Tulips look their best when they are grown in loose, crumbly soil that is easy to work and very well drained. The well-drained part is critical. Bulbs can rot in soil that’s too wet. In Holland, tulips are grown in sand, which guarantees they’re never in a soggy situation.
Garden designers know that tulips look best when they are planted in groups of 50 or more bulbs. Plan on 9 to 12 bulbs per square foot. For a full look, put 2" to 3" of space between the bulbs. Using a 4" spacing will stretch the bulbs, but not look quite as full.
To plant a lot of bulbs fast, dig out the entire planting area to a depth of 6 to 8” and pile the soil on a tarp nearby. Position the bulbs in the hole and then slide the soil off the tarp to cover them.
Some tulips bloom just after the crocuses and others flower right before the peonies. If you choose varieties with different bloom times, you can have tulips flowering for six weeks. To learn which types bloom when, read: Tulips by Bloom Time.
If possible, plant the bulbs in full sun. This will help your tulips attain their maximum height and flower size. Tulips also perform well in half-day sun and beneath deciduous trees. In warm climates, the flowers will last longer if they are shielded from hot afternoon sun.
Tulip bulbs are susceptible to fungal diseases, especially when they are grown in a cool, moist climate. To minimize problems, remove the old bulbs after they finish blooming and plant fresh bulbs each fall. If possible, rotate planting areas, giving the soil a 3-year rest in between.
There are two good reasons to wait until November to plant your tulip bulbs. Cold temperatures suppress fungal growth, so your bulbs will be less susceptible to disease. If you have problems with squirrels and chipmunks stealing your bulbs, planting later also lets you avoid their peak hoarding season.
Tulips always look their best the first spring after planting. When soil and growing conditions are ideal, some tulips may bloom for more than one year. But in most cases you will get smaller flowers and possibly no flowers at all. For best results, simply remove the bulbs after they finish blooming and plant fresh ones each fall.
To learn more, we offer: Bloom Time Chart for Spring and Summer Bulbs, What Makes Darwin Hybrid Tulips Special, Planting a Front Door Garden (video) and How to Plant Tulip Bulbs (video). Shop our complete selection of tulip bulbs HERE.