The Q&A Archives: tulips

Question: How do you plant tulips and when would you plant them in Sacramento?

Answer: Late Fall or early winter are the best times to plant tulips in your gardening region. Because your winters are relatively mild, you'll need to pre-chill the bulbs in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks. Without this extended chilling time, the stems will be short and the flowers will be small. Exceptions to this pre-chilling requirement are those bred especially for short winter climates such as yours. These include Tulipa bakeri, T. clusiana, T.clusiana chrysantha, T. saxatilis, T. sylvestris, T. tarda.

When planting, set the bulbs about 4" deep, spaced about 6" apart. Choose a location that receives ample sunlight and does not retain too much water. Too much moisture will cause the bulbs to rot. Preparing the soil before planting your tulips will provide an extra boost in their health and beauty. Soil should be worked and loosened well. Try to work a depth of at least six inches of soil. Compost, peat moss, bone meal or fertilizers designed for bulbs can be added while working the soil to promote growth.

The wide base of the bulb should always be planted facing down. After you have planted your bulbs, lightly pack the soil on top of them and give them a light watering. If winters are especially cold in your region, a light covering of mulch may be beneficial. Otherwise, little winter maintenance is necessary.

Best wishes with your tulip bulbs!

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