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. Pink and Blue Tulip Bulbs, Tulipa, Wildflower Tulip Bulbs Little Beauty

    Tulipa humilis Little Beauty has rich, reddish-pink petals and a bright blue-eyed center. A wonderful hybrid companion to 'Little Princess', this vigorous variety is a delight in the...

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    Little Beauty Wildflower Tulip Little Beauty Wildflower Tulip Tulipa humilis Little Beauty
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $9.99 Sale $8.49
    Per Bag of 15

    Tulipa humilis Little Beauty has rich, reddish-pink petals and a bright blue-eyed center. A wonderful hybrid companion to 'Little Princess', this vigorous variety is a delight in the garden. Fragrant. Looks wonderful planted in large groups.

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  2. Wild Tulip Bronze Charm, Tulipa Bronze Charm

    Wildflower Tulip Bronze Charm (Tulipa batalinii Bronze Charm) is a wildflower type tulip in delicate shades of peachy-apricot that lighten to a bronzy yellow as the flower opens. We ...

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    Bronze Charm Wildflower Tulip Bronze Charm Wildflower Tulip Tulipa batalinii Bronze Charm
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $8.99 Sale $7.64
    Per Bag of 9

    Wildflower Tulip Bronze Charm (Tulipa batalinii Bronze Charm) is a wildflower type tulip in delicate shades of peachy-apricot that lighten to a bronzy yellow as the flower opens. We love the wildflower tulips for their beautiful colors and vigorous naturalizing habit. They can be mixed with other flowers, but we find them most expressive when planted where they can colonize an area.

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  3. 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
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $10.49 Sale $8.91
    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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  4. Magenta  and Yellow pulchella Bulbs Persian Pearl, Tulipa praestans, Tulip pulchella Bulbs Persian Pearl

    Persian Pearl Wildflower Tulip has showy purple-red petals and a bright yellow center. Like most of the wildflower tulips, Tulipa humilis Persian Pearl multiplies itself readily....

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    Persian Pearl Wildflower Tulip Persian Pearl Wildflower Tulip Tulipa humilis Persian Pearl
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $10.99 Sale $9.34
    Per Bag of 15
    Persian Pearl Wildflower Tulip has showy purple-red petals and a bright yellow center. Like most of the wildflower tulips, Tulipa humilis Persian Pearl multiplies itself readily.
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  5. 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
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $10.99 Sale $9.34
    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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  6. Red and Orange Tulip Bulbs, Little Princess Tulipa In Container Pot, Wildflower Tulips, Specie Tulips

    Little Princess Wildflower Tulip is multi-colored a multi-colored beauty of reddish orange, primrose yellow, burnt orange and gold. A striking hybrid has excellent vigor and blooms h...

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    Little Princess Wildflower Tulip Little Princess Wildflower Tulip Tulipa Little Princess
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $11.99 Sale $10.19
    Per Bag of 15
    Little Princess Wildflower Tulip is multi-colored a multi-colored beauty of reddish orange, primrose yellow, burnt orange and gold. A striking hybrid has excellent vigor and blooms heavily.
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  7. Double Late Tulip Sunlover, Tulipa Sunlover

    Sunlover Double Late Tulip (Tulipa Sunlover) sports rich, sumptuous oranges flecked with tangerine for color that shouts out across the landscape. Double petaled, almost like a peony...

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    Sunlover Double Late Tulip Sunlover Double Late Tulip Tulipa Sunlover
    Sale Price I Save 15%
    $10.99 Sale $9.34
    Per Bag of 9
    Sunlover Double Late Tulip (Tulipa Sunlover) sports rich, sumptuous oranges flecked with tangerine for color that shouts out across the landscape. Double petaled, almost like a peony, these tulips are elegant garden stars. Blooming in late spring, the flowers are spectacular, lushly petaled and long lasting. At 16-18" tall they are gorgeous planted in a group or mixed with other late season tulips. Plant plenty so you can enjoy them as cut flowers too!
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  8. 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 $8.49
    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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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.