Tulip Planting 101

Nov 15, 2010 | Gardening | 12 comments

I don’t know about your weather but it has been rather lovely here outside Chicago.  I am frantically planting bulbs knowing the clouds and cold are on their way.
We have so much more room for our roses and perennials thanks to our garden expansion and I recently hit the jackpot and found tulip bulbs for sixty percent off!!!  I did not make an official count but I do think I bought around 300 for $40. 
 The Budget Gardener strikes again! 
 (Did I ever tell you about the Red Bud I found for $7.00!!!!)
Aidan and I have been having a lovely time together while the girls get their afternoon nap.  Thankfully he still takes a nap but I love to treat him to skip it a couple times a week so we can have “Momma Time.”  
You still have a chance to get your bulbs in, I bet if you look hard enough you can still find bulbs on clearance at Home Depot or Costco.  Of course you could always pay full price at those amazing bulb websites too.
Step One:  Consider the Timing.
I have journaled what blooms when and the garden has a nice staggered amount of color from April thru the end of October… in fact I still have patches of color here and there.  By carefully choosing your bloom time you can welcome in Spring the moment the snow melts.  If you have never bought bulbs before you will notice most packages clearly indicated Early/Mid or Late Spring.  If you buy all three times or at least two out of three you will have a succession of color that will banish March and her roars and April and her showers.
Step Two:  Consider the Color and Height
I have a light cream colored house with black details so this year I chose 18″ Hot Pink Tulips, 9″ White Tulips and Purple/Blue Miniature Grape Hyacinth for my Mid Spring Color. 
For Late Spring I chose dramatic 24″ Black and Hot Pink Tulips.  Though I prefer an all pink, blue and pastel garden I do have a vibrant area of Oriental orange poppies that bloom late spring and darling, delicate wispy little yellow buttons that are around ’til the middle of June.  My Pink tulips should be done by the arrival of the poppies and if not, I will cut them and bring them indoors to enjoy as to not clash with the yellow and orange.
Step Three:  Dig Your Hole
Do I need to say more?  Your package will tell you the depth.  I take a yardstick out just to make sure my eyes aren’t deceiving me.
Step Four:  Plant.
Now, just as recent as yesterday someone asked me which side goes down so here it is: the pointy side goes up, the rough side, where it looks like the roots will come out goes down.  Your packaging will also indicate the spacing.  I never follow these garden rules with anything I plant… an old trick from my Great Gramma… just cram ’em in there!
Step Five:
Water.  Yes, even Tulip bulbs need a little water.
Step Six:  Prevent.
I know everyone has their garden pests and around here mine are bunnies in the Spring, Japanese **&^%%^& Beetles in the Summer and squirrels in the Fall and Winter.  So, to ward off those nasty, long tailed little buggers I plant garlic with my bulbs.  I also sprinkle Cayenne Pepper on my mulch.  See Step Seven.
Step Seven:  Mulch.
I don’t know if this is really necessary but on day 15 in a row of 17 degree below zero in January I always start to wonder if when Spring arrives will everything be DEAD!  So, I simply spread a pile of leaves over my tulip area (these are not the shredded leaves that I will spread over the entire garden in the next week or so) and then I sprinkle them with Cayenne Pepper.  I don’t have any proof that either thing makes a difference but truth be told, I hate planting bulbs and I don’t want Old Man Winter or our dreaded tree rats killing/eating all my hard work.
Step Seven:  Drink Hot Chocolate.
That’s right.  Bust out the garden books, seed catalogs, graft paper and sketches. 
 Dream, plan, chart… and stay warm. 
 Didn’t I say gardening is always about next year???


  1. Alice

    I just love tulips. Unfortunately the critters dig them up every time I try and plant–so I gave up. I’ll have to try your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Adrienne

    This is the first fall I haven’t added to my tulip collection. I always end up getting a few bags at Costco every year and plant them like you do – a big hole and pitch in a bunch of bulbs.

    I bought one of those clever bulb hole digger thingies. What a waste of money!

    I don’t worry too much about clashing colors because most colors in nature go well together. The exception to that would be the people who plant marigolds with purple petunias (school colors?) What a horrible combination!

    We don’t have squirrels or bunnies. Our worst problem is pocket gophers who are no where near our planted areas.

  3. Renata

    Thankyou for your tips & hints! Makes me want to go out planting bulbs even though it’s the complete wrong time of year here! I’d love to see some pictures of your gardens in spring!
    Hope you have a wonderful week

  4. myletterstoemily

    great tip about the garlic, cayenne,
    and hot chocolate. 🙂

  5. Jenny

    Wow….just reading your post I feel quite productive…think I will have a hot chocolate too! It all sounds so nurturing and lovely…what a great momma time.

  6. * French Farmhouse 425 *

    ~*I always love your posts! 😉 Thanks for the info! That hot chocolate looks sooo yummy too!! Hugs,Rachel~*~*

  7. Jeri Landers

    How appropriate to read this post this morning as I am about to step outside and plant 1200 bulbs today. I don’t usually wait this long but hey, at least they haven’t rotted yet. I too, purchase bulbs as early, mid and late bloomers to extend their season. Never thought about the Cayenne…hmmm, wonder if that will work for chickens.

  8. Rebecca

    I have resorted to buying my tulips… I love the little white French tulip. I put them in my whiteware pitchers and I can have them at Christmas! I planted dozens of them and the squirrels think they are for them… I now just throw the squirrels bread

  9. the gypsy chick

    ok, i am so motivated to go out & plant some bulbs. I have also heard that coating the bulbs in Gold Bold Foot Power help keep the squirrels from digging up the bulbs.

  10. Pam

    We did a mass planting of tulips in our front yard a couple of years ago and their arrival each spring is always so exciting. Several of my neighbors also anxiously await their arrival as well.

  11. Harvest Moon

    I really know so little about gardening, this post was so helpful. I’m going to take a shot at planting some tulips. The garlic tip is very clever. Thank you!


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