Tulips sun or shade

Growing tulips in warm climates.

Tulips grow everywhere!

Have you never had success with tulips and you think they won’t grow in your climate? Don’t give up, it is possible! It will be difficult to enjoy your tulips for several years, but believe me, even in Holland most gardeners use tulips as annuals!

Most important rule is that you plant tulips in the coolest part of the year and only use pre-cooled bulbs. In areas where the soil temperature doesn’t drop below 60 degrees, you have to use a fridge or climate controlled (40-50 degrees) room to grow healthy roots

Two keywords to grow succesful tulips in warm climates”Cold period” and “Healthy roots”

1. Tulips need a “cold period”

Most tulips need at least 12-14 weeks of “cold period” to develop a beautiful flower. This makes it hard to grow tulips in warm/tropical climates, but not impossible. The cold period is normally given by nature when the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees. In warm climates where the soil temperature isn’t dropping (long enough) below 55 degrees you can fool the bulb into thinking they’ve gone through a cold winter underground. Tulips can start their chilling period from mid-September. Before mid-September, they are not ready for their winter sleep. We do not pre-cool our bulbs but you can. This can be done quite easily in your kitchen refrigerator. Store the bulbs 6 to 16 weeks cold, depending your climate/soil temperature. Place bulbs in a ventilated (paper) bag, mesh bulb/onion bags or egg cartons. Do not store them next to fruit, especially apples, all ripening fruit is giving off ethylene gas what will kill/damage the flower inside the bulb. Tulip bulbs need to start their cold period before December 1st. Do not buy bulbs after December 1st unless they are “pre-cooled” and stored cold at the place you bought them. The bulbs can be stored cold for several months. Keep the bulbs in the refrigerator until planting. It is very important to take them directly from the fridge to your planting site, don’t let them warm up in the sun!

2. Grow healthy roots

Tulips like to be planted in cool soil (32-55 degrees) to make roots. It takes about 4-6 weeks to grow sufficient roots, after they have grown roots they are ready for warmer spring temperatures. It can be a challenge to grow healthy roots when you live in a warm climate. In areas where the soil temperature doesn’t drop below 60 degrees, you have to use a fridge or cold climate controlled (40-50 degrees) room to grow healthy roots. Plant the tulips in a pot, water them and place the pot 4-6 weeks in your fridge. During the rooting process it is very important that the soil (4-8 inch deep) isn’t too warm (above 60 degrees) or too dry. Read some tips below on how to ensure the best circumstances for your tulips in warm climates. Plant tulips in the coolest part of the year. Plant tulips in partial/full shade. Plant bulbs six to eight inches deep and apply two-inch thick layer of mulch to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. Bring the soil temperature down by regular watering, the soil should be moist.

Watering Tulip Bulbs: How Much Water Do Tulip Bulbs Need

Tulips are one of the easiest flowers you can choose to grow. Plant your bulbs in autumn and forget about them: those are the basic horticultural instructions. And since tulips are so brilliantly colored and bloom so early in the spring, that minimal work is well worth the while for the cheerful heralding of spring you get. One easy mistake that can jeopardize your bulbs, however, is improper watering. So how much water do tulips need? Keep reading to learn more about how to water tulip bulbs.

Watering Instructions for Tulips

Tulip plant watering is all about minimalism. When you plant your bulbs in autumn, you’re actually doing them a favor by forgetting about them. Tulips require very little water and can easily rot or sprout fungus if they’re left in standing water.

When you plant your bulbs, put them in very well drained, preferably dry or sandy soil. While you want to plant your bulbs to a depth of about 8 inches (20 cm.), you should dig quite a few inches deeper to loosen the soil and make for better drainage. Replace it with the loose, just-dug soil or, for even better drainage, compost, manure or peat moss.

After you’ve planted your bulbs, water them once thoroughly. The bulbs need water to wake up and start growing. After this, leave them alone. Tulip watering needs are basically nonexistent beyond the occasional rain. If you have an irrigation system in your garden, make sure to keep it well away from your tulip bed. During long periods of drought, water your tulips weekly to keep the soil moist.

Tulip Watering Needs in Pots

Watering tulip bulbs in pots is a little different. Plants in containers dry out much faster than those in the ground and need more frequent watering, and tulip plant watering is no different.

You don’t want your tulips to stand in water and still want to make sure your container drains well, but you will have to water occasionally. If the top inch (2.5 cm.) of soil in your container is dry, give it enough water to moisten it.

The Indoor Tulips

In the realm of gardening, instant gratification is an elusive matter. For the most part, nature forces her rhythms on our desires. But find a way to speed up the seasons, and you can nudge spring-flowering tulips to bloom in winter.

