Plant and Seed Shop
| Daffodils &
Flower March to May, Plant September to November
Tulips manage to balance symmetrical perfection with a faultless elegance of proportion with that indefinable delicacy and vulnerability that the finest flowers have.
Best planted in groups of one variety, this applies to all bulbs, but more so for tulips than any of the others, why anyone should buy a bag of "mixed varieties and colours" is beyond me.
Traditional large reds are very robust and will grow in most places, but the finest to my eye at least are the white and pink lily-flowered varieties. These have rather taller thinner flowers than most tulips with a slightly out-turned tip to each petal.
Grown in containers for the house tulips are an extravagance as you need a large container and the flowers are rather short lived if you bring them into the warmth. I'd never be without a couple of large bowls of my favourites though as an annual treat, bring them indoors in the day and place them outside somewhere sheltered in the evening. If you have a cool (non-heated) conservatory, all the better.
The shops and markets in spring will be full of freshly cut tulips of the common shapes and shades, so go for something a little out of the ordinary for containers. Smaller species tulips are becoming more commonly available, they don't seem to do so well indoors but are ideal for a large outdoor container, just outside the front door is one of the best places to appreciate them as often as possible.
Plant - In containers, borders or beds, NOT in grass, they can't compete in the way that daffodils can.
Depth - 4-6" of soil above the top of the bulb, less in heavy, more in light soils, plant on a shallow bed of grit or gravel in the planting hole if rotting is a problem. Squirrels may dig the bulbs up this can be avoided by burying chicken wire (with large gaps) about 2" below the oil surface above the bulbs.
Depth in containers - 2-3" of compost above the bulbs, in very large pots, a double layer can be planted with the lower ones growing up through the ones above to give a greater density of blooms at flowering time.
Cultivation - after flowering, remove the seed heads and water once with double strength liquid fertiliser, plenty of it to reach the bulbs and roots. Leave leaves to die down naturally, they can be removed when completely brown and can be pulled up easily. Tulip leaves are less obtrusive than other bulbs foliage.
Container cultivation - if the containers are to be brought indoors, grow them on somewhere cool but sheltered let them grow as tall as possible before bringing them indoors just before the buds open, they may get leggy and even not flower if brought in too early. They will last longest in a cool but bright position.
After the flowers are over, put them outside in a sheltered position and grow / water / feed as normal for bulbs. They will not perform as well the next year at all, so don't bother trying, bulbs for indoor containers should be bought fresh each year. After flowering when the leaves have died down or before plant them out in the garden. They won't be very good in year 2, but will be fine from 3 onwards.
Planting in containers
The key point to remember is that these are temporary plantings, so you can plant the bulbs very close together, almost touching, for the maximum density of flowers. Buy the largest bulbs you can afford, smaller ones just don't perform as well and the smallest may produce lots of leaves but no flowers at all.
Bulb fibre is often recommended, but is only really necessary if the bulbs are to be planted in bowls without drainage. I've always treated bulbs like any other container plants and use ordinary potting compost in containers that have drainage holes and get excellent results.