Caring for tulips – spring bloomers for the garden and as cut flowers

Like primroses, forsythia and daffodils, tulips are a part of spring. Diverse in color and shape, the easy-care lily plants delight in the bed, on the balcony or as a bouquet in the vase. Planting the bulbs early in the fall is necessary to ensure timely flowering in the spring. If this has not been done, tulips that have been preferred in nurseries can help and nothing stands in the way of a blaze of colour. Due to extensive breeding, there are an infinite number of varieties available on the market. Whether in a bouquet or in a pot, tulips quickly create a spring mood.

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Interesting facts about tulips

Botanical name: Tulipa in various species
Other names: Tulip, wild tulip, Darwin tulip, parrot tulip, dwarf tulip and many more
Use: Bedding and balcony plants, cut flowers, for naturalising, cemetery planting, for a short time as room decoration
Origin: Near East, only the vineyard tulip is native to Germany
Flower colours: red, pink, yellow, white, orange, two-tone, flamed or double varieties
Flowering time: depending on the species from March to the end of May
Planting time: depending on the species from the end of August to the beginning of December
Special features:Tulips are hardy lilies that add color to the garden. In the window box or in containers, they will delight you with their splendor of color for many weeks. As a cut flower, they quickly bring spring fever into the room.

In which location does the tulip feel most comfortable?

Tulips do not make great demands on the location. Basically, as with all bulbous plants, it is important that the soil is well drained and humus and that waterlogging is avoided. Therefore, heavy clay soil should be improved with some sand before planting onions. Storage organs only develop moderately on sandy soil that is too light, so it is advisable to put high-quality potting soil in the planting hole when planting. The striking spring bloomers develop optimally in sunny places. If the place is too shady, the ornamental plants may sprout only sparingly in the following year and gradually disappear completely.

As seasonal planting in containers, tulips can also stand in semi-shade, in heated living rooms they are well suited as short-term spring decorations. At temperatures above 20 °C, the lilies in the pot will wither within a week, but planted out in the bed they can flower again next year.

How do I plant my tulips in the garden?

Tulip bulbs need sufficient time for the roots to develop and a cold period for sprouting, so planting the bulbs in late summer and autumn is necessary. They are well hardy when planted and rarely require shelter.

Our gardening tip: You can plant potted specimens in spring immediately after purchase in containers, in the garden or on graves.

The basic rule for the planting depth is: two to three times the tuber height. Note that tubers planted too deep will sprout poorly.

The basic rule for planting distances is: Depending on the growth height and growth width, the planting distance varies within the different types of bulbs and tubers. On the packaging you will find guidelines for the optimal planting distances.

Tulips develop best after planting as follows:

  • Before planting, loosen up the desired area and pull out all weeds.
  • Dig a planting hole with a hand spade.
  • Depending on the type of soil, adding potting soil or sand is recommended.
  • With organic flower bulb power you can activate and support soil activity. In addition, rodents are kept away and the lily plants are not eaten so easily. Put this activator in the planting hole before planting or sprinkle it on the surface and work it in.
  • Plant the spring flowering bulbs with the tips pointing upwards; using plant baskets is particularly recommended for tulips. This avoids unwanted eating by mice.
  • The exact planting depth depends on the variety.

Finally, cover the spring bloomers with the loose garden soil. Our gardening tip: Planting too deep can result in poor sprouting. When planting, refer to the information on the onion packaging. So that the splendor can unfold fully, you should always place the heralds of spring in groups, as the effect is most beautiful.

How do I properly care for my tulips?

After flowering

For long-lasting splendor in the bed, it is important that you only remove the flowers after they have bloomed. Leave the foliage completely, even if it looks visually unattractive. This natural process is important for the onion plant because the nutrients are stored in the onion as it withers. Leave the flower bulbs in the ground and when hoeing, make sure that the area around the plant tuffs is free of weeds.

Flower bulbs in pots should continue to be in the sun and watered only through precipitation. Here, too, the green must remain on the plant.

When planting in baskets and containers seasonally, spring flowering bulbs can be removed from the container and planted in the garden. If you don’t have this option and you want to enjoy the heralds of spring again next year, leave the plants in the window box or container until the green has withered. Only then dig up the lilies and store them in a cool, dry place until late summer when they will be planted back into the ground.

Our gardening tip: the stalk and leaves must remain in place after they have faded so that the tulip can gather enough strength for the next year. The unsightly leaves can be concealed through a clever combination of perennials and flower bulbs. The green of the tulip dies off and the perennial sprout, thus avoiding bare spots. Cranesbill, catnip or coneflowers are best suited for this.

How do I water my tulips correctly?

Tulips that have been planted out only rarely need additional watering with the watering can. The robust plants develop best on humus-rich soil and too much water tends to be harmful. Watering is only recommended on light sandy soils, the rainfall is usually sufficient. Tulip plants in pots are also only watered carefully indoors and outdoors.

How do I fertilize my tulips?