Choosing Tulips for Indoors. First, select bulbs suited for forcing indoors. Generally, shorter, more compact varieties like ‘Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Stresa’ are better choices than tall varieties. Some taller types such as ‘Apricot Beauty’, ‘Calgary’, and ‘Gudoshnik’ are also good choices.you can nudge spring-flowering tulips to bloom in winter.

Shop for bulbs as you would for onions: Choose top-quality bulbs that are large and heavy for their size, and avoid ones that are soft or moldy or whose papery brown outside layer is missing. If you can’t pot the bulbs immediately, store them in a mesh or paper bag in a cool (below 65°F) place, ideally in the refrigerator crisper. Never store bulbs in the freezer or with fruits that emit ethylene, a gas that hinders flowering.

Timing. To induce flowering, most tulips require about 14 weeks of temperatures below 48°F followed by 2 to 3 weeks at 60 to 65°F. But some are faster. ‘Brilliant Star’ and ‘Christmas Dream’ require only 10 weeks below 48°F. Start these in mid-September, and you will have tulips blooming for the holidays.

For staggered bloom after the New Year, start bulbs as soon as they are available, but no later than early October. It’s easier to delay flowering than to speed it up; simply increase the time the planted pots spend below 48°F. Also, if you pot bulbs later in the season, they will flower more quickly. For example, a variety started in October will bloom in 12 weeks, but the same one started in December, having been stored until then in a cool room, could bloom in 8 weeks.

Planting and Forcing Tulips

Start with clean clay or plastic pots, and place some shards or wire mesh over the drainage hole to hold in the soil. Place at least 2 inches of moistened soilless potting mix (a combination of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite) in the bottom of the container so that the tops of the bulbs will sit just below the rim of the pot. Gently place the bulbs root end down and cover with soil, leaving the bulb noses slightly exposed.

Place the flatter side of each bulb facing the outside of the pot. Leaves sprout first from this side, and will drape gracefully over the sides of the pot. Plant bulbs more closely than you would in the garden — as close as possible but not touching.

After planting, add water until it seeps out of the drainage holes. Check the soil periodically, keeping it evenly moist. Label each pot with the variety name and the planting date, and move it to a chilling area. Because the bulbs store all the energy they need for bloom, fertilizing is not necessary.

A chilling period. Depending on the variety, it takes 8 to 16 weeks for the planted bulbs to root. Any dark, relatively moist place that provides steady temperatures between 35 and 48°F (40°F is ideal) is fine. An unheated garage, basement, or refrigerator is perfect. If you live where winter temperatures remain in the 40s, simply place the pots outdoors. If winter temperatures drop below 32°F, protect bulbs from freezing; either mulch them heavily or place them in a trench or cold frame, then insulate them well with a layer of vermiculite topped with peat, hay, or shredded bark.

If you don’t have a space that’s reliably 48°F or below, try this method: Place the unplanted bulbs in a paper bag in the refrigerator (away from fruits) for six weeks. The ethylene gas naturally produced by ripening fruit can destroy the bud inside the tulip bulb. Pot them in a shallow container filled with moistened, soilless potting mix, and place the pot in a 50 to 55°F, dark room for a month before moving to a sunny 60 to 65°F location for bloom and display.

Forcing. After the bulbs have chilled the appropriate length of time, check the drainage hole for root development. If healthy roots are visible, remove any mulch and transfer the pots to a 50 to 65°F location with bright indirect light for about two weeks. This is the actual forcing period, when the bulbs are induced to flower because of the change from winter to spring. Keep in mind that the sunnier and warmer the location, the shorter the tulips stems will be because the sunlight will induce faster flowering. To stagger bloom times, bring the pots in at two-week intervals.

When shoots are about 2 inches tall, begin regular watering and move pots to a sunny window (68°F) to stimulate flowering. As soon as the buds begin to color, return the pots to indirect light; blossoms last longer in cooler temperatures. Ideally, pots should spend the nights in a cool (60°F) room to increase the length of the bloom time up to about 10 days with the proper care.

Forced tulips rarely flower again, even if planted in the garden. To try your luck, remove the flower head after the petals fade, let the tulips complete their life cycle, then plant outdoors.

Photography by the International Flower Bulb Centre

Not sure what to do with your Valentine’s Day flowers after the holiday? Making a keepsake of your memories is easier than you might think. Whether it’s your priceless bridal bouquet or a particularly gorgeous get-well arrangement from a friend, drying your flowers will preserve their beauty and sentimental value. Check out our step-by-step guides to two different methods of drying flowers below.

