Growing Tulips Outdoors

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Tulips are an amazing part of spring; you plant them in the fall and then wait patiently for the snow to melt away and your fall planting to finally pay off. There is a lot to know about raising any plant if you want to do it right, so here is a little bit of information for you!

If You Live in the South

You will need to buy your bulbs about three months before you want to plant them, and let them hang out in your refrigerator’s crisper until planting time. Don’t put them in the crisper with apples, bananas, or other fruit – if you do, they may never bloom.

Preparing for Your Bulbs

Tulips need full sun and well drained soil; that is why you will need to do some work before you plant your bulbs. Also, if you live in a warmer climate try to plant your tulips away from house foundations and asphalt since tulips have to go through colder weather to thrive and concrete or asphalt could insulate them. Get some manure and compost to work into the soil. If you know someone with a farm you might be able to get the manure from them. You can make your own compost in your backyard; if you need tips, check out our post on composting for some ideas on how to start. You could also check out your local farm store for these items. Once you have your compost and manure, go to your chosen sunny location and start working up the soil. I normally use a shovel to work up my soil, because I like getting the exercise but if you don’t want to put in the time on this and have a rototiller it would probably be best to use the rototiller. Once you have your ground worked up it will be time to work in the manure and compost. Just mix it into the soil bit by bit using a shovel, until the ground looks rich.

Planting Your Bulbs

   By now your ground should be ready for your bulbs! As long as it is an appropriate time of year you can go on and plant your bulbs. Tulip bulbs need to be planted around seven weeks before the first hard frost; if you aren’t sure when that is in your area your local extension agent would be the person to call. When you get your bulbs they should look healthy; if they look moldy or feel soft, they are not good bulbs and you should return them to the company or store where you made your purchase. Plant your bulbs with the pointy end up and make sure that they are three times as deep in the ground as the bulb is large. If you are planning on planting multiple bulbs in a long line, some people dig a trench and plant the bulbs along it. Once you get them in the ground, water them so that they will have a good start. Cover the bulbs with some type of mulch for the winter and be patient – they will come up soon! Tulip bulbs should be planted approximately 4” apart to keep them from growing together. Personally, I always want to plant tulips freely to grow among the grass, but this probably is not a good idea since tulips need the soil’s nutrients. Be sure to weed away all that grass to give them an easier time growing.

Some people say putting kitty litter in the hole below your bulb can keep away rodents. I haven’t tried this method yet, but it sounds like something to consider trying.

Once Your Tulips Bloom

   Your tulips should look beautiful in the spring, but if you want to build up the chances of them ever blooming again you will want to take a few extra steps. As soon as the flowers start to fade and begin losing petals, it will be time to dead-head them.

Dead-heading is a good idea with most flowering plants and bushes, and tulips aren’t an exception. If you don’t dead-head, the flowers will go to seed and those seeds take much needed nutrients from the plant.  Don’t forget to fertilize well in the fall.

Fertilizing Your Tulips  

   Tulips are much more persnickety than a lot of plants as they want there soil to be good. So, as for all plants and especially persnickety ones, fertilizer is a must. Be sure to get the type of fertilizer that will slowly release into the soil instead of the kind that goes into the ground and is lost for all eternity. You can find special types of fertilizer that are made just for tulips; this is the type I would advise.

What If Your Tulips Won’t Bloom after the First Year?  

Tulips just won’t rebloom in a lot of areas – it’s nothing that is wrong with your gardening skills. If you try everything above and still can’t get two years of blooms out of your tulips, you may want to either find a more hardy variety or just replant year after year. Don’t forget the fertilizer since that could also be the problem.

Don’t Over-Water

A lot of the time, when we do something we want to do it right! While this could include watering our bulbs daily, don’t go with this desire. Tulip bulbs don’t need to be wet all the time; instead, they thrive in more dry places. If things just get to where you think they might blow away due to lack of water, then you can consider watering your bulbs – not before that moment. The one time you should have to water your tulips in the fall is right after planting them.

Planting Several Varieties

   If you can find several different types of tulips that will bloom at different times of the year, you will get more use out of the area you have prepared. Keep an eye out when you are buying your bulbs, watch for the time of the year they should flower to make your garden as amazing as possible.

   Let Me Hear From You                                                       

   I’m busting to hear my readers’ thoughts, so if you have read this post leave me a comment. I want to know about your gardening problems and I want us to be able to figure out ways to solve them. If you have thoughts on this post please leave a comment!

About Chloe Smith

Chloe Smith is the owner of Fauna Preciosa, a brand designed to help small business owners. It also equips individuals to be better able to provide for themselves, while discovering new art and craft ideas. She also sells her own hand crafted items at craft festivals and through Fauna Preciosa's Etsy shop. If you are interested in following her work, check out Fauna Preciosa's blog or Facebook page.

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