Tulips

These award-winning varieties will bring springtime zing to your garden.

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Tulips are one of the iconic blooms of the spring garden. It’s now the right time to plant them, but as there are 15 different categories of tulips, spanning thousands of varieties it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer range of types, shapes and colours available. Thankfully the RHS has given its coveted Award of Garden Merit (AGM) to a number of them so you can be assured they will not only look good, but will perform to their best. They’re ideal for use in bedding schemes, in vacant ground between shrubs and roses and among emerging perennials. Select types that are tall enough for the purpose, rather than being hidden or swamped by other plants. All taller varieties make excellent cut flowers.

Tulips need an open position, sheltered from strong wind, which will damage the display. Almost all tulips prefer fertile, and moist, but well-drained soil in full sun. They prefer neutral to slightly chalky soil, rather than acid, but overall won’t tolerate wet conditions. They are also excellent in pots, but add grit or Perlite to the potting compost for drainage.

Tulips are easy to grow and look for top size bulbs for added vigour and reliability, avoiding any with traces of blue mould on them. Remove the papery skin before planting if this is present. Simply dig a hole 2-3 times the height of the bulb and the same distance apart. Position all the bulbs first to gauge the overall effect before planting.

Most bedding tulips are best re-planted in autumn after being lifted and dried over summer, but some such as those derived from T. kaufmanniana, T. fosteriana and T. griegii are more reliable and will flower again in successive years without lifting. To lift remove the spent flower heads and allow the foliage to die back, usually around two months after flowering. Lift the bulbs, keep the best, remove soil, clean and place on a tray to dry or store in hessian bags in a well-ventilated place, at a temperature of around 18C (64F). Replant the bulbs again in mid to late autumn, replenishing with additional new bulbs as required.