Seduced by their dazzling diversity of colour, tulips are often an impulse buy while visiting a garden centre, and being one of the last spring bulbs you can still plant, they’re useful for playing catch-up with springtime displays.
Tulips really come into their own when grown in pots. If you’re not experienced at marrying up the flowering times of different varieties, avoid mixing them together and just plant one variety per pot, then group containers together.
Choose types that are stocky with strong stems, as spring winds can soon dismantle blooms. For windier, more exposed gardens choose dwarf varieties bred from T. kaufmanniana, but those selected here are also sturdy growing types.
It’s best to just keep tulips in pots for a year, as subsequent displays usually diminish in intensity, so either plant them out into the garden once they’re dormant in summer or discard and replant with fresh bulbs next season.
To grow tulips in pots use a well-drained compost, such as a general purpose peat-free type, with added horticultural grit or Perlite to help prevent waterlogging.
Choose a wider tub rather than a narrow pot to enable you to maximise the number of bulbs boosting the floral impact of your display.
Place sufficient compost in the pot to let you to plant bulbs 10-15cm (4-6in) deep, leaving 5cm (2in) from the rim for watering.
Space bulbs 8cm (3in) part, pointed end up, cover with compost, firm and water in. Place in a sheltered spot until the leaves appear in late winter, then move into their final positions.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have bulbs infected with the fungal disease tulip fire, which causes brown-spotted and distorted growth, remove and destroy the whole plant as soon as seen as there’s no treatment available.
Ones to try
‘Abu Hassan’: Sultry-toned Triumph tulip with a striking yellow edge. From mid April. H: 45cm (1½ft).
T. kaufmanniana ‘Stresa’: Dazzling dwarf tulip producing bi-coloured, goblet blooms from mid-late March. H: 25cm (10in).
‘Ballerina’: Startling orange, lily-flowered tulip with the fragrance of tangerines. Mid April-May. H: 60cm (2ft).
‘Dynasty’: Pale pink and white blooms of this Triumph variety deepen to rich pink. From mid April. H: 45cm (1½ft).
Tips for planting
- Plant bulbs upright 8cm (3in) apart and 10-15cm (4-6in) deep.
- Place pots to fill gaps in a border or group together on a patio.
- Remove and destroy bulbs showing signs of tulip fire disease.