Plant Profile: Tulips

Tulip Growing Tips:

Tulips and other spring-blooming bulbs are the ultimate “set it and forget it” plants. Just dig a hole in the fall and plop the bulbs in, cover, and forget about them until they bloom in the spring. Tulips like a sunny spot in well-draining soil. They do not like sitting in wet spots or in full (evergreen) shade.

Most public gardens and many veteran gardeners treat tulips as annuals and just pull and compost them after they bloom. They will return for you for a few years, but eventually will peter out. So just budget and plan to replace them every couple of years and experiment with new varieties while you are at it.

By the way, there is no need to cut the foliage back or tie it up. Just let it die back naturally. If the sight of the dying foliage bothers you, just plant new spring annuals and perennials around them to fill in and disguise the decaying leaves.

Deer and squirrels can pester your tulips so apply an organic deterrent like blood meal, hot pepper spray, or deer repellent, if that is an issue for you.

If you get too busy to plant tulips in the fall (or live in the deep South), don’t despair, you can purchase them in pots already forced into bloom at local garden centers and florist shops. This spring, take note of what kinds you like best and mark your calendars to order them in May and plant them in November.

Top Tulip Varieties:
Here are a few that I consider must-haves for my garden.
1. AngeliqueGorgeous peony-like blooms that are white with a touch of blush at the edges.
2. Princess Irene (aka Prinses Irene)The unusual color combination of melon and plum mark this striking tulip and make it a favorite for cut flower bouquets.
3. Black ParrotA dark maroon so rich and velvety you will swear it is black. This tulip also has wonderfully frilly edges and looks dramatic paired with most other bulbs.
4. Bleu AmiableA soft, silvery lilac on a single, tall stem, Just one of these in a bud vase on my bedside table is all I need.
5. Spring GreenThe palest yellow tinged with green highlights make this tulip a fresh addition to any yard and ideal to combine with brighter yellow and whites.

Tulip Viewing Spots in the Washington, DC region:

~ The Floral Library (also known as the Tulip Library) was established in 1969 as part of Lady Bird Johnson's Capital Beautification Project. The 'library' has 93 flower beds maintained by the National Park Service. These beds feature either tulips or annuals depending on the planting season. The flowers require up to 10,000 bulbs to be planted by hand each year.

~ The Franciscan Monastery has an abundance of formal tulip beds – all timed to bloom for Easter.

~ The Sherwood Gardens neighborhood park in Baltimore is a wonderful daytrip for immersing yourself in displays of hundreds of tulip bulbs.

~ Many other public gardens in our area – such as Hillwood, Brookside, and Meadowlark – have beautiful tulip displays.

Top Tulip Sources:

~ Your local independent garden center or nursery.
~ Brent and Becky’s Bulbs >
~ Harvesting History >
~ ColorBlends >
~ Old House Gardens >

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine and edited by intern Allison O'Reilly. 

Thank you to Eva K. Graham for sharing her excellent tulip photos from public gardens in the DC-area.

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