Tulips (Tulipa) are a genus of spring-blooming perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes (having bulbs as storage organs). Tulips are one of the most recognisable plants in the garden – not to mention one of the most loved. The flowers are usually large, with vibrantly coloured, generally red, pink, yellow, or white petals. Well known for their spring displays, Tulips have large, beautifully formed, bell-shaped flowers. Tulips perform their best in cool climates however, new varieties are making it possible for them to adapt and grow in the temperate regions.
If you have ever wondered how to grow tulips in Perth then look no further. Tulips are a simple bulb to grow, but there are still a few tricks to successfully growing tulips in Perth, Western Australia. Get these right and you will be laughing.
When to plant tulips in Perth:
Tulips can sell out in some locations so good to purchase early, however hold off on planting them until late April, early May. We are after the cooler temperature for planting.
Where do tulips grow best?
Soil must be well-draining, neutral to slightly acidic, fertile, and dry or sandy. They prefer cool temperate and suitably cool areas in warm temperate zones like Perth an area with shade in the afternoon is preferable to keep them away from the harsh afternoon sun.
How much water do tulips need?
All tulips dislike areas with excessive moisture. Tulips need about 15mm of water per week, particularly in later winter and early spring, to help the plant prepare to flower. Unless drought conditions are in place, tulips need minimal supplemental watering in most instances.
Types of tulips in Australia:
There are over 3000 registered varieties of tulips worldwide. They are also widely accessible and relatively affordable. Beloved for their delicate blooms, bright colours and strong stems. The majority of our bulbs are Spring flowering and only available for sale for a limited time during the Autumn. Spring flowering bulbs must be planted once the weather cools down and some may require chilling in your refrigerator to mimic the cooler climate from which they originate.
A few of my favourite varieties of tulips in Perth;
- Tulip Clusiana Tinka – Tulip clusiana Tinka (Tulipa clusiana) is a striking bi-colour with cream and red flowers. Also known as Lady Tulip or Candle Tulip, this lovely species Tulip will naturalise easily and have a smaller growth habit than the Tulip hybrids.
- Tulip Columbus – Tulip Columbus (Tulipa hybrida) is a new introduction and has reddish pink petals edged in white. As the flowers unfurl this full flower closely resembles a Peony.
- Tulip Ile de France – Tulip Ile de France (Tulipa hybrida) has velvety red blooms, and the shape and style are that of the ‘classic Tulip’. The Triumph Tulips are hardy and very reliable, ideal for garden beds and pots.
- Tulip Kingsblood – Tulip Kingsblood (Tulipa hybrida) has vibrant cherry red blooms. Single Late Tulips have tall strong stems with well shaped blooms that retain their shape and colour to the end. They are the best variety for naturalising and are perfect for warmer regions, but will also work well in a cooler area and extend the display well through the Spring Months.
- Tulip Margarita – Tulip Margarita ia a dramatic early bloomer is vibrant magenta-purple with a magenta-pink sheen, a subtle scent, incredible stature and wondrously full flowers.
- Tulip Maureen – Tulip Maureen (Tulipa hybrida) has ivory white blooms. Single Late Tulips have tall strong stems with well shaped blooms that retain their shape and colour to the end. They are the best variety for naturalising and are perfect for warmer regions, but will also work well in a cooler area and extend the display well through the Spring Months.
- Tulip Menton – Tulip Menton (Tulipa hybrida) has attractive rose pink blooms with apricot edges. Single Late Tulips have tall strong stems with well shaped blooms that retain their shape and colour to the end.
- Tulip Queen of the Night – Tulip Queen of the Night (Tulipa hybrida) is the original ‘black’ Tulip, and although not truly black it has deep dark purple-black blooms. Single Late Tulips have tall strong stems with well shaped blooms that retain their shape and colour to the end.
How to grow tulips from bulbs:
Like all flower bulbs, tulips need a cold period to develop their roots and get ready for spring. So once you feel a chill in the air, it’s time to get planting.
