For the home gardener, tulips are an easy way to make an impression. The trick is to think about tulips in early summer and get in an order for the best varieties. For the flower farmer it's more complicated, and variety choice is even more important, but for everyone, tulips are the best part of early spring.
Above, top row: Planting tulip bulbs - yes, you can pack them in that tight; Tulip 'Akebono.
Bottom row: Mixed tulips from my garden; tulip 'Orange Parrot.'
For home gardeners in Northern California:
Order bulbs in summer. I recommend Colorblends or other online sources such as Brent and Becky's or Van Engelen. When I was a gardener only (not a flower farmer) I would try different varieties and make notes of my favorites (Big Chief, Akebono, Parrot King to name a few).
Chill bulbs for 8-10 weeks in the refrigerator, not the freezer (or you can order your bulbs pre-chilled for you).
Dig a trench or wide hole, 6 inches deep.
Place the bulbs on the bottom, pointy end up, then cover with soil. Tulip bulbs can be planted about an inch apart - almost touching each other.
Water well. After the initial watering you may not need to water again if you get rain. Tulips don't need to be constantly wet.
No fertilizer needed - the bulb determines the size of the bloom; that's why it pays to buy high quality bulbs.
Above, top row left: Tulip 'Columbus'; right: Tulip 'White Marvel.'
Bottom row left: orange 'Viking' and 'White Marvel'; right: Tulip 'Columbus' with early sweet peas.
For the flower farmer it's much more complicated. The cost of bulbs makes tulips a less attractive crop than anything grown from seed, and if any of the bulbs fail it makes a dent in your profit margin. Here are varieties that work well in our location; they have good yields and good vase life.
More information about tulips in my previous posts - try these links.
2020 - Tulip varieties that we planted for spring of 2021, and a video of a tulip opening.
2021 - Tulips that inspired some of my paintings
2022 - Tulips from our spring crop, with notes on which ones were best.
Tulips can be rewarding or frustrating ...
but they're always beautiful!