John Scheepers2017

Tulip Hort Tips

When to Order Tulips

We recommend ordering early to reserve your favorite varieties. Our Fall catalog is mailed at the end of May each year, and we start to reserve orders in mid-May once our collection and pricing is finalized. Our collection includes special, rare Tulip varieties that may be grown by just one nursery in the Netherlands. It is wise to reserve these well in advance of the fall shipping season to make sure you can secure exactly what you want. This is particularly important for new varieties or those marked limited supply. (We don’t charge credit cards until we prepare orders for fall shipment, so there is no cost associated with reserving your favorites in advance.)

If any of your personal favorites are sold out or unavailable for horticultural reasons, just give us a call. We do not ever make automatic substitutions. We would be happy to suggest good alternate varieties for your consideration.

Order Enough Tulip Bulbs!

The general rule of thumb for deciding how many Tulip bulbs you need for each planting site, is to plant four bulbs per square foot, spaced about 6" apart, and 6" to 8" deep. (There are a handful of Tulips that make a smaller top size bulb that should be planted at the rate of about nine bulbs per square foot, like the smaller size Species Tulips varieties that can be spaced more closely together.)

The square footage of a planting site is determined by multiplying the width by the height. For example, a bed that is 5’ wide and 20’ long, would be 100 square feet for which one would need 400 Tulip bulbs. If there is other plant material in the planting site, you can estimate the space involved and decrease the square footage proportionately.

No matter how well we ourselves estimate the number of bulbs required for a particular planting site, we always manage to run out and need more. If this happens to you too, just call us and we will ship more out to you as soon as humanly possible: usually the same day, if you call by noon.

How to Select Tulips

We carry around 280 different varieties of Tulips and Tulip mixtures. We organize our huge selection of Tulips by cultivar group classification: the following 15 groups as defined by the Royal General Bulbgrowers’ Association, the ‘KAVB’, in the Netherlands.

Single Early Group: Single flowered cultivars, mainly short stemmed and early flowering.

Double Early Group: Double flowered cultivars, mainly short stemmed and early flowering.

Triumph Group: Single flowered cultivars, stem of medium length, mid season flowering. Originally the result of hybridization between cultivars of the Single Early Group and the Single Late Group.

Darwinhybrid Group (Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulips): Single flowered cultivars, long stemmed, mid season flowering. Originally the result of hybridization between cultivars of the Darwin Group with Tulipa fosteriana and the result of hybridization between other cultivars and botanical tulips, which have the same habit and in which the wild plant is not evident.

Single Late Group: Single flowered cultivars, mainly long stemmed, late flowering. This group includes e.g. the former Darwin Group and Cottage Group.

Lily-flowered Group: Single flowered cultivars, mid season or late flowering, flowers with pointed reflexed tepals. Stem of variable length.

Fringed Group: Single flowered cultivars, tepals are edged with crystal-shaped fringes, mid season or late flowering. Stem of variable length.

Viridiflora Group (Green Tulips): Single flowered cultivars with partly greenish tepals. Late flowering. Stem of variable length.

Rembrandt Group: Cultivars with broken flowers, striped or marked brown, bronze, black, red, pink or purple on red, white or yellow ground, caused by virus infection. Long stemmed. (Not commercially available, only in historical collections.)

Parrot Group: Single flowered cultivars with laciniate, curled and twisted tepals.Mainly late flowering. Stem of variable length.

Double Late Group (Peony Flowering Tulips): Double flowered cultivars. Late flowering. Mainly long stemmed.

Kaufmanniana Group: Tulipa kaufmanniana with her cultivars, subspecies, varieties and hybrids, which resemble T. kaufmanniana. Very early flowering, sometimes with mottled foliage. Flower with multicoloured base opens fully. Exterior normally with a clear carmine blush. Height up to 20 cm.

Fosteriana Group (Emperor Tulips): Tulipa fosteriana with her cultivars, subspecies, varieties and hybrids, which resemble T. fosteriana. Early flowering, leaves very broad, green or grey green, sometimes mottled or striped. Stem medium to long. Large long flower, base variable.

