The national flower of the Netherlands, tulips are known for their vibrant, eye-catching colors and symmetrical, bulbous heads. Like daffodils, the blossoming of tulips is a sure sign that spring is on its way. They’re a common feature in landscaping, gardens, fields, flower beds, bouquets, vases, window boxes, and flower centerpieces alike. If you want to add some tulips to your own plot or yard, you’ll need to invest in a good set of tulip bulbs.
Why buy tulip bulbs?
Tulips most commonly grow from bulbs, like daffodils, lilies, and dahlias. They do produce seeds, but tulips bulbs are a much more reliable way to grow tall, healthy tulips at home. Tulips are a great flower choice for almost all gardens because they’re hardy and very easy to grow. Since they bloom so early in the year, tulips are more resistant to cold than a lot of other flowers. Many people also love tulips because they provide an early burst of cheer and color after long and dreary cold months. Tulips are perennial, meaning that after their initial planting, they grow back year after year, even if you don’t replant fresh tulip bulbs.
Tulips will also spread and multiply of their own volition (unless they’re planted in indoor pots), so you’re likely to end up with new, numerous clumps of tulips each year after planting your initial bulbs. Thus the odds are good that you’ll wind up with more tulips than you paid for in the first place. If you’re not interested in the perennial aspect of tulips, they also make for great fresh-cut flower bouquets straight from the garden and may even grow a bit in the vase if cared for properly.
What should you look for in tulip bulbs?
- Quantity: How many tulips do you want in your garden or planter? Most are sold in packs of 20 to 25 per set. Larger sets of tulip bulbs are trickier to find. If you need more than 100 bulbs for an extra-large plot or field, you’ll probably have to buy several packs.
- Color: There is essentially no limit when it comes to the color variety of tulips. These flowers come in a true rainbow of colors. Red, yellow, white, purple, cream, orange, coral, and even black are all options. And while tulips are known for their bright shades, there are plenty of subtler, paler, pastel, darker, or deeper hues available. Some varieties even have two or more colors per petal.
- Type: As with most flowers, there are a number of different species of tulips. While you can’t go wrong with classic, bulbous-headed garden tulips, there are other varieties and hybrids to choose from. Double tulips, fringed tulips, lily-flowered tulips, parrot tulips, and lady tulips are just a few of the many different types you can buy to provide a unique look.
What’s the best planting environment for tulip bulbs?
Tulips aren’t particularly finicky plants, but like all flowers, certain factors will influence how well they grow and thrive. They can survive outdoors in most USDA hardy zones; zones 3 to 8 should be able to cultivate tulips in outdoor gardens without issue. Since they bloom in the spring, outdoor tulip bulbs should be planted sometime in the fall before the first frost of the year, when the nights start averaging 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. (If you live in a warmer climate with mild winters, early winter planting may be recommended instead.) Keep in mind that the later you plant the bulbs, the later in the spring they’ll bloom. If you’re growing them in pots or planters indoors, you can plant your bulbs whenever you like.
Whether indoors or outdoors, tulip bulbs grow best in well-drained soil. Dry or sandy soil is best since tulip bulbs don’t do well in excessive moisture. They like full sunlight but also aren’t particularly fond of overbearing heat, so a shady or partially sunny area might be better if you live in a hotter climate. It’s also a good idea to plant your tulips in a place that’s sheltered against the wind, especially if they’re a taller variety. Bulbs should be watered right after they’re planted to stimulate growth, though once they’re grown, your tulips will need pretty minimal watering, only about once a week.
Willard & May Mixed Triumph Tulip Bulbs
A pack of assorted tulip bulbs that'll thrive in most gardens.
Pros: Plant a rainbow mix of tulips in your garden with these triumph tulip variety bulbs. They can bloom in pretty much any color or hue that tulips are available in, including bi-colored shades. This variety is a particularly hardy type, even by tulip standards. Due to their long stems, tulips are often vulnerable to wind. However, these triumph tulips are better able to withstand wind and rain than more varieties. And you get 25 bulbs for a slightly lower price than most.
Cons: While the assorted colors will look lovely in a garden, there’s no way to choose which colors your bulbs will grow into. The selection is totally random, so the odds are good that you’ll get multiple hues and shades.
Bottom Line: Triumph tulips are known for their sturdy stems that allow them to withstand weather conditions that might harm or damage other varieties. So you’ll be able to enjoy your traditional-looking, various colored tulips without worrying about them in the weather.
