Tulips might be my favorite flower. They are the rockstars of spring. A bunch of tulips plunked in a vase look gorgeous with no assistance.
Tulips come in endless forms of colors, shapes and sizes. I love the fluffy double varieties that resemble peonies, but my favorites are the Scheeper’s Hybrids. They are the same varieties referred to as “French tulips” within the cut flower industry. At some point the supply of these for the cut flower industry was primarily grown in France. What I love is the perfect form. If you were to select tulips to paint, these would be the ones. They cost florists more to purchase because they don’t like to be forced. They prefer to be field grown which suits me perfectly! They are some of the latest to bloom and produce tall, elegant stems. They also are reliable at returning for those who want to grow them in the garden. I’ve grown Menton and Dordogne for the last few seasons. Menton is a lovely soft pink with hints of apricot and Dordogne is a soft orange with hints of pink.
Caring for Cut Tulips
Before removing the wrapper from your tulip bunch, give the stems a fresh cut and place them in water. Leave them to rehydrate a couple of hours. If the stems have drooped this will refresh and stiffen the stems. The wrapper will keep them upright while they rehydrate.
Arranging with Tulips
Tulips can create a statement all alone. Using an upright vase shape can show off tall slender tulip stems. A single ten stem bunch of tulips is a striking addition to any side table. I like double blooms in vessels that keep the bloom below eye level so the complexity of the bloom can be enjoyed.
My favorite bloom to mix with tulips are lilacs. Both are usually in bloom in late April to early May here in southern Iowa. Many of the double tulips resemble peonies in structure and size as the bloom opens. I like to tuck double tulips lower into arrangements as the flower can be heavy and the complexity can draw the eye deeper when viewing the arrangement. Tulips continue to lengthen after cutting, you will find they stretch 1-2” after arranging. Tulip stems can become curvy and I enjoy embracing the natural shape rather than fighting to keep them upright in mixed arrangements.
Gardening with Tulips
All tulips are not hybridized with the same purpose in mind. Some can be grown hydroponically (in water only) or forced in pots. On the opposite spectrum are those that reliably return year after year in the garden and naturalize, creating new tulip bulbs. The mother bulb of the tulip may die but produces a bulblet which will grow into a new full size tulip eventually. It takes a few years for a bulblet to reach full size. So performance of tulips year after year can be dicey. In the garden beds I like to guarantee full size blooms by adding a few new bulbs of the same variety each year. I’ve had great success with the Darwin hybrids, such as Pink Impression or Apricot Impression naturalizing and actually increasing in numbers. The viridiflora tulips such as Greenland, which is pink with green stripes, are also great at returning.
Planting both early and late tulips can create a longer lasting display. I love mixing tulips with alliums. Tulips are loved by deer, voles, mice and other pests. Interplanting alliums can offer a slight deterrence but I’d avoid tulips if you know you have deer that frequent your garden beds.
Order new tulips in May for the best selection. The retailers will ship them to you in the fall when it’s appropriate to plant them in your area. I wait until soil temperatures have dropped below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is usually November now in my region. I love that all the planting happens in the fall. Come spring, all you have to do is enjoy the blooms.