Greigii Group: Tulipa greigii with her cultivars, subspecies, varieties and hybrids, which resemble T. greigii. Mostly with mottled or striped foliage, flowering later than kaufmanniana. Leaves spreading normally on the ground, mostly strongly undulated. Flower shape variable.

Miscellaneous (Species Tulips): In fact not a cultivar group, but the collection of all species, varieties and their cultivars in which the wild species is evident, not belonging to any of the above mentioned cultivar groups. Apart from color, height, form and design considerations, one must also consider the horticultural zone hardiness of their Tulip selections.

Horticultural Zone Hardiness

If you have received our catalog, your horticultural zone is detailed above your address on the back cover of the catalog, or within the billing name and address box on the order form located in the middle of the catalog. As a rule, most Tulips are good for horticultural zones 3 through 7. Yet as with most rules, there are many exceptions. For example, Parrot Tulips are only good from horticultural zones 4 through 7, while Single Late Tulips are good from horticultural zones 3 through 8. Species Tulips are all over the place. Tulipa acuminata widely loves horticultural zones 3 through 9, while Tulipa saxatilis is good for horticultural zones 5 through 10.

If you want to experiment with a variety that is marginally good for your colder micro-climate, plant the bulbs in a protected spot, like near your home’s foundation where they may benefit from a bit of radiant warmth, and consider applying a two-inch layer of mulch to the bed after the surface of the ground freezes. This will help protect the bulbs from temperature spiking.

Most Tulip bulbs perform well through horticultural zone 7 when planted in outdoor garden beds or in naturalized drifts. 99% of the time, Tulip bulbs planted in exterior containers, window boxes or raised beds will not thrive due to temperature spiking. Temperature spiking prevents mature root growth which, in turn, results in random or stunted foliage and few if any flowers. Not good.

Growing Tulips in Horticultural Zone 8 and Warmer

Winter temperatures are not cold enough, consistent enough or long enough in horticultural zone 8 and warmer for Tulip bulbs. In these climates, Tulip bulbs should be precooled in the refrigerator (never the freezer) for at least ten weeks, and up to 14 weeks, prior to planting. These days, we even recommend that Tulip bulbs be prechilled for ten weeks in upper reaches of horticultural zone 7, just in case there is a mild winter. The prechilling process simulates a "winter" for the bulbs and enables them to grow a mature root system to support the development of the flower. Trouble shooting: Are you seeing stunted foliage and few if any flowers? This usually means that the bulb has been unable to develop a mature root system, likely because of an incomplete winter or cooling period (or soil that is not neutral pH, anther issue addressed below.)

Select flower bulbs that are known to do well in your horticultural zone. Specify your order for prechilling and we will ship your order for receipt in mid-October so that you may begin the prechilling process. Mid-October is the best time to start prechilling Tulip bulbs. When you receive your order, open and examine the bulbs to make sure that they are firm and healthy. If any of your bulbs have a blue-gray "transportation" mold, remove it with a paper towel or put the bulbs in a single layer in the sun for an afternoon. If any bulbs are soft, please discard them and do not prechill them with your other bulbs.

Flower bulbs should be cooled in a refrigerator or cooling unit that maintains a consistent temperature between 35 and 48°F for no less than ten weeks and no more than 14 weeks. Never put flower bulbs in the freezer! Flower bulbs require consistent temperatures during the prechilling period: they can not tolerate temperature fluctuations that may occur in an unregulated environment such as a garage, shed or basement. Do not prechill bulbs with apples or pears which release ethylene gas as they ripen. (NOTE: We can not prechill bulbs here: UPS trucks are not temperature controlled. Once the bulbs warm up again en route, they would revert back to their "uncool" state.)

