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The weather is changing, the leaves are falling, but November and December are the perfect time to plant your tulips bulbs. Although the temperature has dropped, the soil is still warm, and if the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged you can get your tulips in so that come the spring they’re up and flowering.
If you plant your tulips earlier, they’ll start to grow and can be damaged by frost during late winter.
Late planting can also help reduce fungal problems, such as tulip fire.
This is where fungal spores attack new, emerging leaves and they become malformed invariably with brown spots.
The flower buds may not open, but if they do there will be white blotches on the petals.
If we have a wet winter and spring, then those fungal spores can spread to the entire plant and neighbouring tulips and result in the flower stem completely collapsing.
The great thing about planting bulbs is that it’s easy to do.
People new to gardening or seasoned gardeners can enjoy this gardening job, in the knowledge that come the spring you’ll have gorgeous, colourful blooms with very little effort.
Bulbs are hardy, meaning they can withstand the worst of the weather and the cold.
Inside each bulb is an embryonic plant, bursting to get going.
Before you plant your tulips, you need to check over your bulbs.
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Ensure they are blemish free, firm and not soft to the touch, and show no signs of grey fungus or mould. Don’t be tempted to plant these, as they’ll rot in the soil and can easily spread spores to other plants.
Next, you need to pick a spot in the garden that has well-draining soil and gets full sun or partial shade and ideally is sheltered from strong winds.
If you grow tulips in pots, then you can move them to a sunnier position.
The bulb will have a pointy end and a round end where the roots will form. The pointy end should always face upwards.
To improve soil drainage, you can add horticultural grit. Work it into the soil with a fork and add a general feed such as Growmore or chicken manure pellets.
Also, once you’ve made your hole for the tulip bulb to be dropped in, you can add a thin layer of grit for the bulb to sit on.
This will help with drainage and will help stop slugs. Plant the bulbs three times the bulb’s height and at least twice the bulb’s width apart.
Remember that when in flower the petals will be larger than the bulb. By spacing them correctly you guarantee that your tulips when in flower will not be squashed and therefore become misshapen.
Tulips don’t tend to last for years and years, although some of the viridiflora (bi-colour) varieties are more perennial than others.
You can throw away your old bulbs and replace them each year. Alternatively, a more cost-effective method is to lift the bulbs and dry them after flowering. Bulb trays make lifting much easier.
Always deadhead flowers to prevent seed production and wait until the foliage turns yellow before lifting. Store your dry bulbs in net bags in a warm, dark, ventilated place.
Have fun and plant spring-flowering bedding plants and underplant them with tulips. Choose tulips that will complement the colours of the bedding plants, for example Viola “Eye of the Tiger” and Tulip “Princess Irene”.
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