Tag: bulbs

Perennial Tulips

I planted tulips for the 1st time three years ago. The following spring, the display was glorious. The joggers, dog-walkers and dogs all loved it. The next year only about a third of the blooms returned. I was so disappointed Is there any chance of having a reliably perennial tulip bed?

Tulips are only really reliably perennial in their native habitat of the Himalayas and eastern Turkey. They need extremely cold winters and hot, dry summers to come back year after year.

Both species tulips and Darwin hybrids are known to return. The darker hued Darwin hybrids do better than the pastel ones.

Plant your tulips in an area that gets good drainage and plant them deep, about eight inches from the bottom of the bulb to the soil line. Fertilize in the fall and spring. After the blooms have faded remove the spent flowers and allow the foliage to die back naturally. This helps the bulbs store up energy for next year’s bloom.

Here’s a short list of tulips that have been found to be successful repeat bloomers.

‘Apeldoorn’s Elite’(Darwin Hybrid)red with orange-yellow
‘Ballade’(Lily-flowering)violet with white edges
‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’(Darwin Hybrid)orange-yellow and red striped
‘Charles’(Single Early)deep red
‘Couleur Cardinal’(Single Early)violet-red
‘Golden Apeldoorn’(Darwin Hybrid)yellow
‘Maytime’(Lily-flowering)bright violet, white edges
‘Orange Emperor’(Fosteriana)orange
‘Oxford’(Darwin Hybrid)vermillion red
‘Plaisir’(Greigii)red with white edging
‘Red Emperor’(Fosteriana)red
‘Red Riding Hood’(Greigii)red
‘Stresa’(Kaufmanniana)yellow with red markings
‘Toronto’(Greigii)salmon pink-red
‘turkestanica’(species)white and cream
‘West Point’(Lily-flowering)yellow

10 Vibrant Tulips that will Cure Your Fear of Color

Are you chromophobic? Do you have a fear of color? While I don’t know anyone who truly suffers from chromophobia I do know people who are hesitant to incorporate color in their home or garden for fear of making the wrong choice. In fact, I used to be one of those people. I stuck to a palette of pastels and creams, but now my favorite color is orange. How did I get over my anxiety? Tulips. The varieties ‘Temple of Beauty’, ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Menton’ to be exact. Tulips offer a wide variety of bold colors without the commitment. Once you start experimenting with them you’ll be hooked.

Here are 10 tulip varieties and combinations to help cure your apprehension. These are my favorites from past springs. I encourage you to use these photos as inspiration to create your own vibrant combinations. I think you’ll find that color isn’t that scary after all.

Ease into red by selecting cool hues such as garnet or magenta. This is a mix of maroon (‘Black Parrot’), cherry red (‘King’s Blood’) and fiery red (‘Red Shine’). It’s especially marvelous when lit by the setting sun.

Tulips in shades of reds and maroon.

I’m crazy for orange, especially when paired with blues, pinks and purples. This trio of tulips matches orange with salmon and pink. Sticking to one color family creates harmony.

Pink, orange and salmon tulips.

‘Wirosa’ tulips make a blue-ribbon display with their large (up to 4-inches), peony-type blooms.

Pink and white Wirosa tulips.

Pink tulips cater to my love of cool colors while still being bright and cheerful. I love to blend pink and deep maroon. The dark ‘Queen of the Night’ gives depth to this planting of hot pink ‘Renown’ and ‘Survivor’.

Dark maroon tulips with pink tulips.

I love to use bright yellow in the spring garden when landscape it still fresh and the sunlight soft. Peony-flowering ‘Monte Carlo’ is a cheerful accent to the wine-colored ‘Negrita’ and orange ‘Princess Irene.’

Yellow peony tulips, purple and orange tulips.

Doesn’t this look like a basket full of Easter eggs? Here ‘Temple of Beauty’ is toned down by pairing it with the pastel petals of ‘Mrs. John Scheepers’, ‘Fringed Elegance’ and ‘Blushing Beauty’.

Pastel tulips.