White Flower Farm Rembrandt Tulip Mix
Named for the famous Dutch artist, these bulbs will grow into a variety of tulips with unique multicolored petals.
Pros: Flowers with multicolored petals are a lovely sight, and if you want tulips that will provide that particular look, these Rembrandt tulip bulbs are perfect for your garden. While the actual color schemes vary, each bulb will grow into a bi-colored tulip with striking, contrasting hues on every petal. Should you decide you want a different species or color scheme, these bulbs are also available in six other types of tulips that range from bright to pastel in color.
Cons: The height of these tulips can vary considerably. At full maturity, they may be anywhere between 10 to 24 inches tall. Even when meticulously cared for, there’s no real way of knowing how tall or short your tulips may be, which can mess with your garden’s look if you want a uniform height. And while most tulips can thrive just fine in partial sun or even full shade, these will need more and longer direct sunlight than most varieties.
Bottom Line: It’s appropriate that this variety of tulips was named after a famous Dutch painter. Each of the 25 bulbs grows into a striking bi-colored tulip blossom, with unique mottled stripes that indeed look like they were painted on by the stroke of a paintbrush.
Burpee Perennial Tulip Mix
If you want extra-large tulips that'll really stand out amongst other flowers, this tulip bulb mix is the perfect choice.
Pros: Tulip flowers and stems can range considerably in size depending on the type you pick and the size of the bulbs. If you want bigger, showier tulips, you’ll want to buy these larger-than-average tulip bulbs. They’re several centimeters larger than most tulip bulbs, which translates to larger flowers when they bloom. They come in a wide variety of colors, potentially even tulips with bi-colored petals. And these hardy plants are suitable for pretty much any environment, including indoor planters and pots. You may even get a bonus bulb or two with your order.
Cons: This is a 20-pack of bulbs rather than a 25-pack, and they cost a little bit more than some other slightly larger sets. And this is another mixed assortment where you have no control over which color tulips you receive.
Bottom Line: Bigger bulbs make for bigger blossoms; that’s as true for tulips as it is for other flowers. So if you want truly large, eye-catching tulips to be the centerpiece of your garden or planters, these are the tulip bulbs for you.
Daylily Nursery Tulipa Triumph Bulbs
If you have a big garden plot you want to fill with lovely tulips, this is the bulk buy for you.
Pros: Packs of 20 or 25 tulip bulbs are most common, but if you’re after a larger quantity, these are the bulbs for you. They’re sold in a set of 50 and are a mix of different colors and varieties. This means you’ll get a mix of single and double tulips for a more varied look. And since different types grow at different rates, the blooming period of these tulips is longer than most; you’ll be able to enjoy them for a longer span of time. They’re also suitable for outdoor planting in zones 2 through 8 rather than zones 3 through 8.
Cons: You won’t know which colors and varieties of tulips you’ll receive with your order. These bulbs will need to be refrigerated before planting (or after, if you’re growing them indoors).
Bottom Line: Buying tulip bulbs in larger quantities can be tricky. Fortunately, these colorful assorted tulips are sold in a higher quantity than most, ideal for larger gardens, plots, and fields.
Willard & May Red Van Eijk Tulip Bulbs
This pack of red tulip bulbs takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Pros: While assorted tulip bulbs are great for variety, sometimes you want to know exactly what color of flowers will grow. Maybe you have a specific color scheme in mind. Fortunately, this set of hybrid tulip bulbs all come in the same color. You know exactly what you’re getting; all-red tulips of the Van Eijk variety with single blossoms and strong necks. They’re one of the taller types of tulips out there at 22 to 26 inches in height at full maturity. And since these are hybrid tulips, they produce stronger perennial results than many other types.
Cons: While you know exactly what color you’ll be receiving with these tulip bulbs, there aren’t any alternate single-color options to choose from. And while all of these tulips will be red in color, the actual hue may vary slightly.
Bottom Line: Not everyone wants a mix of multicolored tulips; sometimes, you have a specific color scheme in mind. These classic-looking hybrid Van Eijk tulips will add a beautiful red color to your garden.
Tulips are one of the most beloved flowers due to their vibrance, hardiness, and low maintenance. Whether you want them in your garden to add some color or cultivate them in a planter to enjoy at other times a year, novice and experienced gardeners can easily grow their own tulips at home.