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Dreaming of Tulips? Now’s the time to plan your spring garden and containers

If you live in North Texas and dream about growing tulips in your garden next spring, now is the time to get planning! Fall is the time you’ll find tulip bulbs for sale in the garden center and planting time starts after Thanksgiving.

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We’re all used to seeing photos and plantings of large swaths of tulips bulbs, but what if you don’t have all that space available in your garden? The great thing about bulbs is how versatile they are when it comes to space. You can plant small groupings or mass plantings to custom fit the size of your landscape. Even if you’re confined to gardening on your porch, patio or balcony, containers are the perfect home for tulips and other spring-blooming bulbs.

When planning your landscape, we always recommend maximizing your garden real estate by layering bulbs, annuals and perennials. The same approach can be taken when crafting container gardens. When planting bulbs in the garden, the general recommendation is that larger bulbs are planted deeply and smaller bulbs are planted shallow. You can layer smaller bulbs on top of larger bulbs in the landscape to create unique combinations and extend the bloom season. Think of your container garden as just a small slice of your landscape. Large and small bulbs can be layered together in your container for a big show of blooms.

Daffodils
Daffodils blend beautifully with Redbor kale, chard, and other annuals for a late winter display.

When it comes to growing tulips there are a few key tips to follow to have a successful bloom season.

1. Remember that you must buy bulbs that are properly pre-chilled. Tulips require a vernalization. That means about 8-10 weeks of soil temperatures between about 45F and 50F and then a return of warm temperatures to produce a flower bud. Did you know we’re the only garden center in Dallas that has its own bulb cooler? We properly pre-chill all of our tulip bulbs for you so that you get the best blooms possible.

NHG bulb cooler
Just one side of the NHG bulb cooler.

2. You must plant tulip bulbs on time. The best time to plant tulips bulbs into the garden in DFW is after Thanksgiving, once soil temperatures are consistently below 50F and by the end of December. If you plant them too late, bulbs may emerge too early in spring and may not bloom properly; a condition called “blasting”. Early emergence can also result in frost damage to blooms. Remember that when you’re planting bulbs in containers, the soil in the pots will warm up more quickly in late winter and early spring, meaning your bulbs will emerge earlier than bulbs in the ground. Be sure to cover containers if we are going to have a hard freeze.

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3. Plant tulip bulbs deep.  In the garden plant them 6″-8″ deep from the tip of the bulb to soil surface. In containers, you can plant them even deeper. Fill the bottom of the container with about 6” of soil, then place the tulip bulbs on top of the soil. Back fill with several inches of additional potting soil then layer in more bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinth, crocus or any other favorite bulb. By planting the bulbs deeper in containers you can keep them from emerging too early the following season.

'Gudoshnik' tulips
These ‘Gudoshnik’ tulips were overplanted with pansies and a backdrop of ornamental kale.

Does planting bulbs mean you’ll be left with bare soil after they are in the ground or containers? Not at all! Remember how we recommend to maximize your garden real estate through layering? Well don’t forget the seasonal color companions for your bulbs. Once you’ve planted your bulbs at the proper depth, you’ll have room to over-plant them with seasonal annuals like pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, curled parsley and salad greens. Top off your container gardens in the same manner.

Cool-season color bowl
Cool-season color bowls can be filled with tulips under the soil and over-planted with your favorite flowers.

Need help creating unique and beautiful bulbs combinations? Come see us and we’ll help you choose the best varieties. Don’t wait too long though, popular varieties sell quickly in the fall!

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