My Favorite Tulips and how to plant them…

January 4, 2010

Hi guys...I get a lot of questions on how to successfully grow tulips in our area, so I thought I'd share this info I originally printed for the Neil Sperry e-newsletter. You still have this week to get your tulips in the ground!

Standout Tulips

Thislively combination is a favorite in the author’s garden. Bright orange'Temple of Beauty' is combined with 'Dordogne'. Photo by Leslie FinicalHalleck.

While December weather can be less than inspiring when itcomes to getting out and digging in the garden, there is a lot to dothis next month if you want a colorful spring garden. December is thetime to plant your tulips. I’ve grown many a tulip in my day, but thereare a few standouts that continue to make their way into my own garden.I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

‘Temple of Beauty’ is a truestunner in the spring garden. If you really want to go bold, this tulipis the way to go. A single, late hybrid, ‘Temple of Beauty’ has alarger bloom that most other single-lates and is a vibrant orange withsalmon tones along the petals. You can mix this brightly coloredcultivar with tulips in shades of pink or yellow for a cheerycombination. Blooms on sturdy stems will easily reach 30 to 36 inchestall. This variety is a hybrid cross of the lily-flowering tulip‘Mariette’ and a variety of Tulipa gregii. The result,‘Temple of Beauty’, is a triploid bulb with excellent vigor andgigantic blooms. In fact, it’s probably one of the largest floweringcultivars of tulip in the world. Many sports of ‘Temple of Beauty’ havesince been developed, and the group is often referred to as GiantLefeber Hybrids, after Dirk W. Lefeber, who bred the original ‘Templeof Beauty’ cross.

‘Blushing Beauty’ and ‘Blushing Lady’are two such sports and are also among my tulip favorites. If you wantthe size and vigor of ‘Temple of Beauty’, but would prefer something abit subtler in color, these are your gals. ‘Blushing Beauty’ sportslarge blooms with a yellow-apricot blend and rose-colored base. ‘Blushing Lady’ has a similar color pattern, but edges of petals blendto a brighter lemon yellow. Lily-flowering hybrid flowers will open upon sunny days, revealing color variations inside the flower. Thesehybrids can be mixed together or mixed with other single, late tulipsfor a stunning show.

It doesn’t get any better than ‘Maureen’for a white tulip. This classic single-late will never disappoint. Purewhite blooms are tightly formed and stand on sturdy, erect stems thatgrow up to 30 inches tall. ‘Maureen’ is lovely planted by itself ormixed with darker-blooming tulips for a contrasting display.

If you’re looking for something that blooms earlier, but still want a sturdy, reliable performer, you must try ‘Ollioules’.This giant-flowered Darwin Hybrid tulip is technically classified as amid-season bloomer. In our climate, however, it is usually one of theearliest tulips to bloom. ‘Ollioules’ produces violet-rose-coloredpetals edged in silvery-pink. Because of its two-toned color pattern,there is no need to mix this beauty with another tulip, as it standsout all on its own.

Be sure your tulips have been pre-chilled. Inorder for tulips to receive a proper vernalization, and thus develop aflower bud, soil temperatures must remain at a constant between about45 F and 50 F degrees. In our climate, that doesn’t usually happen.Because our winters are not consistently cool enough, and our summersare too hot and dry, hybrid tulips typically will not perennialize inTexas. They must be pre-chilled and re-planted each year. There are afew species tulips that will make return appearances, but they are muchsmaller in size than the classic “Dutch hybrids.” The best time toplant your tulips is when soil temperatures have reached 50 F or below.That is typically after Thanksgiving. I’ve found that the second andthird weeks of December are usually prime time for planting tulips. Irecommend getting your tulips into the ground before the end ofDecember, and I urge you to plant them deeply! By planting your tulips6 to 8 inches deep (from the soil surface to the top of the bulb) youwill ensure that your bulbs bloom at the right time and not too early.

About the author: Leslie Finical Halleck is a horticulturist and general manager for North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas.

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