Before you remove the bulbs from the cooling unit, prepare the garden bed for planting. Select areas of partial or dappled sunlight to protect the flowers and foliage from excessive sun and heat, and to prolong the spring bloom period. When you are ready to plant, remove the bulbs from refrigeration, place them out of direct sunlight and plant immediately. Do not remove the bulbs from refrigeration until you are ready to plant them, since this compromises the benefit of the prechilling process. Never plant flower bulbs shallow; plant them at least as deep as specified in our planting instructions. Once planted, apply a light 2" layer of mulch to help retain moisture and trap cool temperatures in the soil. Make sure to water the flower bulb beds occasionally if rainfall is insufficient. Here are some general guidelines for horticultural zones 8 through 9. Precooled Tulip bulbs should be considered as annuals. That could be a good thing since you do not have to allow the foliage to die back naturally. The bulbs may be lifted and discarded immediately after the flowers fade.

Tulips Good for Warmer Climates

*Species Tulips acuminata, bakeri Lilac Wonder, batalinii Bright Gem, batalinii Red Gem, batalinii Salmon Gem, biflora, clusiana Cynthia, clusiana Lady Jane, clusiana var. chrysantha, clusiana var. chrysantha Tubergen’s Gem, dasystemon, humilis alba coerulea oculata, humilis Eastern Star, humilis Magenta Queen, humilis Persian Pearl, humilis violacea, The T. humilis Mixture, kolpakowskiana, linifolia, Little Beauty, Little Princess, orphanidea flava, Peppermint Stick, praestans Fuselier, saxatilis, sylvestris, turkestanica, vvedenskyi Tangerine Beauty and the Species Tulip Mixture.

*Emperor Tulips.

*Double Early Tulip Monte Carlo.

*Giant Darwin Hybrid Tulips.

*Parrot Tulips Blue Parrot and Flaming Parrot.

*Fringed Tulip Burgundy Lace.

*Single Late Tulips Avignon, Camargue, Dordogne, Double Maureen, Francoise, La Courtine, Maureen, Menton, Menton Exotic, Mrs. John T. Scheepers, Queen of the Night and Renown.

Tulip Bulb Size

We carry the largest top-size bulbs that each Tulip variety is capable of producing. Most varieties of Tulips create top size bulbs that are 12 centimeters and up in circumference: the measurement around the widest girth of the bulb. When you receive your order, you may notice that some bulbs are larger than others. Rest assured that each are at least 12 centimeters in circumference: some may well be larger: kind of like a bulb bonus. Species Tulips are a class that often makes the largest top size bulb smaller than 12 centimeters in circumference. In fact, the largest bulb size of most Species Tulips is usually just 5 to 6 centimeters in circumference!

Many varieties may have attached to the ‘mother’ bulb a baby bulb or two, known as bulblets or offshoots. They need not be broken off from the mother bulb prior to planting. If they break off, plant them at the same depth and space apart as the mother bulb. All bulb sizes are detailed in our catalog and on line.

When you choose to secure your Tulip bulbs from John Scheepers or Van Engelen, you will receive the most healthy, top-size bulbs available from the annual Dutch harvest. Size does matter with flower bulbs as does the manner in which they are shipped from the Netherlands and cared for prior to their shipment to you. The biggest investment in one’s garden is the time spent in planting, and in the hope and expectancy for magnificent spring performances. It’s best to plant the best.

Order Shipment, Inspection and Storage

In the fall, we will ship your order to you so that you may plant your Tulip bulbs at the proper time for your horticultural zone. Prior to planting, open all exterior and interior boxes and inspect your Tulip bulbs. The papery sheath surrounding the Tulip bulb may or may not be intact: it has no bearing on the vitality or performance of the bulb. Some bulbs may have nicks or scarring from the mechanical harvest and cleaning processes. These are normal and do not affect the bulb’s performance. A firm bulb is a viable bulb. Other bulbs may have a gray-blue "transportation" mold on them. You may remove it with a paper towel or put the bulbs in a single layer in the sun for an afternoon. Once the bulbs are planted, the earth wicks moisture away from the bulbs and the mold will disappear. If any Tulip bulbs have soft spots, please discard them and inform us as soon as possible.