‘World Expression’ is a good compromise for those of you who aren’t ready to jump into the color pond with both feet. The flowers open yellow with red flames. Over time the yellow fades to a beautiful ivory. Think goblets of strawberries and cream.

World Expression Tulips

‘Chato’ is a neon pink, multi-petal tulip that will electrify your garden. I planted them in a generous drift but imagine these satin blooms mixed with purple and orange tulips and a chartreuse groundcover such as creeping Jenny.

Bright pink Chato tulips.

Here’s a tip that will boost your color confidence. Select one hue to dominate and a few others in the same family or on the same side of the spectrum to expand your palette. To make it really interesting drop in a contrasting color. Here red is the lead color (‘Red Impressions’, ‘Red Shine’, ‘Apeldoorn’), which I’ve bolstered with warm orange (‘Daydream’) and yellow (‘Golden Parade’). ‘Queen of the Night’ adds an unexpected accent of cool burgundy.

Orange, yellow, red and wine colored tulips.

You’ll find lots of tulips in rich shades of orange. I think purple is a gorgeous partner for this glowing color. When pairing contrasting colors let one color rule. In this bed I planted a scattering of purple (‘Attila’) among the orange (‘Juan’).

P. Allen Smith with orange and purple tulips.

Dramatic Tulip Container

Planting tulips in containers is a great way to enjoy these colorful spring flowering bulbs.  You can experiment with colors that you wouldn’t normally use and it’s ideal for those with limited space.  There’s really nothing to it.  All you need is a frost proof container, a bag of potting soil and the bulbs.

This container garden features dark maroon tulips.  The color is a bold statement in the spring garden and pairs well with more typical pastel purples and pinks of the season.


Frost proof container 10 inches wide and 24 inches deep
(2) 16-quart bags of potting soil
Slow release fertilizer
(75) ‘Queen of the Night’ tulip bulbs

Plant Like a Tulipmaniac

Other than the rose, the tulip has to be the most recognizable flower in the world. They originated in the Near East, but about 500 years ago the Dutch brought them west and kicked off a period that is referred to as Tulipmania.

The famous Tulipmania was a period in the 1600s when tulip bulbs were sold in Holland for astronomically high prices. Single bulbs for popular varieties like ‘Viceroy’ going for as much as 4,200 florins. Much like our tech and housing bubbles, everything came to an end around 1637. I’m not sure if it’s comforting or concerning that we’re still falling into the same traps.

Red tulips initially grabbed people’s attention because it was such an unusual color for the spring garden at the time. However, it was the variegated hybrids that fetched big prices. Red or purple flames against a white background were particularly favored. What we know now is the fancy coloring was due to mosaic virus and most of the Tulipmania varieties are no longer available. These days a similar look is achieved through hybridizing.

If you want to emulate the look of a Tulipmania garden, try these tulip varieties.

Tulips similar to Tulipmania Tulips

  1. ‘Arabian Mystery’
  2. ‘El Cid’
  3. Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’
  4. ‘Flair’
  5. ‘Monsella’
  6. ‘Blushing Beauty’

Tulip Basics

In autumn when most people are visiting pumpkin patches and making Halloween costumes, gardeners are thinking ahead to spring. For gorgeous tulip blooms in April and May the bulbs need to be planted in fall.

Tulip Fast Facts

Tulips are categorized into groups or classifications known as divisions, depending on how the flower looks: single early, double early, triumph, Darwin hybrid, single late, lily flowered, fringed, viridiflora, Rembrandt, parrot, double late, Kaufmaniana, Fosteriana, Griegii, and miscellaneous (species). It’s helpful to know the divisions and the sequence of their bloom to plan for more continuous color. Here is a general guide.

  • Early Flowering – single early, double early, Greigii, Kaufmanniana, Fosteriana, species
  • Mid-season Flowering – Darwin, Triumph, Parrot
  • Late-season Flowering – Single late, double late, viridiflora, lily, fringed, Rembrandt

Most early and mid-season tulip varieties are excellent for forcing. Purchase non-precooled bulbs, plant them in a pot or your favorite container, cover with fine mulch and keep in a cool (around 40 degrees) place such as a shed or garage for 6 – 10 weeks. Then move the pot into a warm room until growth is well underway. The blooms will keep longer if the container is placed in a relatively cool room and out of direct sunlight.

