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Home & Garden

Yard and Garden: Planting spring-flowering bulbs

AMES — October is the best time to plant tulip and other spring-flowering bulbs.

Make your selections and purchase bulbs, then follow the planting recommendations of ISU Extension and Outreach horticulturists to color your spring garden with floral beauty. To have additional questions answered, contact Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or 515-294-3108.

When is the best
time to plant tulips?

October is the ideal time to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs in Iowa. When planted in October, spring-flowering bulbs have sufficient time to develop a good root system before the ground freezes in winter. If the weather permits, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs can be planted as late as late November.

What are good
planting sites for tulips?

Tulips perform best in full sun. Planting sites should receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. Tulips also need a well-drained, fertile soil.

How deep should
I plant tulips?

Plant spring-flowering bulbs at a depth equal to three to four times their maximum bulb diameter. Accordingly, plant tulip bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep. Space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart.

Plant tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs in clusters or groups to achieve the greatest visual impact in the garden. When planting tulips, plant 10 or more bulbs of the same cultivar in an area.

Which tulips bloom over the longest number of years?

Most modern tulip cultivars bloom well for only two or three years. However, there are some tulip types (classes) that bloom well over a longer time period.

Darwin hybrid tulips are generally the longest blooming hybrid tulip. Darwin hybrid tulips may bloom for five years or more when planted in favorable locations and given good care. Darwin hybrid tulips are prized for their large, brilliant flowers. Flowers are available in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow and white. Blooms are borne on stems that are up to 30 inches tall. Darwin hybrid tulips bloom in mid-spring.

Fosteriana tulips also perennialize well. They are noted for their large, elongated flowers. Flowers appear in early spring on 10- to 20-inch-tall stems. Foliage is typically green or gray-green. However, a few cultivars have mottled or striped foliage. Fosteriana tulips are also known as Emperor tulips.

Species tulips are generally the longest-lived tulips. Some naturalize when given favorable growing conditions. Species tulips include wild tulip species and cultivars developed from these wild species. Species tulips are usually smaller than modern tulips. They also have smaller flowers. Species tulips are excellent choices for rock gardens and in the front of beds and borders. They are also sometimes referred to as botanical tulips.

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