Store the bulbs in a cool, dry spot (50°F to 70°F) with good air circulation and low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight. Poor storage conditions may cause bulbs to dry out, or to become moldy. They must be planted in the fall that you receive them.

Prepare the Planting Site

With few exceptions, all flower bulbs require the same sort of planting site: well-draining, neutral pH soil that is free of disease with at least six hours of daily sunlight. Tulip bulbs should be planted once the soil has cooled down to around 55 degrees F (after about two weeks of sweater weather when the night time temperatures have consistently hovered in the 40s). Tulip bulbs do everything in response to soil temperature in the fall and winter, and to soil and ambient air temperature and sunlight in the spring. Planting Tulip bulbs too early, before the ground has really cooled down, can cause the bulbs to begin top growth rather than root growth, resulting in immature root development and diminished vitality. Tulip bulbs can be planted as the ground cools down further than 55 degrees F. We’ve even planted them in January on an unusually warm day and they bloomed perfectly. They are more forgiving than Narcissi in this regard.

The best type of soil for flower bulbs is a sandy loam. It can be described as a balanced mixture of clay, sand, silt and a modicum of organic matter. Sandy loam usually is around neutral pH and affords good water drainage, root permeability and adequate nutrition. All flower bulbs require neutral pH soil (7.0) in order to grow roots. Less than 7.0 pH is acidic. Higher than 7.0 pH is alkaline. Acidic or alkaline soil prevents bulb root growth. Flower bulb planting sites (woodlands, display gardens or lawns) should be amended to neutral pH so that the bulbs may develop mature root systems. For detailed information on the best soil for Tulips, see Soil Good for Planting Sites.

Since Tulip buds and flowers can be snack food for deer or marauding rabbits, you may want to plant them in a spot less likely to tempt them.

If Tulip bulbs are planted along a road or driveway, they should be away from any plowed snow accumulation that may include road salt or other de-icing compounds harmful to bulbs.

Tulip bulbs should be planted away from invasive tree and perennial root systems that can strangle bulb roots, compete for limited water and nutrition, and actually push bulbs up from the proper planting depth.

As for all flower bulbs, Tulips hate to get ‘wet feet’. They should never be planted in areas with poor, excessive or continuous water drainage, or standing water. Moisture-ridden soil causes a healthy bulb to rot. If planted near a body of water, bulbs must be planted well above the high water mark. If planting along a stone wall, make sure that water drainage is away from the Tulip planting. Tulips planted on inclines may sustain water damage as it drains and settles in pockets (planting holes).

Do not plant Tulip bulbs in previously diseased soil, particularly in areas where Peonies or other Tulip bulbs have developed Botrytis blight, the soil and airborne disease. This fungal disease can be detected by the appearance of foliage and/or flowers that have become disfigured or discolored. Dutch flower bulb growers, Dutch and American horticultural inspectors, our Dutch export colleagues and our own fastidious staff make sure that our Tulip bulbs are clean, healthy and free of fungal spores. Fungal diseases such as Botrytis blight commonly develop in planting sites with overly cool and wet or humid conditions, overcrowding or inadequate maintenance. To avoid fungal disease, maintain good garden maintenance by dead-heading and discarding spent flowers and yellowed foliage, allowing proper space between plants, ensure good air circulation and maintain good water drainage. Botrytis blight overwinters in dead leaves and stems, and infects soil.

Never Use Acidic or Alkaline Soil Amendments

Never use top dressings of mint mulch, horse manure, chicken droppings, mushroom compost, other "hot" manure, garden compost, household compost or commercial soil amendments for flower bulb planting holes or beds. They are not usually neutral pH. These top dressings or soil additives may create acidic or alkaline pH levels that prevent or retard root growth, and can actually rot the bulbs themselves. What is good for carrots, peas and tomatoes is not necessarily good for flower bulbs.