- If your bulbs haven’t been pre-chilled, put them in the fridge crisper for 4-6 weeks to trick them into thinking they’ve been through a cool winter.
- In a well-drained, sunny location out in the garden, enrich the soil in the planting area with soil improver. This will encourage earthworms and beneficial microorganisms and provide the newly planted bulbs with gentle, slow release organic nutrients to promote good early bulb growth.
- Follow the directions on the tulip bulb pack as to how deep to plant your chosen bulbs making sure you plant them the right way up!
- Cover with soil.
- Water the garden bed or pot after planting to help settle the soil or potting mix around the bulbs. Potted bulbs will need regular watering to ensure they have enough moisture. Around 15mm – 20mm a week should do the trick.
- As soon as the first leaves emerge, you can start to feed the bulbs each week with a high potassium plant food, which encourages healthy growth and helps promote future flowers. Monitor for snails and slugs too, which can damage the new shoots.
- After the flowers and foliage die, lift the bulbs from the soil and store them in a cool dry place ready for the next season.
Growing tulips in pots:
Growing tulips in pots is easy, fun and rewarding! In general growing tulips in pots is a great idea. Below are the steps on how to how to grow tulips in a pot;
- For potted tulip bulbs, choose a pot with good drainage holes and fill with a quality potting mix.
- Place your pot it in a position that gets full sun.
- Follow the directions on the bulb pack as to how deep to plant your chosen bulbs and ensure that you plant them the right way up! When planting bulbs in a pot, they can be grown quite close together, which helps create a lovely dense look. Cover with soil.
- Keep the soil nice and moist without overwatering.
- When flower buds appear, feed every 1 to 2 weeks with a liquid flower food.
- After the flowers and foliage die, lift the bulbs from the soil and store them in a cool dry place ready for planting next year.
When to tulips bloom in WA:
Typically tulips will bloom between August and October in Western Australia.
Storing tulips at home:
Once your Tulips have flowered for the season follow these steps to store for next year.
- Cut the stems off the bulb with pruning shears after the flower dies. Keep the leaves on your tulips. These help store energy for the next season.
- Pull bulbs once the leaves yellow and die. After its blooming period, the leaves of your tulip will take about 6 weeks to yellow and die.
- Remove the leaves and roots at the base of the bulb. The leaves should be easy to remove by hand since they have died.
- Clean the dirt off the bulbs. Wipe the outer layer of the bulbs with a dry paper towel to remove any soil.
- Dry the bulbs on a tray in a cool, dry place for 2 days. This should not be in the direct sun.
- Throw away any discoloured or diseased bulbs. Tulip bulbs should look full and hard.
- Wrap each bulb in newspaper. Wrap the bulbs individually with small pieces of newspaper. The newspaper helps store some moisture as well as maintain the bulbs at a consistent temperature.
- Place the bulbs in a mesh bag. A mesh bag allows air to flow to the bulbs while they are being stored. An old onion bag will work perfectly.
- Keep the bulbs in a dark, dry place for up to 12 weeks. A garden shed or garage will work keeping away from the light.
- Check for any shrivelled or mouldy bulbs every few weeks. Keep an eye on your bulbs removing any that have spoilt.
- Plant the bulbs in fall before the first frost. Follow the planting steps above next season.
Companion plants for tulips:
When companion planting with tulips you’ll want to include other spring-flowering plants that complement. Daffodils with their bright yellow flowers are a good option. Perennial Iberis candytuft makes an ideal companion plant. Planting tulips behind daylilies or other summer-blooming perennials is also a good way to hide the fading foliage from view when your tulips are past their peak.
Tulip care and common problems:
Tulips like to be kept cool and moist. After planting, water well, and once foliage appears they should be given a good watering every 7 days depending on how dry the weather is.
Use a liquid fertiliser once the buds have appeared and top dress after flowering with a complete fertiliser such as Blood and Bone.
Tulips should be lifted each year. Dig after the foliage has turned brown. Store the bulbs using the above process.
Watch out for Aphids, snails and slugs as your tulips emerge and treat as required.
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