Why plant spring flowering tulips late?
Why plant tulips late? In this blog I’ll explain why it’s good to plant spring flowering tulips late – even as late as November!
There’s nothing quite as magnificent as spring tulips! They fill our pots and borders with unrivalled colour and at a time of year when we really yearn for it!
But why am I writing about this now, in November, when most bulbs are already planted?
Damp and cool Britain doesn’t suit tulips. They love to have summer heat and they yearn for warm soils with good drainage. So as a compromise, we tend to treat them as annuals. To plant them, enjoy them and then dig them up and throw them away!
Of course this gives us the perfect excuse to try a different colour, a different flower shape, a different stem height or perhaps just a different colour combination for the next spring’s colour fix.
But if you think that this is wasteful then late planting is a good idea. You see within reason, the shorter time those bulbs are in our wet cold soil, the better they are going to like it. So tulips planted now -and next month too- will do perfectly well and be less likely to suffer from diseases such as tulip fire.
If you want your tulips to bloom year after year you’ll need to dig the bulbs up after they’ve flowered and died down. Then keep those bulbs in a hot dry place. This mimics the hot dry summers that they experience in the wild.
Which varieties do best
If you’ve got a place in your garden that gets hot and dry in summer then you may that your tulips will bloom year after year! I’ve found that a very sunny spot close to a building where roots of a grape vine suck up all the summer rain, is good for Darwin tulips. These ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ have re-bloomed without any fuss in the same spot for many years!
Double Early, Kaufmanniana and Greigii types have also flowered year after year for me in the garden.
However the type of tulip most likely to re-bloom without lifting the bulbs in spring are those rockery types that are close to the wild species.
Tulip bulbs will often only produce a cluster of leaves in the second spring after planting. This is because they have made lots of new small bulbs underground. It will take these babies a couple of years to become big enough to produce a flower. So you can either lift these and grow them on in a little nursery area until big enough. Or as I do, throw them away and buy another dazzling and zingy colour-fix for late spring next year!
Which tulips perform best for you in your garden?
Do you plant tulips late?
You may be interested in naturalising bulbs and I’ve written about that here.
Badgers often dig up and eat tulip bulbs. Have you found a solution to this problem? Late planting minimises the risk but badgers are extremely persistent! You could try to protect your bulbs by planting them in a parcel of chicken wire or even grow them in pots and then transplant them into your borders in early spring.