Tips for planting tulip bulbs

So your tulip bulbs have arrived and you're looking at them a little askance, wondering how you can get them into the ground quickly, efficiently, and without completely shattering your back.

Here are our top tips.

1 Plant tulip bulbs in November.  They like a good cold spell in the ground before they start to shoot, which will help kill off any disease they come with.The more complicated your tulip (double/parrot) the more naturally diseased it is (the disease makes for the glorous doubleness, the frilled edges of the parrot etc,)  so the more a cold spell will kill off the disease and give you an astonishing display.

2 If you're planting tulips to naturalise (i.e. settle in and hopefully come back year after year,) you'll need to plant them about eight inches deep and give them a bit of space so that they can increase in number.

3 If you're planting tulips to be cut flowers, or just as an annual because you like the colour this year, then you can be MUCH LESS exacting in your planting.  

  • In a sunny, well-drained part of the garden, diig a trench about four inches deep and as long as you need, and place your tulip bulbs, point up, in serried ranks in the space you've dug.  They don't need an enormous amount of space: ours go in almost shoulder to shoulder.  We dig our trenches big enough for each different kind of tulip and plant them chunk at a time like that.  
  • Back fill the trench, and top dress with a nice mulch, because this is the time of year to mulch your garden, and you may as well mulch as you go.
  • We dig a gutter around the edge of our tulip beds so that they, not planted too deep, won't find themselves waterlogged in the wettest days of winter, and so won't rot.  A gutter dug around all flower beds is a good idea if you have wet ground like we do.
  • If you suffer with marauding mice eating your delicious, absolutely edible, tulip bulbs, then you could boil up a bulb of garlic with three or four hot chillies.  You can dip your bulbs in the resulting soup and the mice will hate the taste and leave the bulbs alone.  

Good luck and happy digging!