-blooming tulip that most people think of when they hear the word. They have a single, strong stem and a big egg-shaped flower. Most bloom later in the spring, in mid to late May.
- Darwin hybrids: Darwins are among my personal favorites. These are similar to the cottage tulips but may even grow taller and larger. They are also late-blooming flowers. “Pink Impression” is one of the most famous of the Darwin hybrids.
- Parrots: Parrot tulips have fringed, multi-petaled flowers. They are outstanding and showy, but the flower heads can be so heavy they actually pull the entire flower over.
- Rembrandt: The Rembrandt tulips offer striped, splashed flowers. They’re named after the Dutch painter because he included these flowers in many of his paintings. The first Rembrandt tulips occurred when a virus attacked the tulip crop in Holland in the late 17th century. Today, most are hybrids, grown for their flowers (and virus free, thank goodness.)
- Species: Species tulips look more like their wild cousins growing in the hills of Turkey and Asia than others. They have smaller, compact flowers, and bloom in early spring, sometimes as early as March. They are also the best tulips for naturalizing; many will return year after year.
- Lily-flowered: Long, thin petals like a lily.
|Rembrandt tulips in my garden.|
Buying Spring Flowering Bulbs
Planting Tulip Bulbs
Keeping Animals Away from Bulbs
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.