Using Tulips In The Yard & House

These tall hybrid tulips are excellent massed beds in beds of their own, arrayed along borders, or clustered in informal groups in front of shrubs or in the middle of perennial beds. Many do well as greenhouse plants in pots. Generally, Darwins and Darwin hybrid tulips are too tall to look good in rock gardens.

Tulips can be planted in the fall outdoors in landscape containers such as windowboxes, patio planters and half barrels for spring display. Plant as you would in the ground, but use a soilless potting mix and allow the bulbs to touch each other. Be sure your container has drainage holes. Afterward, remove the bulbs and plant annuals in the containers.

While breeders have made every effort to make the Darwins and other hybrids perennial--to assure that they come back every spring--most are not reliably perennial without a lot of extra special care. For this reason they are not suited for naturalizing in meadows or lawns. Plan to plant new tulips each year, or plant the smaller botanical types that are more dependable for repeat bloom.

Cutting and Displaying Tulips Indoors

Cut flowers that are open enough that color shows on half or two-thirds of the bud. Cut at the base of the stems in the early morning with a clean, sharp knife, retaining as much foliage as possible. Wear gloves so that the sap from the stems does not irritate your skin.

Recut stems at a sharp angle, removing the solid pale ends and lowest foliage. Then wrap them in wet newspaper tightly enough so that stems are forced to stay straight.

Plunge the wrapped, cut stems into a pail of warm water for several hours or overnight so they can take up lots of water. (Tulips do not respond to the use of floral conditioners in the water.)

Arrange stems in plain tepid water in their vase. Be prepared for them to grow up to an inch longer in the vase and to flop in the direction of the light. Fresh cut tulips should last a week, more if they are in a cool room.

Display tulips alone or combined with other spring flowers and blooming branches such as forsythia and daffodils that have been in separate water after cutting so that their gummy sap runs off. You do not want that in the vase with the other flowers.

Forcing Tulips Indoors

Tulips can be “forced” to bloom indoors ahead of their outdoor timetable, but not as easily as other types of bulbs like hyacinths and narcissus. In the fall choose shallow clay pots or other traditional plant container that won't topple over easily. Put 1 inch of broken crocking or pebbles mixed with a little peat moss for drainage and water absorption in the bottom. Add a 1 inch layer of mixed sand, loam and peat, then place in it as many tulip bulbs as the pot can comfortably hold their sides nudging each other. Point the bulb tips upward.

Cover the bulbs with soilless potting mix up to ½ inch above their tips. Then place the pots for 10 to 13 weeks in the garage or basement, wherever it’s dark and the temperature is around 40°F, so their roots can develop. Keep the soil moist. If indoor storage space is limited, set the pots outside in a cold frame, or sink the pots in the ground and keep them covered with mulch to protect them from freezing. After this cold treatment, bring them inside and early singles and double types of tulips will bloom in 3 to 4 weeks, Darwin and cottage types in 6 to 9 weeks.

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