But first, in order to assess if and how your flowers will dry well, consider the following:

  • Air drying works best for bouquets and for robust flowers such as roses, or small, long-lasting varieties like lavender.
  • Individual gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums, roses, and tulips are great candidates for the microwave flower drying technique, which will preserve their color and structure better than air drying does.
  • For more delicate flowers like lilies, try another preservation technique, such as pressing.
  • Fully mature blooms will likely lose their petals in the drying process, so don’t wait too long to begin drying your flowers.

How to Air Dry Flowers

1. Strip excess foliage from flowers and cut stems to desired length (no shorter than six inches). To help flowers retain their color during the drying process, make sure to remove them from sunlight as soon as they’re cut. Hang flowers individually or rubber-band stems together to hang a bouquet.

2. Find a dark, dry area with good circulation, such as an attic or unused closet. With unflavored dental floss, secure the bottom of the flowers’ stems to a hanger so that they hang upside down to dry. Leave flowers for two to three weeks until completely dry.

3. Remove flowers from hangers and spray with unscented hairspray for protection.

How to Dry Flowers with a Microwave

This method of flower-drying requires silica gel, which you can find in craft stores. The gel preserves the shape of the flowers, and can be used over and over again.

1. Find a microwave-safe container that will hold your flowers and fit into the microwave. (Do not use a dish you want to use for food again after this project.)

2. Cover the bottom of the container with an inch or two of silica gel, a bit more for larger blossoms. Place flowers blossom-up in the gel and then pour more gel over the petals. Pour gently so that petals don’t get flattened.

3. Place the uncovered container in the microwave. Microwave temperature and time will vary according to the type of flower, so this step requires a bit of trial and error. Start the microwave on one or two heat levels above defrost for 2-5 minutes. (Roses can withstand more heat, while daisies prefer lower temperatures.) Check your flower’s progress after a short time and then periodically. Increase heat and time as needed.

3. Once flowers are dry, open the microwave and immediately cover the container. Remove the covered container from the microwave, open the top a quarter of a centimeter, and let it sit for 24 hours.

4. Clean the gel from the petals with a fine brush and then mist with an acrylic spray (also available at craft stores).

Finally, display or use your dried flowers in craft projects as you like. Dried flowers fade quickly in sunlight or extreme heat, so be sure to keep them in cool areas away from windows.

Share your beautifully dried flowers with us. We love sharing crafty photos with our community!

The Art of Drying Flowers

Have you ever had a bouquet that you wished you could keep forever? Learn how to dry flowers and you will never have to go through the sadness of tossing out a bouquet again! Whether it is a wedding bouquet or a bouquet from your summer garden, you can learn to preserve it. The three most popular ways to dry flowers are air-drying, using desiccants, and microwave drying. Air-drying is the simplest and cheapest method — people have been air-drying flowers for centuries. Using desiccants to dry flowers is another method that’s especially useful for flowers that do not respond well to air-drying, like thicker flowers or flowers prone to wilting. Microwave drying is the new favorite for people who hate to wait, such as myself; this method completely dries flowers within hours.

Air-Drying

Air-drying is the simplest and cheapest method for drying flowers and has been used throughout history. A handful of plants that respond well to air-drying are statice, baby’s breath, cockscomb, hydrangea, lavender, and heather, but there are many more. To air-dry flowers, follow these steps:

  1. Cut flowers just before they are fully opened, or use flowers that are already cut at their prime. Remove leaves from the stems, then tie the stems loosely together. Cut flowers just before they are fully opened, or use flowers that are already cut at their prime.

    Photo by: Mary St George (Flickr)

  2. Hang the flower bunch upside down from rafters, hangers, or some other object that allows air to circulate freely around the flowers. Good air flow prevents molding. Darkness prevents the colors from fading as badly: A dry, dark room, like an attic, is perfect. Hang the flower bunch upside down from rafters

    Photo by: Lori L. Stalteri (Flickr)

  3. Wait patiently for approximately three weeks — I know, this is the hard part. When the flowers are dry and crisp, they are ready to use. Wait patiently for approximately three weeks.

    Photo by: Gaelen Hadlett (Flickr)

Flowers like lilies, daisies, and tulips that generally do not air-dry well can be air-dried by spraying them with hairspray before following the directions for air-drying above.

Some flowers, such as roses and hydrangeas, will dry naturally in a vase as the water evaporates — it doesn’t get any easier than this! Many ornamental grasses, seed pods, and flowers in the garden and in the wild dry naturally and just need to be harvested. My favorite way to dry flowers is to let them dry on their own!

Many flowers will change color as they dry. Many times, flowers can be painted, dyed, and sprayed with lacquer or painted with glue to change or preserve colors.

