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Planting Tulips for Early Spring Color

Planting tulips in your garden in late fall will be a very rewarding experience come next spring, when you will be rewarded with a blaze of color for all of your hard work. No other flower captures as much spring color as the almighty tulip, which gives us all a lift after a hard winter.

Begin by planting quality tulip bulbs, usually supplied by mail-order growers or possibly a well-stocked garden center. Inspect all bulb prior to planting to prevent the planting of any bruised, cut, or moldy bulbs. Tulips will vary greatly in color and size and you should do your homework prior to selection of a planting area.

Well-drained soil is best because the bulbs will rot if left in moisture saturated soil. Also voles love tulips and if you have a problem with these little critters you may have to protect your bulbs by planting them a few inches deeper, such as 7 to 8" to get out of reach of the voles.

Tulip variety will dictate the time of year to plant, but a rough guideline would be:

  • USDA Zones 4 & 5 - September to Early October
  • USDA Zones 6 & 7 - October to Early November
  • USDA Zones 8 & 9 - November to Early December
  • USDA Zone 10 - January
For best results you should dig up your bulbs every other year after the blooms have faded and the foliage has turned brown. They should be stored in a cool location and again planted as per the above schedule. You can plant your tulip either in a trench 6" deep or purchase a bulb planting tool. In any event I prefer to plant my tulips nearly shoulder to shoulder for a dense show of color in the spring. Also add bulb fertilizer at the time of planting. When you dig the bulbs you can also split them at that time and nearly double your bulb supply.
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