Tulips can grow from 4 inches to 28 inches high depending on their type.

Tulips thrive in climates with long cool springs, dry summers and cold winters. To try to keep them from year to year, plant at the recommended depth, remove faded blooms so they do not produce seed, and allow the leaves to yellow before removing them. In areas where spring is short and summer is hot gardeners usually replace tulips every year.

Plant tulip bulbs in fall at least 30 days before the ground freezes. Keep the bulbs cool, below 65 degrees, until ready to plant.

Tulips perform best growing in full sun and generally normal rainfall is enough moisture. They tolerate a wide range of soils as long as the drainage is good.

Tulips are most dramatic when planted in drifts or masses with clumps of at least 15 – 20 bulbs. It is recommended to space the bulbs 5 – 6 inches apart, but for big splash space the bulbs 1 – 3 inches apart.

A background of other perennials or a small evergreen hedge will make the blooms really stand out.

Definitely plant tulips in containers for additional color.

Low growing spring flowers like pansies and violas are good companions for tulips. Just plant these flowers right over the bulbs and the tulips will come up through the foliage. Where winters are mild plant pansies and violas in fall, cold climate gardeners can plant them in spring.

Good to Know

Tulips grown from seed often need 5 – 8 years of growth before plants are flowering size. Tulips from offsets or baby bulbs detached from the mother bulb require a year or more of growth before plants are large enough to flower.

Tulip Color Combinations

This fall gardeners across the country will plant tulip bulbs and then patiently wait until the following spring to see the results of their efforts.  It’s an astounding example of a gardener’s resolve.

But the wait is always worth it, because nothing beautifies the spring garden like a bed filled with colorful tulips.

Thanks to Dutch hybridizers, tulips are available in an astounding variety of forms and colors.  In fact, there are so many to choose from it can sometimes be overwhelming.  Over the years I’ve learned a few things that help me design gorgeous tulip displays.

My first tip is to plant tulips in groups of 15 or more.  This will create a big block of color that is much more impressive than dots of flowers here and there.

Second, when selecting a location for the bulbs, pick an area where they will be cast against a dark background such as an evergreen hedge or the foundation of your house. If you have purchased more than one variety, plant the taller ones to the back and the shorter ones in the front.

To extend bloom time select varieties that flower early, mid- and late season.  For example, a grouping of Single Early (early), Darwin (mid), and Lily-Flowered (late) will flower in progression over the course of several weeks.

When it comes to color, the sky is the limit.  You can’t go wrong planting several shades of the same color family such as a blend of almost white, pale pink, dark pink and salmon.

If you are feeling adventurous tulips are a natural for trying out color combinations.  For the most exciting results allow one variety to take the lead and plant in a ratio of 2:1:1.  And be sure all the varieties you select bloom around the same time.

Below is a list of some of my successful experiments and a few of the varieties that I have used to express them.

Tulips Menton, Perestroika and Temple of Beauty
Warm Blend
1. Pink ‘Menton’
2. Orange-Red ‘Temple of Beauty’
3. Salmon ‘Perestroika’

Tulips Queen of the Night, Menton and Bleu Amiable
Cool Colors
1. Purple – ‘Queen of the Night’
2. Rose-Pink – ‘Menton’
3. Lavender – ‘Bleu Amiable’

Tulips Maureen, Greenland and Pink Diamond
Quintessential Spring
1. Cream – ‘Maureen’
2. Green – ‘Greenland’
3. Pink – ‘Pink Diamond’

Tulips Queen of the Night, Spring Green, Bleu Amiable
Purple and Green
1. Deep Purple – ‘Queen of the Night’
2. Green – ‘Spring Green’
3. Lavender – ‘Bleu Amiable’

Tulips Francois, Spring Green, Maureen and Nemesia
Yellow and Blue
1. Yellow – ‘Francoise’
2. Green – ‘Spring Green’
3. Cream – ‘Maureen’
4. Blue – Plant pansies or nemesia as show here in spring.

