As anyone who knows me knows, I’m late doing everything, and getting bulbs in at the right time is no exception. While daffodils (narcissi) are generally better planted in late autumn, I know from experience that tulip bulbs will still produce a decent display if planted in January. So, if you’ve got some tulip bulbs lurking in a paper bag at the back of the shed, get them in – now!
WANTED: cold conditions
Tulip bulbs need a period of chilling to break their dormancy, so now is a pretty good time to get them in. Indeed, it is best to plant tulip bulbs when the temperature has dropped as it reduces the risk of tulip fire – a fungal disease that thrives in warm damp conditions.
Given how wet and mild November and December have been this year, now might even be the optimal time to plant your tulip bulbs, as a cold snap will help to wipe out any fungal disease lurking in the soil.
Tulips grow best in fertile well-drained soil in full sun. Only plant bulbs that are in good condition. If they are soft or going a bit mouldy, bin them.
If, like me, you are planting the tulips in pots, start by covering the bottom of the pot with some broken crockery, gravel or other material to aid drainage.
Soil preparation is important. If planting in the ground, add sharp sand or grit to break up heavy soils and lots of organic matter to improve the structure. I filled my pots to about two-thirds full with a general compost mixed with vermiculite and Growmore.
Plant your bulbs pointy end up. They can be planted quite close together in pots as long as the bulbs don’t touch each other. In the ground, you are best planting to at least twice the bulb’s width apart. The depth should be two or three times the height of the bulb.
Finally, cover with compost to just below the rim of the pot and water. Keep pots well watered but not too wet or the bulbs will rot.
All being well you will be rewarded with a vibrant display of colour in April or May.