Is it time to plant tulips yet?

December 2, 2012

Down here in the South, we have to pre-chill our tulips each fall in order for them to have an adequate vernalization and initiate a flower bud. It's a pain. But, tulips are gorgeous and I always find it worth my while to repeat this task each season. Typically, we can start planting our pre-chilled tulips in the garden after Thanksgiving, once soil temps have reached about 50F. Well folks, if you haven't noticed, it's still 80F outside here in North Texas, and many parts of Texas. Soil temperatures are simply not yet where they need to be in order to plant your tulips. Honestly, I never plant my tulips until about the 3rd week of December, here in Dallas. After my tour of duty at the Dallas Arboretum, where I was responsible for planning and scheduling all of the color and bulb installations (we planted abouta bizillion), I know a think or two about doing tulips right.

Tulip maureen

One of my favorite single late tulips, 'Maureen', in my garden mixed with Dutch Iris 'Imperator'

Don't plant to early, but don't plant to late either. My advice, keep those tulip bulbs chilling for now. If you don't have one, invest in an inexpensive soil thermometer. Start checking soil temperatures next week, a couple of times per week, to see where they are heading. My bet is still always on the 3rd week of December as the optimal planting window. Get them in the ground by end of December. Don't wait until January. Plant deep...6"-8", no exceptions. Then add 2" of mulch on top of your tulips plantings.

Have trouble with squirrels digging up your precious bulbs? Once you've set your bulbs in their planting hole, cut out a piece of chicken wire and lay it on top of the bulbs, then cover with soil. The squirrels will have a much tougher time getting to them that way!

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