Heirloom Expert: Where to Plant ‘Annual’ Tulips?

Do you have or want to grow tulips and get the best out of them?

Tulip bed

Photo by Fotolia/oocoskun

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My tulips came up great the first year, didn’t bloom quite as well the second and now are just giving me foliage. What have I done wrong?

Probably nothing, and by the way, welcome to the club. This happens to most of us tulip growers. In fact, I consider most tulips annuals in my zone 6 garden. On a side note, they are also the deer’s favorite food, keep that in mind when looking for a place to plant them.

The most perennial of the large flowering varieties are ‘Darwins’; choose them when looking for something long lived. The best condition to grow any tulip is planting where the bulb can dry out during the summer. They will thrive around the drip line of deciduous trees. In the spring the branches are bare, giving plenty of sun to the flowers. As the season progresses, the leaves will catch much of the rain.

My neighbor has some yellow ‘Darwins’ which have bloomed every season for 30 years. They are planted at the base of a birch tree and mulched with gravel. Species tulips will come back year after year too. They are small, but come in a variety of luminescent colors. I grow lots of different varieties and they never disappoint.

– Doug Oster, contributing editor


Doug is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Backyard Gardener and co-host of The Organic Gardeners radio program on KDKA.