Caring for Tulips

By Kelly Gartner , last updated February 4, 2011

The tulip is a spring-blooming flower that grows from bulbs, and with the right care, they can brighten any garden. The tulip plant will regenerate one large bulb each year. There are 109 species of tulips that come in a wide variety of bright colors. The flower of the tulip is a cup-shaped with three petals and three sepals. Tulips can grow as high as 28 inches or as short as 4 inches. In addition to adding a burst of color to your garden, the tulip is sure to gratify gardeners and their guests.

You can purchase tulips in bulk containers, but it is highly recommended that bulbs be purchased individually. When choosing your bulbs examine them carefully. Make sure a bulb is large in size, has no cracks and has no signs of rotting.

Before you Plant

Tulips should be planted in the autumn months of October or November, before the first frost. Keep tulip bulbs in a cool area, below 65 degrees, until you are ready to plant. If you live in a northern region plant your tulip bulbs in an area with full sun. In more southern areas plant your tulip bulbs in areas that receive full sun or areas with very light shade. Make sure the ground where you plant does not retain too much water, as too much moisture will cause your bulbs to rot.

Before planting your bulbs, prepare the soil by working and loosening the ground. You should work the soil six inches deep and treat with compost, peat moss, bone meal or another fertilizer recommended for tulips. Working and treating the soil will promote the growth of your bulbs.

Planting Tulips

Your tulip bulbs should be planted at least six inches apart. To plant a tulip bulb dig a hole in the prepared soil four to five inches deep. Place the bulb in the ground with the wide base of the bulb facing down. Lightly pack the soil from digging the hole on top of the bulb. Once you have planted all of your bulbs, lightly water. If the winters in your region are very cold you should cover the area with mulch. In the early spring remove the mulch from the tulip bed.

Caring for Tulips

Normal rainfall should suffice to water your tulips. However, if your area is experiencing an unusually dry period, lightly water your tulips about once a week. Keep the ground moist but not overly watered.

Once your tulips bloom you should take care to look for aphid infestations. Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects. Aphids can cause damage to your tulips that can spread to other tulip plants in the tulip bed. You can tell if a tulip plant has an aphid infestation if there is white or yellowish streaking on the flowers and the stems appear spindly.

Once your tulips have bloomed you can enjoy them in your garden or cut and used in a flower arrangement in your home. To prevent your tulips from drooping in a vase, cut the bottoms on an angle and place an ice cube in the water. Change the water daily. If you do not cut your tulips, cut the plant back once the flowers start to fade. Cutting the plant back ensures healthy growth in the following season.

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