A famed gardener, Barbara Damrosch, once said that to be successful at gardening, you just have to think like a plant. This statement certainly applies to the beloved tulip. The following tips are for you gardeners out there who would love for your favorite tulips to return year after year as their perennial nature suggests they should. And even for those of you out there who have grown to accept your tulips every year as an annual treasure to be replaced each fall, you might want to consider simply thinking like a plant, so to speak, to encourage those tulips to return every spring.
To think like a tulip, you have to consider where they originated. They behave as perennials in their native regions in the Himalayan foothills and in mountainous areas of Turkey. What these two regions have in common is their hot, dry summers and their cold winters. So if you live in an area that provides those conditions, you have a greater chance of enjoying your tulips as perennials.
For the rest of us, in addition to thinking like a tulip for ourselves, we can also incorporate a few ideas from the Dutch who are world renowned for their endless fields of tulips. Obviously, they are experts at thinking like tulips.
One of their secrets is in the soil they use. They plant their tulip bulbs in good soil that is on the sandy side. It is important that the soil be well draining. Any excessive moisture around the bulbs can result in mold and rot. On the other hand, great soil will help to keep the moisture level just right. Keep your bulbs happy by providing stellar soil.
Choosing a Returning Tulip Variety
And speaking of bulbs, you will have greater success if you select the right type of bulb in the beginning. Some tulips have been cultivated specifically to help them behave like a perennial, so look for hybrids that advertise perennializing or naturalizing. Another type of tulip that is better suited for perennial growth is called species tulip. Species tulips are closely related to the wild tulips you would find in nature.
Either of these two types of tulips are reliable options for perennial tulips. There are several online sources that provide an assortment of selections of both cultivated varieties and species varieties. A good choice for a cultivated perennial tulip is ‘Darwin’ which is available in a wide variety of beautiful colors and sizes. The ‘Darwin’ variety makes beautiful cuttings and are often the star of springtime floral arrangements. ‘Tulipa linifolia’ is a good species choice. This hardy little tulip blooms bright red on a petite 4 to 6 inch tall plant.
Tulip Caring Tips
After you have chosen an excellent perennial tulip bulb, you should plant your bulbs in the fall. Make sure your tulips will receive plenty of sunshine. And don’t plant them too close to other plants. Tulips don’t like to compete.
Plant your tulip bulbs 8″ deep in excellent soil. If you mulch the soil around your bulbs, make sure to include the mulch as part of the 8″ depth. Place your bulbs into the ground with the tip up. Place a handful of organic material, such as well rotted manure, into the hole with your developing bulb, too.
Your bulbs will respond best and become perennial performers when you take the time to water them well at the time of planting. And while the well rotted manure will provide your plant with lots of nutrients for great root development, give your bulbs an extra boost with a top dressing of compost or a good bulb fertilizer when you plant them, too. Water your newly planted bulbs well.
From that point forward, it’s important to provide a good balance of water to your plant throughout its growing season. Each fall, feed the area where your tulips are planted with a fresh round of organic matter. And in the spring when sprouts appear, apply a fast delivering boost of fertilizer, such as fish emulsion.
After your plant has bloomed for the season, allow the leaves to dry and fall off by themselves. This step will signal to the plant to focus its energy for the rest of the season on to developing strong roots for next year’s comeback.
With these handy tips, we’ll hope your tulips are persuaded to return each year. You may even find that they are so happy that they multiply, too. We hope that you are rewarded with an increasing number of tulips year after year. Good luck!