The vivid, paint-box colors of tulips are a feast for winter-weary eyes. These members of the lily family (thus, a relative of onions) typically grow a single stem and flower from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in fall for spring flowers. Tulip bulbs require a dormancy period with cool, winter-like temperatures. During this time, the bulbs sprout roots and the embryonic leaves and flowers inside the bulb begin to develop.
Tulips are native to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia. Works of art depicting their distinctive shape date back to the 10th century. They have been cultivated in earnest for at least 400 years. By leveraging the tulip’s natural tendency toward diversity, generations of breeders and tulip collectors, have brought forth a mind-boggling array of flower forms, heights, colors and bloom times. Today, Holland produces most of the world’s annual tulip crop, which exceeds 4 billion bulbs annually.
It’s been said that various colors of tulips have significant meaning when gifted: red means love, white means "I’m sorry" and purple represents loyalty.
There are more than 150 species of tulips with more than 3,000 different varieties and are classified into 16 Divisions by type.
Purchase tulip bulbs that are large, firm and heavy. Store the bulbs in a cool, dark place until planting time.
Plant tulips in mid to late fall, when you are raking leaves and doing other fall clean up chores. Soil temperature should be 55°F or cooler. Choose a planting location with full to part day sun, where the soil is well drained and easy to dig (never soggy). Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 inches.
Tulips look best when they are planted in informal groups of 12 or more bulbs. Space the bulbs approximately 3-4 inches on center and plant them 6-7 inches deep. Use a garden trowel to plant individual bulbs or remove the soil from the planting area, place the bulbs and then refill the hole.