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Time for Tulips: Think Spring!

The first step to a colorful landscape next spring is to plant tulips this fall.

The first step to a colorful landscape next spring is to plant tulips this fall. Now is a great time to plant tulips. Planting early in fall leads to a strong root system before winter and vigorous growth next spring.

Tulips demand a well-drained soil. Add an inch of organic matter (peat moss, compost) to the bed and mix it into the soil. Plant the bulbs pointed end up, about 6–8 inches deep. Cover the bulbs. Sprinkle a bulb fertilizer containing timed-release nitrogen over the soil and work it in. Water the bulbs to start them growing. Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over the bed.

To maximize impact, it’s best to plant many bulbs of a few varieties rather than a few bulbs of many varieties. Plant in clumps or drifts (not rows) for a natural effect. 

There are lots of types to choose from. Careful planning can extend your bloom throughout the spring.

I encourage you to try a new variety this year. Grow tulips in pots, too. Tulips grown in pots can bring the beauty of spring to your home months ahead of time!

'Pink Impression' Darwin Hybrid tulip

Darwin Hybrid Tulips — Big and Bold

These are foolproof. The plants are vigorous, sturdy and have jumbo blooms. Darwin hybrids are sometimes called perennial tulips because they last for years longer than most other standard types. They bloom in mid-season. Popular varieties include the ‘Apeldoorn’ and ‘Impression’ series. Shown is ‘Pink Impression’.


'Flaming Parrot' tulip

Parrot Tulips — Flamboyant

These are fun to grow. Their twisted petals are very showy and great for bouquets. Late blooming. Not especially sturdy or vigorous. Popular varieties include ‘Flaming Parrot’ (shown), ‘Black Parrot’ and ‘Estella Rijnveld’.


'Negrita' Triumph tulip

Triumph Tulips — Colors!

These come in the greatest array of colors, including bicolors and stripes. These classic, single-cupped flowers appear in mid-spring. Triumph tulips are reliable, and many varieties are good for containers. Shown is ‘Negrita’.


'Red Emperor' Fosteriana tulip

Fosteriana Tulips — Early Splash

These are the ‘Emperor’ tulips, the earliest of the big-flowered tulips to bloom. They make a great companion to daffodils. The blooms have a tendency to open up on sunny days and will be as big as your hand.


'Angelique' Double Late tulip

Double Late Tulips — Silky Peonies

These are loved for their full, peony-like flowers. Great for cut flowers. Some varieties are fragrant. These are among the last tulips to bloom. Popular varieties include ‘Angelique’ (shown), ‘MountTacoma’ and ‘Carnival de Nice’.


'Stresa' Kaufmanniana tulip

Kaufmanniana Tulips — Simple

These tulips and the botanical tulips are short, bloom early and have single flowers. Some look like water lilies. Good for windy areas, rock gardens and natural settings. These charmers will last for years. Shown is ‘Stresa’.


Written by , Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Jim GourleyCoanri/Rita, Angelskiss31, Robert Lyle Bolton, tanakawho and David Wright.

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