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Tulip Growing for Beginners

Tulips provide a riot of color in a spring garden. Even if the spring weather is relatively cold, tulips are hearty enough to withstand the cold without dying. In fact, in some cases, a little snow can be beneficial for tulips. With many tulip varieties available, you can get quite creative with tulips in a flower garden. Cutting tulips and bringing them indoors for flower arrangements is another benefit of growing tulips.

About Tulips

Wild tulips are native to Central Asia. The original flowers were red and yellow only, and the blossoms were smaller than today's tulips. Modern cultivation and hybridization has resulted in a wide range of tulip sizes, styles, and colors. Tulips are hardy in growing zones three through eight. Those living in warmer zones may need to take special steps to grow tulips successfully in the heat. Tulips grow from bulbs that you plant in the soil and leave there. Every spring, tulips will emerge to help you celebrate the beginning of a new growing season.

When to Plant Tulips

Buy tulip bulbs in late summer, but don't plant them at this time. If you plant tulip bulbs too early, they will actually start growing at the end of the growing season, which will result in plant damage. Bulbs should be firm, and bigger bulbs will result in bigger plants with larger blossoms. Store unplanted tulip bulbs in a cool and dry place in paper bags. An unheated garage would be ideal for storing tulip bulbs. Wait to plant tulip bulbs until the middle of autumn, when the temperatures are cooler. Plant the bulbs before the ground freezes when the overnight lows range between 40 and 50 degrees.

Preparing the Site and Planting Tulips

Choose a planting site with full sun or at least afternoon sun that's sheltered from strong winds. Ideal spots for tulips include along the foundation of a house, along entryways, in borders, and in window boxes. Some gardeners also create special cutting gardens designed to produce flowers for floral arrangements. Prepare the soil by adding compost or peat moss to it so it drains well and the soil is neutral or slightly acidic. Work the soil to a depth of about 15 inches. Plant the bulbs about six to eight inches deep and about four to six inches apart for a border. If you want to create a cluster of tulips, dig a larger area and place a group of bulbs together in the same space. Place bulbs into the prepared holes with the pointy ends facing up. Cover the bulbs with soil, and press it down firmly with your hands. Water the bulbs.

Caring for Tulips

After planting the bulbs, monitor them for moisture. If it rains regularly, don't add supplementary water. If it doesn't rain, water the bulbs once each week until the ground freezes. When the tulips emerge in the spring, add some tulip fertilizer to the soil around them and water lightly. Enjoy the tulips while they are fresh and vibrant. When the blossoms fade, deadhead them immediately. Deadheading means to clip off just the blossoms from the stems to discard them. Leave the leaves intact; the foliage helps nourish the bulbs so they will bloom again the next spring. After the leaves yellow and die back, clip off the stems at ground level. Throw the foliage away. In the fall, add fresh compost to the soil and work it into the first few inches of soil. If you notice that the tulips become sparse after a few years, add more bulbs to the flower garden. Some of today's varieties of tulips don't spread and flourish year after year the way old-fashioned tulips did, so gardeners who want to guarantee a showy display of tulips every year will plant fresh bulbs each autumn.

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Written By Ava Rose.

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