Tulips in the garden delight with lush flowers for many years. In addition to the right place, careful fertilization is largely responsible for this. When planting, flower bulb power or natural fertilizer can be placed in the planting hole. These organic fertilizers work very slowly and release the nutrients when the soil temperature is sufficient in spring. Alternatively, you can provide the bulbs with organic fertilizer when they sprout in spring, as soon as the leaves are about 10 cm high. A second fertilization can be recommended on soils with a low nutrient content, but the fertilization should end at the latest when flowering begins. After the pile, the storage organ matures and stores nutrients; too high a fertilizer content would only be disadvantageous here.

How do I plant my tulips in a pot?

You can also enjoy tulip bulbs on the balcony and terrace, so you don’t need a garden. The flower bulbs are ideal for planting in pots and tubs. This creates a colorful spring atmosphere even when there is little space. It is important that, as in the bed, the containers are already planted in October. In this way, the lily plants develop sufficiently over the winter and sprout well.

The 8 most important tips and facts about planting in containers:

    1. The planter must have a water drain.
    2. Put a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot.
    3. Use high-quality plant substrate for planting.
    4. Place the onions so that they are lightly touching. The flowers look most beautiful when they are planted in tuffs. Fill in the spaces between the bulbs with garden soil.
    5. When watering for the first time, make sure that all the bulbs are completely moistened.
    6. Place the pot outside, because the cold in winter is important for the development of the onion flower.
    7. Protect the vessel from waterlogging in winter.

If the temperature is below zero for a long time, you should protect the vessel from frost. Fleece or special winter protection material are suitable for this. Our gardening tip: With the sandwich system or lasagne principle, flower bulbs of all kinds can be planted in pots in layers. In this way, the diverse heralds of spring can be experienced in the smallest of spaces.

Can I also use tulips as cut flowers?

From January, tulips are the classic cut flowers par excellence and ideal for planting as gifts. Depending on the variety, stage of ripeness and room temperature, the flowers last 7 to 10 days in the vase. In addition to tulips, roses and sunflowers are of course also popular gift ideas. Space and proper care are essential for durability. Find out how you can enjoy your tulip bouquet for a long time.

Cutting: Before placing in the vase, it is advisable to shorten the stems by two centimeters with a sharp knife. A straight cut allows the stems to absorb the water better.

Remove Leaves : Loose leaves are removed.

Vase : Clean the vase with hot water before use. Then put freshly cut flowers and cold water in the vase. The shelf life is extended by the freshness-preserving agent.

Location: Don’t place your spring bouquet right next to a heater or near a stove. Full sunlight and drafts also affect the flowering splendor.

Our gardening tip: If possible, place the bouquet in a spot with 12 to 15 °C overnight. This extends the shelf life. Having ripe fruit in the same room reduces the shelf life of bouquets. The ripening gas ethylene contained in the fruit drives the withering. The combination with daffodils in a bouquet should also be avoided, as these cause the tulips to wilt more quickly.

What types of tulips are there?

New varieties are constantly being created through selection and breeding. Over 4000 different varieties are now known and a classification system was introduced more than 100 years ago. The most important classes are:

      • Single Early Tulips
      • Single Late Tulips
      • Triumph Tulips
      • Darwin Hybrid Tulips
      • wild tulips

Late-blooming tulipsThe focus in the classification is on flowering time, flower filling and shape. Many new varieties with double, fringed and lily-shaped flowers enrich the range. Botanical tulips are descendants of the naturally occurring wild tulips. They are characterized by delicate flowers and are suitable for rock gardens, planters or perennial beds. In addition to these small, low varieties, there are giants with a stem length of almost 1 meter.

What pests and diseases can the tulip get?

The tulips are robust and are very rarely attacked by diseases and pests in the optimal location and with good care.


FAQ — Frequently asked questions about tulips

Which plants are suitable for the combination?

All perennials that need a sunny spot are suitable for the combination.

Annual plants such as forget-me-nots, bellis or horned violets are ideal plant partners.

Do tulip bulbs have to be taken out of the ground?

Tulip bulbs can remain in the garden all year round. If you want the spring bloomers elsewhere, you can take the storage organs out of the garden in early summer, once the foliage has dried up. A renewed digging takes place in the autumn.

Why do tulip leaves turn yellow after flowering?

At the end of the growth phase, the lily family withdraws the nutrients it contains from the leaves. The result is yellowing. This natural process is necessary for the development of strong bulbs. Therefore, no pruning should be done.

Does snow and ice damage flower bulbs that have already sprouted?

Basically, tulips are robust and tolerant of low temperatures. In late frosts, piling up with compost or covering with brushwood can protect against damage.

Can potted tulips be kept indoors as houseplants?

Potted tulips are well suited as a short-term decoration as a houseplant. The durability is comparable to that of bouquets. After they have faded, the bulb flowers can be planted outdoors in pots.

Are tulip bulbs safe to eat?

All parts of the plant contain the substance tulipanin, which can cause skin irritation and nausea. It is important that flower bulbs are stored in such a way that they cannot be confused with table onions.

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