If only it could be spring all year round, then we can have tulips all day, every day. The exquisite Tulipa (genus) is in fact part of the lily family. When grown and taken care of the right way, these flowers become a vivid, splendorous feast for the eyes when spring arrives.
Considering growing your own? Read on for a few helpful hints.
Where Do Tulips Come From?
Before it became the official bloom of the Netherlands and its biggest annual export, tulips grew on mountain slopes in central Asia. This allowed them to acclimatise to arid and sunny conditions. The name tulip means ‘turban’ in Persian because of their turban-like shape when in full bloom. Tulips are the national flower of both Turkey and Iran (ancient Persia) too.
At the end of the 16th century, a Flemish horticulturist named Carolus Clusius planted tulip bulbs in the Leiden University’s botanical gardens. Within 40 years, these flowers became such a precious commodity that their value rivalled the cost of a typical house.
This era was known as ‘tulpenmanie’ (tulipmania) and it lasted from 1634 to 1637 in the Dutch Golden Age. It was then that tulips first began being cultivated in Holland. Demand for the precious flower was said to have skyrocketed to such an extent that it crashed the entire Dutch economy.
Are Tulips Edible?
Another remarkable quality of this flower is that the petals are actually edible. During WWII, Dutch people had to resort to eating them with beetroots due to famine. Nowadays, however, they are considered a delicacy and can be used as colourful garnish for fine dining.
A special kind of flower indeed!
When And How Should You Plant Your Tulip Bulbs?
Preparing Your Soil
Plan ahead to plant your tulip bulbs in mid-autumn. This will give the bulbs a chance to ‘hibernate’, where they will remain dormant until they can germinate when it starts getting warmer in the lead up to spring.
Tulips naturally grow on mountainous slopes. They prefer moist soil that is somewhat rocky and has good drainage, so preparing the soil properly will get you off to a great start.
Firstly, make sure it’s in a very sunny spot, strategically placed to make the most of lighting for visual impact – tulips should be admired when they bloom. If you have your own compost available, turn it into your chosen bedding, as deep as two feet if you can, before adding a layer of topsoil and giving it a good rake. Soil should be moist, but not too wet, making it easier to work with.
Choosing Your Bulbs
When choosing your tulip bulbs, be sure to get ones that are short and stout. Fatter is definitely better! Its organic papery covering should still be intact. Large varieties may need replacing every odd year, but smaller tulip kinds multiply and spread easily on their own.
Planting Your Bulbs
Bulbs should be planted at least eight inches deep, with the pointy end facing upwards, and can be placed relatively close to one another. Add some bulb food or bone meal then cover with soil and secure firmly into place. Water them immediately after being planted, but be careful not to give too much water as roots that are too damp can harm growth. This is because bulbs have their own storage system that supplies all the nutrients they require for a year.
Caring For Your Tulips
When you are done planting your tulips, water on a weekly basis until after winter has begun, till soil has gone mostly frigid. Once again, tulips do not like soil that stays too clammy, so try not to water the plants unless necessary.
When the beauties begin to rear their pretty heads out of the ground, feed some more bulb food/bone meal to the surrounding soil and water it well.
Blooms should be cut off at the base when they have died to make room for further growth. It is best advised to let the leaves be until they have gone brown before cutting them off.
How Much Sun Do Tulips Like?
Prone to loving sunny, dry (albeit not too dry) and warm conditions, tulips grow best when there is little to no shade.
Whether grown in an outside garden, green room or as a pot plant, your tulips should bloom with a fair amount of tender, loving care; and plenty of sunshine. Once the bulbs are planted, they need minimal faffing apart from watering on a regular basis when conditions become particularly arid.
Can You Leave Bulbs in the Ground All Year?
This depends on the kind of tulips you want to grow in your bedding, and also the palette of colours you would like on display:
The non-hybridised, real-deal tulips can stay beneath the soil all year round and bloom every spring for a number of years. Colours are generally strong, yet not as vivid in vibrance as hybrids. Your tulip plants from perennial bulbs can grow up to two feet tall.
Also known as “broken tulips”, the different array of colours, shapes and textures of hybrid tulip bulbs are beyond sublime. These bulbs are less hardy than perennial bulbs and only bloom once, needing replacement every year. These are popular in the cut-flower industry and colours have a host of meanings and symbolism.
When Do Tulips Bloom?
Different bulbs bloom at different stages of spring. When choosing your bulbs, make sure to get some for early, mid and end spring, so that you have flowers for the whole season. Tulips only bloom for a limited number of days, generally between four to seven days. Most tulips grow one flower per stem, but there are varieties that grow up to four flowers on a stem.
How Many Types of Tulips Are There?
With 75 documented wild tulips, 150 stock standard species, and more than 3000 variants to choose from, you are utterly spoiled for choice. Except for blue; a periwinkle, true-blue tulip is yet to be created.
What Are The Colours And Meaning Of Tulips?
Like all flowers, tulips have a deeper meaning, and each colour represents something different:
- Red, of course, means perfect love
- Purple belongs to royalty, with a touch of elegance
- White notes regret, compassion and forgiveness
- Orange shows understanding and appreciation
- Yellow shouts happiness and hope
- Pinks are like the High 5’s of tulips, conveying that “Congrats!”, “Well done!”, “Good for you!” message more eloquently.
A Spring Surprise
All gardening enthusiasts are enthralled with the growing process of their tulips (suppose, just as they are with the rest of their gardens) and end up being beside themselves when the time arrives for their flowers to bloom. If you grow tulips, life is always good when it’s spring!
Jump To a Section Below
- Where Do Tulips Come From?
- Are Tulips Edible?
- When And How Should You Plant Your Tulip Bulbs?
- How Much Sun Do Tulips Like?
- Can You Leave Bulbs in the Ground All Year?
- When Do Tulips Bloom?
- How Many Types of Tulips Are There?
- What Are The Colours And Meaning Of Tulips?
- A Spring Surprise