Planting tulip bulbs will add beauty and color to any flowerbed. Tulips are not the easiest flower to grow, though, and gardeners who are unfamiliar with the plant’s needs might be disappointed by a poor display. Bulb availability, local climate and soil quality should all be considered by gardeners when they are planting tulip bulbs.
Selecting quality bulbs is perhaps the best starting point. The best way to do this is to visit a garden center early in the season and pick out individual bulbs. Tulip bulbs should be large and firm, with no signs of rot or mold. They should also be examined for cracks, cuts and bruises, and only the healthiest bulbs should be purchased. Any discount bulbs sold late in the season should be examined closely before buying.
Mail-order vendors are another potential source of bulbs. Again, discounts should be closely scrutinized, because low-quality bulbs will not perform well, providing only false economy. Holland is especially particular about tulips, and the industry is heavily regulated, which means that Dutch tulips are generally of high quality.
Tulips thrive in colder climates. In colder regions, tulip bulbs should be planted in late autumn, but in more temperate climates, gardeners should wait until early winter. When tulip bulbs are planted too early, they will sprout immediately, and the young leaves are unable to survive the winter. Bulbs can be safely planted when the ground temperature drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).
Although tulips grow best in cold regions, gardeners in warm areas can grow them as well. Before planting tulip bulbs in warm climates, the bulbs should be chilled in a refrigerator for four to eight weeks. While chilling, the bulbs should be stored in a paper bag, and care should be taken to keep them away from ripening fruit. Fruits produce ethylene gas when ripening, and this gas will kill the buds inside the bulbs.
Sandy soil with good drainage is ideal for tulips. The flowers will grow better if time is taken to dig and aerate the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches (15–20 cm). Low-nitrogen granular fertilizers, specially made for bulbs, are available and should be mixed evenly into the soil for best results.
The ideal depth for planting tulip bulbs is 6 inches (15 cm), with the point facing up. The tulips should be spaced at least 6 inches (15 cm) apart, and all of the bulbs should be at an equal depth. After the tulips have been planted, they should be watered thoroughly, but they should not be watered again until leaves become visible, because overwatering will cause the bulbs to rot and die.