Tulips are available in stunning colors nowadays from solids to the striped and with straight petals or furls. Each time I think I’ve seen my most favorite variety, out comes another that usurps its position. There’s even an almost ‘black’ variety that is available. I think black flowers are almost a horticultural challenge – it’s almost as if to finally attain a black flower of any variety is like a trophy to be attained eg the black rose, the black tulip etc. Tulips look best planted enmasse. In fact I think most bulbs look their best when planted enmasse rather than just having one or 2 dotted through the landscape. It’s that ‘wow’ factor. Most tulips like a cold snap before appearing in spring so if your winters aren’t quite frosty enough, you will need to ‘imitate’ nature by putting your bulbs in the vegetable crisper for ideally 6-8 weeks (NOTE : in the fridge, NOT the freezer!) before planting out in a sunny well drained spot in your garden. Plant the bulbs about 4 inches apart for a mass effect or if you only have a couple of bulbs, you may opt to plant them in a shallow container to great effect. I normally plant them quite deep (they like the cold soil) – around 4 inches deep. Before planting I dig in some blood and bone and add some water retaining crystals to the soil. Then I water and wait for the little green spikes to break out of the soil. When the flowers first appear, I keep a watchful eye for aphids and hit them with a garlic/soap spray (or pyrethrum spray) to halt their progress.
The good news is that there are now varieties of tulips which don’t require as heavy chilling to perform well. Look out for ‘Single Late Tulips’ (otherwise known as French Tulips or Warm Climate Tulips). Where once you could really only have good looking tulips in the cooler climates, you can now grow these varieties in your warm climate garden as long as you follow the vegetable crisper routine. I’d suggest you dig out your tulips after the leaves have yellowed and store them in a dry shady spot with good air circulation to reduce the chance of mold and fungal attack on your bulbs. I usually also give them a good dusting with some insecticide to keep the insects off the bulbs to ensure that in mid autumn I can safely take them out again in preparation for their next planting.