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COLUMN: It’s tulip planting time

Rosanne LoParco
Sentinel columnist
Posted 10/16/22

Plant tulip bulbs now until the ground freezes for an amazing early display of color next spring!

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COLUMN: It’s tulip planting time


Plant tulip bulbs now until the ground freezes for an amazing early display of color next spring!

Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) over 400 years ago, tulips began to be imported to Holland in the 16th century. In fact, they were once so popular that they were used as a form of currency. Today, Holland still produces most of the world’s tulip crop, exceeding 4 billion bulbs annually. Due to the efforts of plant breeders, tulips are available in a variety of flower forms, heights, colors and bloom times.

Buying bulbs and planting tips

The larger the bulb, the bigger the bloom. Bulbs should be large, firm and heavy. If they are soft or spotted, that could signal rot or a disease problem. Avoid any soft or mushy bulbs. It’s OK if the paper cover, called the tunic, is missing.

Choose a well-drained location with full to part sun to put your bulbs in. Soggy soil will be the death of tulips and will contribute to a type of botrytis known as “tulip fire.” Plant bulbs about six inches deep. Plant deeper if rodents such as voles or chipmunks are a problem.

To discourage burrowing animals, use bulb cages or make your own with chicken wire. Another animal deterrent involves using pea size gravel to cover the bulb planting area.

Think about a design

Planting in groups of at least six will make a pretty design. Instead of a straight line, plant in creative patterns like, geometric designs, i.e., a circle of one color surrounded by a square of another color will create a pretty picture in the spring.


Tulips look great when under-planted with perennials or small shrubs and now is the perfect time to consider incorporating bulbs because you can see the full size of your plants.

The key is to use the right tool. Use a dibbler instead of a shovel or trowel; its pointed end will allow you to gently pry the roots of the perennial or shrub and give just enough room to insert the bulb without damaging the roots. Plant no closer than three inches from the established plant’s crown, but not more than six to eight inches away.

Varieties to plant

Tulips have a reputation of not coming back every year. It all depends on the variety you choose. If you like the typical tall tulips, select from Darwin hybrids since they are the most reliable.

Species tulips are a great option since they perennialize, unlike traditional hybrid tulips. Species tulips offer more color options, attractive foliage and as many as five to seven blooms per stem, bloom earlier and have a more naturalized look.

You may find species tulips in retail stores; look for varieties referred to as “Kaufmanniana,” Fosteriana” or “Greigii.” Mail order sources will give you more options such as “Turkestan” tulips. Species tulips are a great companion for daffodils.


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