5 Tips For Fall Tulip Bulb Planting

Leslie Land, The Daily Green's Greengrower, provides helpful tips, thoughtful advice, inspiration and encouragement to gardeners -- specializing in healthy organics. In her latest post, she asks: "Tulip or Not to Tulip? That is the question. Happens every year, as dazzlers never seen at the florist beckon from page after glossy catalog page.

In addition to being beautiful (and frequently fragrant), tulips are inexpensive; the more you buy the cheaper they are. They're easy to grow - in fact almost impossible to screw up - and in spite of the general wisdom, they often come back

On the other hand ---

Deer. I need say no more to anyone who has tried to have tulips in deer country (i.e., anywhere outside of midtown Manhattan). So the huge downside is that you must plant them where they can be protected, a drastic reduction in design options.

Here are my tips for great tulips:

  1. Given that if you like tulips at all, you'd like a few thousand dollar's worth, it pays to start with a firm budget and write down must-haves before opening the catalog. Saves a lot of disappointed crossing out when completing the order form.
  2. Keep an eye on bloom times. There's an 8- or 9-week stretch between the low-growing Kaufmannianas and the last big blowsy Parrots.
  3. If you've never seen them in person, be wary of Greiggi tulips. They do have terrific foliage: broad, heavily striped dark leaves that put other tulip leaves to shame, but (at least to me) they're a disaster in the proportion department. Those beautiful leaves stay low to the ground, cradling stems too short for cutting topped with very big flowers. The flowers themselves are perfectly fine but the total effect is ... well, clunky is putting it mildly.
  4. The drier it is during the summer, the better the chances of tulip return. Try to plant them someplace that doesn't get watered and don't be afraid to plant them in soil that's a little too well-drained for most other plants.
  5. Tulip leaves feed tulip bulbs; seed-production depletes them. Deadhead and fertilize if you're after longevity, and don't expect much in the way of returns if you cut flowers with long stems."
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