The botanical origins of tulips point to the bulbs' growing requirements. Although traditionally associated with the Netherlands, tulips originate from Turkey and western and central Europe. The bulbs grow best in fertile, sandy soil in a sunny, open location. They should be protected from excessive moisture and strong winds.
Traditionally, it was always said that bulbs should be planted in the autumn, before the first frosts. Nowadays, many disregard this rule. Chris Blom, of Blom's Bulbs, whose family has been growing tulips since 1910, says: "Tulips don't like to be planted too early." He's planted bulbs as late as January, but would recommend up until the end of November, adding that tulips need cold weather to root.
If you're growing tulips in containers, Chris warns: "Don't forget to water during early spring when you might get dry, warm weather. Otherwise, the bulbs will dry out."
After flowering, most varieties benefit from being lifted and stored in a dry place until autumn. Other varieties, particularly the Kaufmanniana hybrids and species tulips, can be left in the ground, and may spread to colonise an area.
- Plant bulbs 10cm (4in) deep and 10cm (4in) apart.
- Water bulbs when the buds are rising, to encourage large blooms and taller stems.
- Top-dress bulbs in autumn, after planting.
- For long-term tulip displays, wait until the foliage has died off before cutting back.
- Beware of slugs - they love tulips!
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