Growing Tulips and other Spring Bulbs is one of the most satisfying activities you can do in the garden. The beautifully coloured flowers pop up announcing that winter is over and spring and summer are on their way.
A common garden myth is that Tulips are hard to grow but with these tips, you can buy Tulips that will grow successfully in many parts of Australia. Some great new varieties and a few simple rules to follow will have picture perfect Tulips in your garden this spring.
Single Late Tulips are suited to most areas of Australia south of the sub-tropics. Varieties known as Single Late Tulips require less winter chilling producing tall 60cm plus stems and large bold flower heads. Varieties that fit this category are sold in a wide range of colours from white to almost black. Garden Express would encourage anybody south of the sub-tropics that like Tulips to try them.
Varieties that perform well include Maureen (white), Dordogne (pink/peach), Menton (pink), Kingsblood (deep red), Roi du Midi (yellow), Avignon (orange) and Queen of the Night (burgundy/black). Several others are also available; Garden Express will always call them Single Late Tulips. Other stockists will categorise them as French Tulips or Warm Climate Tulips.
Tulips are also available in other varieties that will perform in Australia, Darwin Hybrid, Doubles, Fringed, Parrot, Triumph and Novelty amongst others.
There are however a few easy, yet important steps to remember for great looking Tulips that will return each year.
Growing Tulips in Australia
Purchase your bulbs by the end of March, but wait until early May before planting to allow sufficient time for a cooling treatment in the refrigerator. Chilling your bulbs for 6-8 weeks in the crisper of the refrigerator (not freezer) prior to planting will ensure the longest possible flower stems. Cold areas will not require as many weeks chilling. If you do not get your bulbs until late in autumn, still refrigerate them for a few weeks, always leaving planting until before the third or fourth week in May.
Generally, store in the crisper, away from fruit, from April Fools’ Day and then plant them on Mother’s Day, never plant out your Tulips before early May. This gives the soil a chance to cool down sufficiently.
When storing Tulip bulbs in the fridge, in a garden shed or a cupboard ensure adequate ventilation around the bulbs. Keep the bulbs away from ripening fruit, as the ethylene gasses given off can produce flowering disorders.
Keep the bulbs in their packaging, as this should prevent mould and fungal attack, otherwise use an egg carton or paper bag that allows air to circulate. Never store tulips or other bulbs in airtight containers.
When choosing a spot to plant Tulips pick a sunny or partly shaded location. Build up the garden beds so that the area is not waterlogged throughout winter. If the soil is acidic (pH below 6), add some lime and mix it in (this will help most of the plants you grow).
Prior to planting is the best time to add some fertiliser to the ground and Tulips love a combination of Blood and Bone with a little complete fertiliser. Tulips prefer to grow in cool soil so plant them about 20cm deep. How far apart is up to personal taste, but clumps of at least 10 bulbs planted about 12cm apart look stunning in flower. Between 7 and 20cm apart is normal.
Planted and fertilised Tulips need little done to them until buds appear. Aphids love eating Tulips flowers so give them a spray with a recommended insecticide or natural deterrent.
A systemic spray that continues to circulate through the plant system for some weeks is more effective than the simple knockdown kind. Your garden centre will advise on what type will be most effective.
Getting Tulips to return year after year.
In spring, do not let the ground dry out until the leaves start to yellow. For areas with cool to mild summers, try leaving your Single Late Tulip bulbs in the ground. In summer, Tulips prefer dry ground and soil temperatures of around 20 Celsius. In hotter climates or hot years, dig up the bulbs after the foliage has dried. Store bulbs in an open paper bag, an onion bag, even old stockings to get air circulation. Never in a sealed container that may cause condensation.
Dig up your bulbs from mid-November to mid-December after the leaves have yellowed. Brush off any excess soil and immediately place them in a cool shaded position with good air circulation. As previously mentioned the closer the temperature remains to a constant 20 Celsius the better the Tulip flower will develop. Take care to avoid subjecting your bulbs to lengthy periods of high temperatures.
This can kill the developing flower and result in leaves but no flowers the next season. While storing your bulbs, dust them with some insecticide or place an insect strip nearby to prevent aphid damage.
Give your old bulbs the same cold treatment in the crisper section of the refrigerator and plant out in May. Chances are the growing tulips and making the effort you will have a great spring show of colour every year. You can also use these tips for other Spring Flowering Bulbs like Hyacinths and Daffodils.
Go to Garden Express store for Tulips
See also: Simple Growing & Planting Guide – Tulips