Other Possibilities:
‘Temple of Beauty’ – Orange-red, 30″ tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Avignon’ – Orange-red, 24″-28″ tall, Midseason Bloom
‘General de Wet’ – Orange-red, 13″ Tall, Early Season Bloom

‘Perestroika’ – Salmon, 30″ tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Lightening Sun’ – Salmon, 20″ Tall, Midseason Bloom
‘Beauty Queen’ – Salmon 16″ tall, Early Season Bloom
‘Dordogne’ – Salmon, 26″ Tall, Late Season Bloom

‘Menton’ – Pink, 26″ tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Queen of Bartigons’ – Pink, 22″ tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Palestrina’ – Pink with green feathering, 16″, Early Season Bloom
‘Meissner Porzellan’ – White with Pink Edges, 22″ Tall, Midseason Bloom
‘Glowing Pink’ – Pink, 20″ Tall, Midseason Bloom
‘Elizabeth Arden’ – Pink, 22″ Tall, Midseason Bloom

‘Lilac Perfection’ – Pale Lavender, Double Flowers, 16″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Blue Amiable’ – Lilac Blushed with Blue, 24″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Cum Laude’ – Violet, 16″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Blue Parrot’ – Bright Lavender, 22″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Queen of the Night’ – Deep Purple, 20″, Late Season Bloom
‘Purple Prince’ – Purple, 14″ Tall, Early Season Bloom

‘Spring Green’ – Cream with Green Flames, 20″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Greenland’ – Rose pink with Green Flames, 20″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Greenwave’ – Pink with Green Flames, Parrot, 20″ Tall, Late Season Bloom

‘Francoise’ – Creamy white with yellow flames, 24″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Maureen’ – Creamy white, 26″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Mount Tacoma’ – White Double, 20″, Early Season Bloom
‘Cream Jewel’ – Opens Yellow and Matures to Cream, 24″ Tall, Late Season Bloom

‘Cistula’ – Pale Yellow with Darker Yellow Tips, Lily Flowering, 22″ Tall, Late Season Bloom
‘Sweet Harmony’ – Crisp Yellow with Cream Edges, 24″, Late Season Bloom
‘Golden Melody’ – Soft Yellow, 20″ Tall, Midseason Bloom

Tulip-Filled Planter Box

Tulip Filled Planter BoxThis trio of dark green dwarf Alberta spruce creates a rhythmic backdrop for an array of colorful spring flowers. You can pot up this combination this fall for winter interest and a beautiful display next spring when the tulips emerge. If you live in a region where winters are severe, place the planter in a sheltered area to protect the bulbs from freezing. Although the ajuga and creeping Jenny will die back in the winter they are both cold hardy to zone 3 and will return next spring.

This planter box is sensational placed against a bare wall decorated with a single eye-catching architectural feature, such as a mask, hanging above it.

(1) Faux lead/resin trough – 33" long x 17" wide x 14" deep

(3) 1 gallon Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ?Conica’)
(4) 1 qt. Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ?Aurea’)
(4) 1 qt. ?Bronze Beauty’ Ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Bronze Beauty’)
(12) plants or (2) six packs Viola (Viola cornuta)
(20) Elizabeth Arden Tulips

Tulips are real knockouts in this planter box, emerging from a sea of violas. Be generous when filling in the center of the planter, setting bulbs "shoulder to shoulder." Creeping Jenny and ajuga join in the cozy display and spill over the sides of the container, softening the planter’s edge.

This arrangement sustains its beauty beyond the spring season. After the tulips fade, replace them with a series of pink dianthus or salmon geraniums. The ajuga and creeping Jenny stay on to become more lush as the season unfolds.

Things to keep in mind:
Invent your own similar recipe if these plant varieties aren’t available in your area.

