Tag Archives: crocus

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 Deep Should Bulbs be Planted? Tulips, Daffodils, Small Bulbs

The usual rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times the distance from base to shoulder of the bulb.  There are exceptions which I will go into at the end of this post.

Best Planting Depth

These large #1 size daffodil bulbs are the largest available and not found in nurseries.  The planting dept of these triple bulbs is measured from the base to where the bulb begins to narrow, or the shoulder.  If that measurement is 3″, then the bulb is planted with 6″ of soil above the bulb.

Bulb Depth Chartbulb chart

bulb chart
These charts indicate that the general planting depth for tulips is 8″, daffodils is 6+ inches, spring blooming crocus is 2″, and anemones go down 1-1/2″.  The fall blooming Crocus Sativus is planted 4″ deep.

In my case, I plant tulips shallowly and treat them like annuals so that they are easy to pull out and throw away after they bloom, as they need very cold weather to naturalize.

The Giant Scilla is an exception as it stands with about a third of the bulb above soil level!

Peonies are planted very shallowly with the pink or white buds 1/2 inch below ground level.

Of course, the soil should be well amended and loosened before planting if possible.

Saffron Crocus or Crocus Sativus

When to Order Bulbs, Corms, Roots – Daffodils, Crocus Sativa, Peonies

Bulbs can be ordered at any time during the year, but the delivery is usually from September through January for spring flowering blooms.  Spring crocus (which needs pre-chilling) and fall blooming, Crocus Sativus (which does not require chilling) are available.

Crocus Sativus pictured above is a fall blooming, warm climate corm which blooms 2″ high and is a nice filler around other plants and naturalizes.  The red stigmas can be pinched off during the blooming period for use in cooking.

Daffodils arrive in the fall and can be planted all thoough the months just short of the spring blooming time.  Some narcissus (special hybrids) will start blooming in September and some others every month through April.

Daffodil Types

Early blooming varieties like February Gold, Trevithian, and Golden Dawn are followed by Ice Follies, Scarlet O’Hara, Dutch Master and latest varieties which are Unsurpassable, Salome, Cheerfulness, Yellow Cheerfulness and Thalia.

Peonies can be ordered at anytime and are usually delivered in the fall, but can be planted into January or later if need be.  They can be dug up and moved anytime except while they are blooming.

Tulips are best ordered early so that there is time to refrigerate them for 8 weeks or so.  I refrigerate all of my tulips until they are sold or until November/December when customers are ready to plant locally.

Bulbs are really pretty foolproof!

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.