Now is the time to plan for spring flowering bulbs. While the crocus and daffodil may be the first to greet the new season tulips will provide the real splash of color to wake the garden from the grayness of winter. Tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall because they need fourteen weeks of temperatures below 48 degrees. This article by Tovah Martin which I found on the Garden Design Magazine website has some useful care tips and introduces several rare varieties to look for.
Tulips—a spring icon—are prized for their vast array of colors. Easily grown in borders or containers, many gardeners consider tulips a staple flower that they anxiously await each year.
In the shadow of a church steeple lies the tulip collection of Hortus Bulborum in Limmen, Netherlands, where the tulip crop is rotated with other historic bulbs. Arranged alphabetically, 2,300 tulip varieties are planted every year for display to the public between April 6 and May 16. Photo by: Rob Cardillo.
Just when you need a blast of blossoms and an infusion of color, tulips rush in. Polar opposites to the pallid shades of winter, at any other time tulips might be overkill—but not in spring. Their spectrum was one impetus for Tulipmania, a 17th-century Dutch phenomenon in which a primo bulb cost more than an Amsterdam house. After 400 years of breeding, tulips offer a bevy of forms—long-stemmed Mendels, cone-shaped Triumphs, flamed Rembrandts, immense Darwins, Lily-flowered, Fringed, Doubles, Parrots and Viridifloras.
Hailing from the mountains of central Asia, tulips laugh at cold, but heat is another story. They require 14 to 15 weeks of winter temperatures below 48 degrees to perform, faring best when springs are long and balmy with temperatures between 45 and 60 degrees. Even in ideal conditions, most hybrids should be replanted annually, although many species will naturalize.
Tulips are sun lovers. In the shade, they’re weak and spindly with small flowers. But keep in mind that tulips perform before most deciduous trees leaf out.
Because tulip bulbs are primed and ready when the bulb is planted and then whisked away after the show is over, soil isn’t a major issue. But given their druthers, tulips prefer a sandy loam soil and excellent drainage, and detest being sunk in soggy beds.
See more at Garden Design Magazine