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Grow Some Tulips

Take a journey with me...

Let's start at the beginning.

Tulips are a flower grown from a bulb. These bulbs contain all the nutrients they need and even have their flower stored inside from the previous growing season. Tulips do need two things to grow successfully, cold treatment, which is usually given to tulips by placing them in the soil in the fall, and roots to drink water. Tulips can be given this cold treatment out of the ground as well. More about this in week 3.

One misnomer is that tulips are perennials. Have you ever planted tulips and noticed that every year you have fewer flowers or no flowers at all? This is because, unfortunately, we do not have the appropriate growing environment to perennialize most tulip varieties. And sadly, very few places in the world have adequate conditions to perennialize and propagate tulips. There is a reason Holland is known for its tulip festivals. The result is that as a flower farmer, tulips are grown as annuals. We must bring in new tulip bulbs every year. Each of those bulbs will only produce one flower, and with their high dollar and expensive shipping costs, they are a flower that comes with a high price.

Tulip Types It is overwhelming the number of tulip varieties that exist. Even as a flower farmer, I, too, find it overwhelming, but the vast options are what make them exciting. There are 13 primary groups of tulips.

Single Early Tulip

Single Early Single cup-shaped flowers, some of the earliest to flower

Double Early Tulip

Double Early Double, peony-like flowers on short-stemmed, early-flowering

Triumph Tulip

Triumph Single-flowered with stems of medium height, flowering in mid-season (most commonly sold in grocery stores)

Darwin Tulip

Darwin Huge goblet-like single flowers, long-stemmed, flowering in mid-season

Single Late Tulip

Single Late Oval to almost squarish single flowers, pointed petals, long-stemmed and late-flowering

Lily-Flowering Tulip

Lily-Flowered Long, slim, single flowers with pointed petals flaring out at their tips, long-stemmed and mid-season flowering

Fringed Tulip

Fringed Single and double-flowered, petals edged with crystalline fringes, long-stemmed and mid or late-season flowering

Viridiflora Tulip

Viridiflora Single-flowered, having green streaks or markings on their petals, long-stemmed and late-season flowering

Rembrandt Tulip

Rembrandt Single-flowering, broken flower colors; caused by a non-spreading virus infection, long-stemmed and mid-season flowering

Parrot Tulip

Parrot Single-flowering, unusual fringed, curled and twisted petals, mainly late-flowering, stems of variable length-stemmed and late-season flowering

Double Late Tulip

Double Late / Peony-flowered Large, fully double flowers, variable stem length and late-season flowering

Fosteriana Hybrid Tulip

Fosteriana Hybrids Many cultivars, subspecies, varieties and hybrids; single slender flowers; broad leaves sometimes mottled or striped; variable stem length and early-season flowering

Species Tulip

Species: Known as Botanical Tulips; small single and delicate flowers; very hardy and a true perennial in our growing area.

That's nice, Anna; why does any of that matter?

Well... understanding the habits of a specific group leads us farmers to understand what each group needs to grow successfully. Remember, I different mentioned that tulip bulbs need cold to grow? Do you notice that different groups of tulips bloom early, mid, or late in the spring season? Tulips bloom at different times because each group and even varieties within a group need a different number of cold weeks to grow successfully.

Nature is quite amazing! Pay close attention, things are in motion, set by biological clocks in quite astonishing ways.

Q. What happens if you grow a tulip without giving it any cold weeks?

One of two things will occur. You will grow a roughly 4" green leaf, and then the plant will halt growth. Nothing more will happen. Or... You may get a bloom, but it will most likely not have a stem longer than 4".

Q. What tulip groups do you suggest I plant in my landscape?

There are a few tulip groups that I have had decent luck growing in my landscape. Blooms have been present for multiple years, even though they have declined over time.

Best Chances: Fosteriana, Species

Worth Trying: Darwin, Single Early

Q. Can I grow tulips in pots?

Absolutely! Are you excited to grow some specialty tulip that wont flower a second year? Do you not want to dig in our Northern Virginia clay soil? Throw tulips in pots! You can put them shoulder to shoulder which means you can fits loads of tulip bulbs in very small spaces.

Now its your turn to grow some tulips and discover all the unique varieties out there!


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