Alberta spruce can be substituted with another conical evergreen, creeping Jenny could be replaced with a golden variegated ivy, and if tulips aren’t available, try other spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils or hyacinths. Even the violas can be substituted with pansies or purple nemesia.

Make sure the stand-ins require the same water and light conditions.

Storing Summer Bulbs for Winter

How do you prepare summer bulbs such as calla lilies for the winter?

Zantedeschias or calla lilies are tender perennials grown from tubers and like other summer bulbs, they should be dug from the garden and stored when planted in cold winter climates. Callas are marginally cold hardy in my zone 7 garden so I choose between two methods; sometimes I plant them in pots and store in my lathe house over the winter or I treat them as an annual and let nature take its course.

Here is a list of summer bulbs, including calla lilies that require winter protection with details on how to store them.

Hardy in zones 9 to 11. In fall, once the flowering ceases and before the first frost, bring in begonias for the winter. Leave them alone until the stems dry and pull off easily. Store “as is” in pots or dig up the tubers. Dug tubers should be allowed to dry for a few days and then stored in layers of slightly moist vermiculite or sawdust. Keep in a room that stays at approximately 40 F to 55 degrees F.

Hardy in zones 9 to 10. Treat as an annual or dig and store the bulbs for winter. If growing in a flower bed, dig the bulbs after a frost has killed the foliage and store them in saw dust or mulch. If grown in containers, move the container indoors and allow the plant to go dormant.

Hardy in zones 10 to 11. Treat as an annual or lift them after the first frost. Allow the tubers to dry thoroughly, and then layer the tubers in dry peat or vermiculite and store them in an area that remains around 50 to 60 degrees F. Check the tubers occasionally to make sure they are plump but dry.

Calla Lily
Hardy in zones 7 to 10. In northern gardens, after the foliage has been damaged by a frost, cut off the tops about 2 inches above the soil line. Dry the calla rhizomes in a warm, dry location for one or two weeks. Then bury the rhizomes in vermiculite, sawdust, or peat moss, and store them in a cool (45 to 55 degrees F), frost-free area. Callas can be started indoors ahead of time in late winter to early spring, and then moved to the garden after the threat of frost has passed. Callas grown in pots can be brought indoors before the first fall frost to continue growing over winter as houseplants. Move them outdoors again in spring, once frosts are passed and night temperatures remain above 40 degrees F.

Hardy in zones 7 to10. After first fall frost has blackened the foliage, or the foliage begins to wither, cut the stems back 4 to 6 inches. Store cannas grown in containers as is, with no further watering. In ground rhizomes should be dug and stored. Allow the fleshy stem stubs to dry before them packing the tubers in slightly moistened sand, vermiculite or peat moss. Keep in a cool location (40 degrees to 50 degrees F). Check on them periodically to make sure they do not dry out.

Hardy in zones 8 to 11. Treat as an annual or bring them indoors to overwinter. Dig the bulbs after the plant has died back and store them in sawdust or mulch. If grown in containers, move the container indoors and allow the plant to go dormant.

Hardy in zones 6 to 10. The variety ‘Lucifer’ is cold hardy up to zone 5 if given a protective layer of mulch. In colder zones, before the first fall frost, dig the corms and store them on a tray in dry peat moss in an area with temperatures between 40 degrees F to 48 degrees F.

Hardy in zones 8 to10 and often in zone 7 with a heavy layer of mulch. Store potted dahlias in their containers. In ground bulbs should be lifted. Be careful not to break or cut the tuber “necks.” Do not wash the bulbs to remove soil. Store them away from drafts at 40 degrees F to 50 degrees F in a paper bag or box filled with peat moss or dry sand. Check them frequently for shriveling or decay.

Hardy in zones 7 to 10. These bulbs are best grown in containers that can be brought indoors for winter protection. Cease watering and leave bulbs undisturbed.

Hardy in zones 7 to 10. Dig after the foliage browns. Cut the stems back to 1-inch above the corm. Dry, and then remove the excess debris and store them in paper bags. Keep the bags in an area safe from mice at a temperature between 35 degrees F to 45 degrees F. If gladiolus were grown in pots, bring them indoors, stop watering and store them in their containers until spring.

