Every garden deserves a little early spring cheer and adding spring bulbs is an easy way to do it. Here’s how to grow tulips!
As the years go by, I find my opinions about spring flowers getting stronger and stronger. More specifically, I find I’m more and more in favour of the idea that every garden should have at least some early spring bulbs in it, and that gardens that only really wake up later in the season are very sad. Whenever I drive by a house with a particularly cheerful spring show, I always think that the people who live there must be extra kind and lovely to go to all that effort to put out so much beauty into the world right when we all need it most at the end of a long winter. I absolutely love white tulips, so I always try to add a few more to my gardens each year, but I’m really convinced now that a more substantial display would really be such a nice gift to everyone who passes by our house in the spring. Tulips are so easy to grow that I know I’ll be able to do quite a respectable job of it and create a really uplifting display without too much effort at all. If you’d like to do the same, here’s how to grow tulips!
When to Plant Tulips
Although white tulips are my favorites, the following information pertains to all colors and types of tulips. I have grown many other colors in the past, but I’ve found that I just love the way white tulips looks in front of my white house, set off by all the fresh greens that May always brings to our corner of the world.
If you’d like to add tulips to your garden, the fall is the traditional time to do it. Any time between September and December when the ground is still workable will be just fine. Some years I’ve been very enthusiastic and planted my bulbs early in the fall, and sometimes I’ve found myself almost forgetting about them and getting it done only at the last minute when the ground was almost frozen.
Once you plant your tulips, they should keep coming back year after year if they’re happy. I always try to add a few more bulbs every fall to try out new varieties and increase the overall number of tulips growing in my garden. This works out well because you may find that you have one or two that don’t come back one year due to any number of factors. It only takes a few minutes of your time to plant a handful of bulbs every fall.
Here’s a little trick to try if you’d rather do your planting in the spring. This can be helpful if your gardens get really full by the end of summer and it’s hard to find open ground to plant in. My hostas really fill in just about every square so it can be hard to for me to get even distribution of tulips all around the garden. So here’s what to do: Just buy a few of those little pots of blooming tulips that you can get commonly at grocery stores in the spring and plant them right in the ground where you want them! At the end of the season, the tulips will die down and will come back right on schedule with all your other tulips the next year.
Where to Plant Tulips for Best Results
While tulips are generally super easy to grow, it is possible to plant them in a location where they just won’t be able to thrive. Ideally, find a spot in your garden where they’ll receive as much morning sun as possible. They don’t seem to do quite as well with early morning shade and only late day sun.
It’s also important that you’re planting in an area with quite a bit of soil depth. If you plant your tulips in ground that’s too shallow, you’ll likely end up with leaves that shoot up, but then just flop over and lie flat on the ground and the actual blooms may never come out at all.
How to Plant Your Tulips
There are different varieties of tulips, so always follow the instructions on the packaging, but in general you’ll want to plant your tulips in holes dug about six-to-eight inches deep. Add a little compost or rich garden soil back into the hole, plunk in the bulb with the pointy side facing up, and fill the hole back in with your compost.
You can plant bulbs in single, individual little holes if you like. In this case, a really handy tool to use is a dibber, which allows you to make smaller holes with almost no effort and you don’t actually have to do any digging at all. I find that the most visually appealing way to plant tulips is in large groupings or drifts, rather than individually. In this case, you really just need to dig a big, wide hole and place several bulbs in the same hole, about an inch apart from each other. This will create a really lovely, high impact show the next spring. In this case, still dig your hole about six-to-eight inches deep and definitely fill in with compost for the best results and healthiest tulips.
Do you grow tulips in your garden? What are your favorite tricks for a really beautiful display in your garden?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.