How To Choose & Plant Tulip Bulbs

Simple, elegant and endlessly variable, Tulips are staples of spring wherever they grow. Here are some guidelines to help you with choosing, planting, and growing Tulip bulbs. Tulips are planted in the fall for a beatufiul display of spring blooms.

 

How To Choose: Annual and Perennial Tulip Varieties

Officially, Tulips are perennial plants. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, they evolved at altitude in harsh winters and dry summers. Through hybridizing and the difficulties of matching the original Himalayan climate, the tendency of many tulips to perennialize has diminished.

However, at High Country Gardens, we offer Tulip selections with the strongest perennial features. We carry mostly Darwin Tulips and Perennial Wildflower Tulips, known for the ability to return for years to come, and to spread and naturalize. We also carry annual tulips will generally not return for a second season.

  • Darwin Tulips are reliably perennial for up to 3 years (sometimes longer). They are garden stars, with large flowers on sturdy stems.
  • Wildflower Tulips, sometimes called Specie Tulips, naturalize well, come back year after year and spread to form colonies of color. They are short, just 4-6 inches tall, but the small flowers open wide to form a carpet of color. They make a great spring border in a perennial bed.
  • Emperor Tulips are known for their bright colors, pointed petals, and for their ability to naturalize and return year after year. 
  • Annual Tulips (sometimes called ‘cutting tulips’) work well for areas that need a splash of color and variety, and are best for areas where you are not looking to make a long-term investment.

How To Plant Tulips

  • Tulip bulbs of all types prefer a compost enriched garden loam with good drainage. 
  • When planting, have a bucket of Yum Yum Mix (or equivalent), compost and good garden soil if needed. 
  • Plant bulbs 6-8 weeks before frost in the fall, or when the soil temperature is below 60 degrees. 
  • Plant Darwin Tulips or other large bulb tulips at a depth of 8 inches, wildflower tulips at 4 inches.
  • Space large bulbs about 6 inches apart, wildflower bulbs at 7-9 per square foot. 
  • Dig the soil a few inches below the planting depth to encourage good root growth.

Naturalizing Tulips

To get a natural look, prepare your planting area to the depth needed with spacing allowance. Scatter the bulbs in the area and plant them as they fall. This will give you a lovely, natural look. Place the pointy end up and cover them with your enriched soil. Water well to encourage good root growth.If you live in an area with dry winters you’ll need to water occasionally, otherwise rest assured your bulbs are growing roots in preparation for spring blooms.

 

Tips For Growing Tulips

  • Tulips like 6-8 hours of sun per day, so be sure to pick a suitably sunny spot. 
  • Ideal for a water thrifty garden, tulips don’t need to be watered in the summer! 
  • Most tulips grow well in zones 3-7, although there are exceptions depending upon the type you are planting. In zones 8 and warmer, bulbs need to be pre-chilled in your refrigerator for 10-14 weeks. 
  • Mulch in the winter if needed.

Caring For Tulips In The Spring

In the spring, when blooms have faded, cut the flower stems back. Let the foliage age to yellow before removing, as this is how the bulb feeds itself. They are the ultimate xeric bulb, so no extra watering needed for the summer.

Whether you enjoy tulips as cut flowers, or as elegant harbingers of spring in the garden, waiting for their arrival at winter’s end is one life’s sweetest pleasures.

Did You Know?
In Europe, in the 1630s, “tulip-mania” swept Holland. One bulb of Tulip Semper Augustus was sold for 10,000 guilders, an amount that could have bought a grand home on the canal and was ten times the yearly income of a craftsman. The madness over tulip bulb contracts and the subsequent crash in prices almost brought the Dutch economy to ruin.

Shop Tulip Bulbs

  1. Single Early Tulip Bulbs Purple Prince, Tulipa Purple Prince

    Purple Prince Single Early Tulips (Tulipa) have scalloped edges and violet purple flowers. One of the easiest bulbs to grow, they bloom early in the spring and look lovely with early...

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    Purple Prince Single Early Tulip Purple Prince Single Early Tulip Tulipa Purple Prince
    As low as $9.99 Sale $7.49
    Per Bag of 10
    Purple Prince Single Early Tulips (Tulipa) have scalloped edges and violet purple flowers. One of the easiest bulbs to grow, they bloom early in the spring and look lovely with early daffodils. Purple Prince Tulips are long lasting and are often used to force in containers.
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  2. Hakuun Darwin Tulip

    Hakuun Darwin Tulip is simple elegance with large snow-white blossoms standing tall on sturdy stems. As the flower opens it reveals a hint of cream at the base. Make this the centerp...