Desiccants

Silica Gel

Photo by: Colin Zhu (Flickr)

Desiccants such as silica gel, sand, perlite, borax, and cornstarch can be used to dry flowers. You can make a desiccant yourself, or you can buy silica gel or silica sand at craft stores and it can be reused. Desiccants are great for drying flowers that are delicate and do not respond well to air-drying. Roses, peonies, tulips, pansies, geraniums, lilies, and zinnias are just a few that tend to dry better this way.

  1. Make your own desiccant mixture or buy silica gel.
  2. As with air-drying, cut flowers just before they are fully opened or use cut flowers at their peak. However, in this method, you will need to cut off most of the stem.
  3. Pour half an inch of desiccant in the bottom of an airtight container big enough to hold all of your flowers without layering them.
  4. Arrange the flowers and sprinkle the desiccant all over the flowers until they are covered, making sure you do not crush the flowers.
  5. Put the lid on the container, and do not open it or move it except when you need to check the flowers for dryness.
  6. When flowers are crisp and dry but not brittle, they are finished. Store them carefully.

Tips: Stems take up too much space to dry this way. You can make stems out of wire and florist’s tape and attach them to the dried flower.

Microwave Drying (PDF)

Microwave drying is quick; flowers have different drying times, but even the longest drying time in the microwave is four or five minutes. They do need to stand undisturbed overnight afterward, but the entire process takes a day — that’s a big difference from a few weeks with traditional drying methods! Often, flowers retain color better with this method than with air-drying or desiccants. Thick flowers with multiple petals such as zinnias, roses, and carnations work best for this type of drying — thin, delicate flowers do not work as well.

  1. Use flowers that are only half-open; fully open flowers tend to lose petals.
  2. In a microwave-safe container, follow the steps listed above for drying with desiccants.
  3. Place the container of desiccant-covered flowers in the microwave without the lid.
  4. Refer to a microwave drying time chart to determine the heating time for specific flowers.
  5. Determine if flowers are dry by using a toothpick to check for crispness.
  6. Leave flowers in the desiccant overnight to cool, then carefully uncover and lift them out. Store them carefully if not using them right away.

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How to grow tulips in container pots

I love bulbs in pots for the spring; there’s just nothing better for real impact and it’s kind of like gardening in miniature. This pot next to me is a very good example. These are full of a non-peat base, multi-purpose potting compost with some garden soil put in it and some manure for added nutrition. What we’ve done is we’ve put tulips in here and this is the White Garden Collection which has ‘Exotic Emperor’ and ‘Purissima’ in it. And then, so we’ve got a succession, we have planted some bulbs later because that collection flowers early. Just coming up now is the Ivory and Primrose Tulip Collection and as the White Garden tulips go over we can deadhead them and then the Ivory and Primrose can come up through.

The thing that makes this pot is without a doubt is the cerinthe and we planted those over the top. So, the first layer of tulips is planted at six inches then we’ve got another layer at four inches, the second collection, and then we’ve got cerinthe over the top. That’s been growing all the way through the winter out here and they survived the winter fine and then the tulips have come up through it. This is in fact a concrete pot that I’ve just painted with a colour that I quite like, a sort of soft green, and it’s a really, really cheap as chips pot that I got at a local garden centre.

Because we’re on a farm, we use quite a lot of zinc pots too and this has got exactly the same system. We’ve got three lovely tulips here and underneath it we’ve got the really highly scented stock called Matthiola incana (perennial form). It’s not flowering yet but as the tulips go over we can deadhead them. It’s nice having the foliage below them and then up comes the stock to flower. They’re planted at six inches, the second layer at four inches and then the matthiola over the top.

For those of you with smaller gardens and who want smaller pots, or perhaps you’ve got an urban garden and you want a couple of pots on your doorstep, this kind of thing is ideal. We’ve actually used the depth of the pot more than the girth. I’ve put five tulips at about eight inches deep, five tulips three inches above, five tulips two or three inches above that, and you’re then still just about below the soil surface. We’ve got ‘Burgundy’, ‘Antraciet’ and here we’ve got ‘Tambour Maitre’ just coming through.

On the whole, you want to put the earliest (and often the smallest) deepest, so we put ‘Antraciet’ deepest then ‘Burgundy’ next and then on the top, which is the latest, the ‘Tambour Maitre’. You actually can get fifteen bulbs easily in a pot that size. Once you’ve planted them, just water them in well – whenever you plant anything, water it in well. Then, because you’re not going to be planting till October or November, you’re not going to need to water them again because it’s bound to rain if the pot is sitting outside. They’ll just grow up really well and they’ll start to sprout in sort of March time. By that time, if it doesn’t rain (we’ve had a very dry spring this spring) we water twice a week but otherwise we just let them get on with it.

Happy gardening,

Sarah

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