Category Archives: Tulips

Tulips are in Bloom!

Tulips are in Bloom!

In Palo Alto, I used to be called “The Tulip Lady” and today in Glen Ellen where I have my farm with daffodil hillsides, I am called the “Daffodil Lady”.  Just as I was beginning to write this article on tulips, I got a call from a Daffodil Man who digs, divides and shares the early settler’s daffodil bulbs from around Cloverdale, California.  We  will meet next week here to walk among mine and set a time to visit his, and this will the subject of my next post.

Tulips are in Bloom! 


Tulips are Blooming:  

Tulips bloom in a sequence of earlier to latest which usually correspondes to shortest to tallest, which was in my mind when I found my tallest tulip, a single late called Blushing Beauty blooming first along with another one, Big Smile.  This year I planted my extra tulips very late at the end of Januay between every other peony row.  They are also planted on the west side of my property under deciduous oaks about 2″ deep.

Tulips are in Bloom!

The length of the cut tulips can be extended by using some of the white stems at the bottom of the tulips.  The deeper they are planted, the longer the white area.  I plant my tulips shallowly to allow me to pull them out completely when picking as the bulbs need to removed in any case as they will not rebloom reliably, especially when cut.

Tulips are in Bloom!Pull them out!

If you look closely, the tulips bulbs are starting to divide and make more and smaller bulbs.  In Holland, to make the bulbs larger, one years growth is sacrificed by cutting the HEADS off just as they begin to bloom. This makes the bulb grow larger.  When the flower blooms, the bulbs divide and thus it is difficult to have a reblooming tulip in warm climates where cold is needed to made the bulbs grow larger so that they can rebloom.



Tulips are in Bloom!


Reluctantly, I throw away the bulbs and tear off the lower leaves from the stem.

Tulips are in Bloom!

These Blushing Beauty and Rainbow Warrier tulips are very tall and could stand to be shortened or placed in a larger vase.  I didn’t plant my earliest blooming tulip, Apricot Beauty, as it was sold out.



Tulips Blooming Latest

temple of beauty

Temple of Beauty Tulip


Sorbet Tulip

Sorbet Tulip, Single Late Variety


Fantasy Tulip

Fantasy, Parrot Tulip


Blushing Beauty Tulip

Blushing Beauty Tulip, Tall, Single Late

The above tulips are tall and late. There is another late parrot tulip, Blue Parrot, to add to this group but it was not planted this year.

As a very general rule, the taller the tulip, the later it blooms. Thus, Single Late tulips are the tallest and the Triumph tulips are shortest of those I sell.

Tulips: What to Buy, When and How to Plant

My listing of tulips available on my price list, are tulips that I have grown for many years and are my favorites. I have grown many which are not on that list, but these are among the most beautiful and reliable of those available that I can still obtain.

There have been few new tulips available commercially over the twenty six years that I have been in business. Many older ones which were wonderful, are no longer available. One of my very favorite tulips was expensive, had a yellow satin lining with a pale yellow cream outside was replaced with a poor substitute under the same name (and of course, same price!). Sometimes, bulb suppliers will substitute a similar “color” for one that was ordered. I have learned to avoid those suppliers.

Tulips are ordered and delivered in the fall of the year. In cold areas, they can be planted immediately and they do not need pre-chilling and it is much easier to plant them when the weather is pleasant and the ground not frozen. Pre-chilling makes them stronger and of equal height and I refrigerate all of my tulips until my customer is ready to plant them. Check and discard any bulbs with rot on the basal plate which will affect the growth of the bulb. Blue mold, nicks and missing skins do not affect the viability of the bulb as long as the basal plate in not damaged or rotting.

Dig down about nine inches, and if they are to be left in the ground, dig in a handful of bulb meal or bone meal into the soil below where the bulbs will sit being careful not to let the meal touch the bottom of the tulip bulbs, as it could burn the roots of the bulb.  Add about one inch of soil and then arrange the bulbs so that they are about 4″ apart with the points facing upward. Replace the soil and water them in if no rain is forecast.

In warm weather climates, chill the tulip bulbs for about 8 weeks before planting them in the same way as mentioned above.  As tulips will not rebloom reliably, the addition of bone meal or bulb food is not necessary.

In the photo above, daffodils and muscari are mixed into the border planting along with the tulips. They will return in the cold climates, but will not in warm climates.

Why won’t tulips rebloom in warmer climates?

There is an interesting answer to this question. In Holland where many of the tulips bulbs are grown, they are artifically made larger by mowing the tulip fields to cut off their heads just as they are about to bloom. This forces the bulb to grow larger. “French Tulips” are forced for a second year, and as a result for either group, the bulbs cannot wait to divide when they finally are allowed to bloom! Thus, the result is many small bulbs, most of which are too small to bloom and just send up green shoots.  These are replanted in Holland or in cold climates to grow on. In warm climates, only about 20% of tulips will rebloom, but they are smaller blooms with varying heights, and certainly not the showy groupings of the first year.

I treat tulips as annuals, thank them for their efforts and pull them out after blooming to make room for annuals or to leave the bed neater.

How to Store Bulbs – Tulips, Daffodils, Dark, Dry, Cool Conditions

Bulbs are dormant when they have died back to nothing more than the brown, dried, fat root. That root has all of the nutrition that it will need for the next year’s successful bloom.  It is important to keep bulbs cool and in dark, dry conditions until they are planted, whether they have been dug out of the ground after dying back or are fresh and new from the grower or supplier.

Some bulbs need to be chilled before planting in warm weather climates, like most of California and in the southern states.  Tulips need chilling for about 6-8 weeks or longer if that is most convenient.  I have planted tulips bulbs that have been left over and with almost 14 weeks of refrigeration and they have bloomed nicely.  On one occasion, I planted some Darwin Hybrid tulips on April 1 after 22 weeks of chlling and they bloomed 2 weeks later with no roots!

Freesia, hyacinth, saffron crocus, and lilies need refrigeration if they are not planted after receiving them to keep them from beginning to keep the roots from beginning to grow. Daffodils do not need chilling but they do need to be kept in dark, dry storage as in a garage until time to plant.  Other bulbs like giant scilla, lycoris, ranunculous, anamones and other warm weather bulbs and corms just need cool, dry, dark conditions.

Cheap Tulips, Cheap Daffodils, Cheap Bulbs

I took pictures of all of my daffodil bulbs one year against a ruler to show the size. Bulbs differ in size according to variety, but one rule seems to hold true – plant a smaller bulb than the largest that can be bought per variety, and you will short yourself on the result.

The labor involved in planting bulbs easily overshadows the bulb cost, but some people think that they will come out ahead by picking up a few dozen as the big box stores and garden centers where the bulbs are exposed to heat and sunlight.

You get what you pay for is truly the name of the game!

Hand Holding Small Daffodil Bulb

Cheap equals smaller.  Smaller equals fewer blooms.  The large bulbs, which are what I distribute, will produce at least 2-3 flowers per bulb while the smaller bulb will produce a single, probably shorter, flower.

Two Large Daffodil Bulbs

My daffodil bulbs are the largest available and can be called “Mother Bulbs” in some cases. They are not sold in nurseries as the shipping is very expensive.  The imported daffodil bulbs and other catalog offeringd are usually “double nose #2” or single bulbs as are Costco’s daffodils which come in bags while mine come in crates.

Plate of Daffodil Bulbs