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    Hakuun Darwin Tulip Hakuun Darwin Tulip Tulipa Hakuun
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.24
    Per Bag of 10
    Hakuun Darwin Tulip is simple elegance with large snow-white blossoms standing tall on sturdy stems. As the flower opens it reveals a hint of cream at the base. Make this the centerpiece for a mid-spring garden. Best of all, Hakuun is a perennial tulip whose gorgeous blooms will return for years to come. (Tulipa)
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  3. Colorado Proud Triumph Tulip

    Colorado Proud Triumph Tulip's luscious black-cherry petals are brushed with ivory, giving every flower a unique pattern. Blooming in mid-spring, this memorable tulip makes a lovely ...

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    Colorado Proud Triumph Tulip Colorado Proud Triumph Tulip Tulipa Colorado Proud
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $11.99 Sale $8.99
    Per Bag of 10
    Colorado Proud Triumph Tulip's luscious black-cherry petals are brushed with ivory, giving every flower a unique pattern. Blooming in mid-spring, this memorable tulip makes a lovely focal point in a garden where their painterly quality can shine. (Tulipa Triumph)
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  4. Nightrider Tulip

    Nightrider Tulip is an eye-catching tulip whose bright red-violet flowers are brushed with green, giving them a mysterious beauty. Blooming in late spring, Nightrider is an excellent...

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    Nightrider Tulip Nightrider Viridiflora Tulip Tulipa Viridiflora Nightrider
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.24
    Per Bag of 10
    Nightrider Tulip is an eye-catching tulip whose bright red-violet flowers are brushed with green, giving them a mysterious beauty. Blooming in late spring, Nightrider is an excellent choice to extend the tulip season. Beautiful cut flowers too, plant extra for bouquets. (Tulipa Viridiflora)
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  5. Aztec Cocoa Tulip Bulb Collection

    Like velvety chocolate, our Aztec Cocoa Tulip Collection explores the rich, deep hues of red, burgundy, and nearly black Tulips. A powerful and sophisticated collection to add depth ...

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    Aztec Cocoa Tulip Bulb Collection Aztec Cocoa Tulip Bulb Collection
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $86.32 Sale $64.73
    Per Collection of 90
    Like velvety chocolate, our Aztec Cocoa Tulip Collection explores the rich, deep hues of red, burgundy, and nearly black Tulips. A powerful and sophisticated collection to add depth and drama in the garden, blooming from early-to-late spring. Collection of 90 bulbs.
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  6. Wildflower Tulip Mix

    Wildflower Tulip Bulbs Mix (Tulipa humilis) is a specialty blend of colorful perennial wildflower tulips that bloom in early to mid-spring. Small in height (only 4-6" tall), this tul...

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    Wildflower Tulip Mix Wildflower Tulip Mix Tulipa humilis Mix
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.24
    Per Bag of 20
    Wildflower Tulip Bulbs Mix (Tulipa humilis) is a specialty blend of colorful perennial wildflower tulips that bloom in early to mid-spring. Small in height (only 4-6" tall), this tulip mix offers big, bold color. Plant in drifts for high impact.
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  7. Pink and Yellow Tulip bakeri Bulbs Lilac Wonder, Tulipa bakeri, Wildflower Tulip Bulbs Lilac Wonder

    Lilac Wonder Tulip is an unusual and distinctive wildflower tulip with gorgeous mauve-pink petals surrounding a soft yellow center. A long lived, vigorous grower....

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    Lilac Wonder Wildflower Tulip Lilac Wonder Wildflower Tulip Tulipa bakeri Lilac Wonder
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $10.49 Sale $7.86
    Per Bag of 15
    Lilac Wonder Tulip is an unusual and distinctive wildflower tulip with gorgeous mauve-pink petals surrounding a soft yellow center. A long lived, vigorous grower.
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  8. Pink and White Tulip clusiana Bulbs Lady Jane, Tulipa clusiana, Tulip clusiana Bulbs Lady Jane

    Lady Jane Specie Tulip blooms are rosy reddish-pink, edged in white and the flowers open to a white interior giving this variety a delightful candy cane look....

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    Lady Jane Candlestick Tulip Lady Jane Candlestick Tulip Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane
    You save: 25%
    Regular Price $12.99 Sale $9.74
    Per Bag of 15

    Lady Jane Specie Tulip blooms are rosy reddish-pink, edged in white and the flowers open to a white interior giving this variety a delightful candy cane look.

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By Katrina Godshalk. © All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens article or blog post is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.