Hardy in zones 8 to 10. This plant can be treated as a houseplant indoors or it dig up from the garden and dry it with the soil attached. Plants grown in containers can be dried and stored “as is.”

Hardy in zones 8 to 10. Dig up before the first hard frost. Cut the foliage back to 2-inches and store it in peat moss at 60 to 65 degrees F. Check frequently for shriveling.

Warm Climate Bulb Planting

I’m in California, do spring flowering bulbs need to be pre-chilled in the refrigerator? When should I plant?

In most areas of the country you can plant your bulbs anytime during the fall. In my zone 7 garden, I start planting in October and often continue as late as Thanksgiving.

However, in warm gardening zones, you will need to take special measures. Tulips should be grown as annuals in your area, as is the case in most parts of the country.

First, with the exception of the daffodils and narcissus, you need to cool your bulbs in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks.

Place bulbs in a ventilated bag (best choices: paper bags, mesh bulb bags, or new open weave vegetable baggies) in a refrigerator at the usual fridge temperature of 40 degrees F to 45 degrees F for a minimum of six to eight weeks. Don’t worry if you bought the bulbs early in the season and need to store them for several months before planting: keep them chilling – even up to 12 to 16 weeks if necessary, until it is time to plant.

Remove any fruit (especially apples) in the refrigerator, for the ethylene gas given off by all ripening fruit will kill the flower inside bulbs.

Keep bulbs in the refrigerator until planting. Take them directly from the fridge to your planting site.

Be sure to select a planting area that drains well, as standing water can rot bulbs.

Plant the bulbs three times their height. For example, if the daffodil bulb is approximately 2 inches tall, dig a hole 6 inches deep. Once covered with soil, a two-inch thick layer of mulch is optional to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. Just remember that if you do plan to add mulch factor it into your planting depth.

Water the garden after planting to help the establish root growth. If you live in a dry area, be sure to water the garden about once a week.

Plant an Indoor Flowering Bulb Garden for Spring

There is something truly magical about spring flowering bulbs. And you know you don’t need an outdoor garden to enjoy them. You can make a garden to bring indoors.

The Idea

Pot up bulbs in fall to force into bloom indoors in late winter or early spring. Arrange the pots in a shallow container to create a spring flowering bulb garden.

P. Allen Smith Spring Bulb Indoor Garden


Step one of this project is planting the bulbs. Keep in mind that the bulbs used in this arrangement need 16 to 18 weeks of chilling time. If you pot the bulbs in early October you are likely to have blooms by January.


  • (5) white hyacinth bulbs
  • (5) pink tulip bulbs
  • (16) Tete-a-Tete daffodil bulbs
  • (4) 6-inch pots
  • Potting soil
  • Shallow decorative container (wide and deep enough to accommodate the pots)
  • Sheet moss


Fill the pots with soil leaving about 2-inches at the top.

Plant one type of bulb per container. Place the bulbs shoulder-to-shoulder and bury them 3 times deeper than the bulb is wide.

If you live in a region where winter temperatures stay above 25 degrees F, place the pots in the garden near the foundation of the house. Gardeners in colder winter climates should keep the pots in an unheated storage area like a garage or shed. Water the pots about once a month if Mother Nature does not provide moisture through rain or melting snow.

P. Allen Smith Spring Bulb Indoor Garden

After the required chilling period bring the pots of bulbs into your house. Place them in an area that receives indirect light. When the foliage emerges arrange the pots in a decorative container. Be sure to line the bottom of the container with plastic or use plastic saucers to prevent water damage on tables. Hide the tops of the pots with sheet moss. Move your garden to a sunny location. You can place the garden in any room in your house once the flowers begin to open. I find the flowers last longer if I keep them away from source of heat.

P. Allen Smith Spring Bulb Indoor Garden

Good to Know

If you don’t have any outdoor space for storing the bulbs choose varieties that don’t require chilling such as paperwhites, amaryllis and pre-chilled hyacinths.