Planting tulip bulbs for the first time

RoseAbbeySeptember 23, 2009

I live in Gananoque, just east of Kingston Ontario. When do I plant my tulip bulbs? What do I need to put in the hole besides the bulb, any type of fertilizer? Thanks for your help.

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You can plant them anytime now, but with these unseasonably weather you may want to wait a week or so. I usually plant them after the first couple of frosts, but usually the weather is a bit cooler. You want them in 3 or 4 weeks before the ground is frozen completely so they can set down roots.

If you have lots of squirels around you may want to make a bowl shaped cage of chicken wire so they don't eat the bulbs. The flowers will grow up through the wire but the squirrels can't get them.

Dig your hole 6 inches deep, put in your bulbs--I like to group them with about 4 to 6 bulbs through out the bed, so they make a nice show. Then I can plant other plants around them so it covers up the foliage while it dies back. Put the chicken wire over the bulbs and fill the hole in. About half full of soil I add a handful of bulb booster fertilizer--9,9,6. I give the same dose of fertilizer in the spring when the leaves area few inches tall. If I leave them in I give them fertilizer spring and fall.

I hope this helps

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 2:24PM
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Thankyou for the information. I have another question. I plan on lifting the bulbs insteading of leaving them in the ground over the summer. The flowerbed I plan on planting the tulips in also have hydrangea and the hydrangea need a lot of water, whereas I believe the tulip bulbs like to be kept dry over the summer, that is the reason I am digging up the bulbs because of the difference in water requires. When do I dig the bulbs up, once the leaves have yellowed or can I dig them up before that as I want to plant annuals in their place. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 6:18PM
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I don't think there's a competition there but if you still wish to move your bulbs, plant them in a pot which you can sink in the ground. You can remove them when the tulips are done and store elsewhere till you are ready to replant them. The advantage to this method is that you can certainly change your tulip colours whenever the whim hits you. I would also advise overplanting them with daffodils which are bitter and serve as deterrents to squirrels. This method also provides you with continuous bloom in that one very spot. In fact, I tend to mix early, middle and late tulips in one spot for continuous blooms.

As far as tulips and shrubs competing for water, I've left my tulips and alliums in place where I grow numerous perennials and shrubs and so far it hasn't been a problem.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 7:44PM
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I leave mine in the ground too and there never is a problem. The only time it would be a problem is if they were sopping wet for a long time.

Unlike ianna, I plant only early tulips because I have other perennials and a few annuals that cover up the foliage that you must leave on until it's dead, so the good will go back to the bulb.

Neither of us is wrong--just different. ianna is right too when she says the squirrels won't eat daffodils.

So leave them or dig them if you wish and put them in pots until the foliage dies down. If you sink the pots into the ground you can leave them until planting time next year or remove the pots from the soil to a cool dry location for the summer and either way then you can plant them next fall

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:20PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

Hi Roseabbey,

I plant tulips in the fall, when I pull up my dahlias. In the spring, when the tulips are done, I pull them up to plant the dahlias. ... and so the cycle continues.

When I dig up my tulips, I take some soil with them, and pack them all into a huge pot, and let them slowly die back in the pot. When the leaves have turned brown, I carefully remove them from the pot, cut off the stems, and let them air dry, before I take them down to the cool basement for the summer.

In the fall, I repot the solid ones after digging up the dahlias ... after the first killing frost.

... and so the cycle continues. Did I say that before? LOL

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:33PM
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Thank you all for the great information. One more question please, if I dig up the bulbs and put them in a pot to slowly die do I need to water the bulbs and do they require a sunny spot at that stage.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 7:31AM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

This spring, I watered once and then set the pots in a semi-shade area and forgot about them until the leaves were brown.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:04AM
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What type of pot and about what size to plant about 5-7 bulbs together under ground?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 1:00PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

There seems to be some confusion. I don't plant the tulips pot and all, I only use the pot to temporarily let the tulips die back because I need the space to plant the dahlias. Sorry for any confusion.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 2:34PM
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Sorry I guess I misread the post about the pots.. lol. Thanks for the information about planting tulip bulbs. I can hardly wait til spring to see them come up.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 3:41PM
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I agree with oil painter. many of our techniques actually have the same results. The difference is simply the approach. The potted tulip method is something of convenience. the tulips are already potted and it a simple matter of removing the pot. This is a technique promoted by Alan Titschmarch (spelling?) the fellow behind BBC gardens show. John's techniques have a similar effect, only you dig up the tulips and pot them up.

Oilpainter, BTW although I do mix up early, mid and late tulips and cap it off with daffodils, I also do plant annuals in that one spot, which does hide the dying foliage. I just choose annuals I start off from seed so these start growing as the foliage begin dying. However because I do use late season tulips the awkward gap between flowering is very minimal, in fact the emergence of my allium purple sensations begin very shortly after, followed closely by the sages and the delphiniums. In anycase, the result is that the dying foliage no longer becomes apparent and the eyes are diverted to the other blooms.

Anyhow, sorry for the prolonged discussion. it's a very simple thing and so do enjoy the process.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 8:18PM
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cziga(Zone 5 -Toronto)

As ianna suggested, planting with daffodils can deter squirrels from digging them up over the winter. Another tip I was given was to put some bloodmeal into the planting hole with the tulip bulbs when you are planting, as this also can deter animals. I tried that and it seems to work for me. The tulips grow just fine, and the squirrels dont seem to get at them. You just have to re-apply the bloodmeal every couple years or so.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 12:13PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

We have a lot of squirrels here, as well as pea-brained chipmunks who love to dig, just for the sake of digging. They even run over our feet as we sit on the lower patio. Last year, I put up a scarecrow beside the bed where I had planted a lot of tulips. We didn't have any disturbed at all. The sight of a jointed scarecrow seemed to make them think twice. The tulips are planted in the raised bed beside the pond, and also on either side of the fireplace.
This year, I have a skeleton's head. The raccoons ate the pumpkin head one night last year.

Here he sat during October, - just in time for Hallowe'en.

Here he sat, into the winter.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 5:51PM
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