Garden and household compost often fail to decompose fully due to insufficient heat generation, and can be a breeding ground for damaging fungus and weeds.

The Nature of Tulips

Most Tulips stage their best performance the first spring after fall planting. Tulips are not true perennials although there are exceptions: Species Tulips, Kaufmanniana Hybrids, Greigiis and Giant Darwin Hybrids. Tulips from these classes may come back for repeat years if they are happy where planted and never disturbed. To promote perennial performance, plant them in the fall according to the instructions (some people plant them 2" deeper than specified). Dead-head the flowers when they start to die back. Allow the foliage to thrive and die back naturally. Top-dress the bed with a 4-10-6 granular organic fertilizer three times a year: in the fall, the early spring and in late spring. Never cut stems for bouquets: plant a separate cutting garden.

Some people choose to remove and replant their Tulip bulbs every year. Others choose to hold out for two years, or even three. You know you have to plant new Tulip bulbs when you start to see only foliage and no flowers.

Planting Tulip Bulbs: Depth, Spacing and Which-End-Is-Up?

Check the planting instructions and plant each bulb to at least the proper depth. It is a good idea to dig 2" to 3" below the planting depth to loosen the soil to promote thorough root growth and good water drainage.

Most Tulip bulbs must be planted at least 6" to 8" deep, and 6" apart from each other. The depth is important to protect the bulb from temperature spiking. Arctic temperature spiking and frost heaves can tear apart flower bulb root systems just like it does asphalt. This can happen if the bulbs were planted in a non-hardy horticultural zone, planted too shallow or if there are arctic blasts without consistent snow cover. In cold areas, a two inch layer of mulch should be applied after the top of the ground freezes. Some neutral pH mulching mediums are straw, salt marsh hay or oak leaves. Narcissus bulbs planted too shallow can also split into smaller, nonproductive bulbs.

The spacing between Tulips is not quite as important as it is for naturalizing Narcissi. Many people plant Tulip bulbs a bit closer than 6" for an even more spectacular show.

Place each bulb firmly in the soil with the pointed end up, and the basal plate, or root base, down. The general rule of thumb is to cover the top of each Tulip bulb with 3" to 4" of soil, taking care to not break off any sprout growth. The existence or amount of top growth varies by variety. Never put anything in the bottom of each planting hole. This is the best way to avoid the possibility of root burn.

Fertilizing Tulip Bulbs

The truth is that the Tulip bulbs you receive from us are perfect little packages that contain everything they need for glorious blooms the following spring. Just make sure to plant according to instructions.

If you intend to grow Tulips on for a second year or more, it would help to top dress Tulip plantings with a 4-10-6 organic granular fertilizer three times a year. To top dress means to broadcast the fertilizer like one would cast birdseed, at the rate of about one teaspoon per bulb. First, top dress the fertilizer in the fall to promote root growth. Second, fertilize in the spring when the sprouts emerge to help grow the foliage and flower, and third, when the flower starts to die back to help nourish the bulb itself. If there is a prolonged dry period after fertilizing, you may water it in lightly.

Bone meal is not recommended because it can attract animals and it is incomplete nutritionally. (The 4-10-6 fertilizer composition refers to 4 parts nitrogen, 10 parts phosphorus and 6 parts potassium.) Avoid root burn by never adding anything to each planting hole.

Fall Mulching

One should apply no more than a 2" layer of mulch only after the surface of the ground freezes. The mulch is intended to trap the cold in the soil~not the warmth, retain moderate soil moisture and protect the bulbs from temperature spiking. Some good mulching mediums include straw, salt marsh hay or oak leaves. The mulch should be loosened or removed prior to sprout emergence in the spring.

Avoid Planting in Exterior Containers or Raised Beds

Tulip bulbs should never be planted in outdoor containers, window boxes or raised beds where they experience temperature spiking and repeat cycles of freezing and thawing. This results in root growth failure, root system destruction, frozen bulbs and/or bulb rot from poor water drainage. Tulip bulbs must have a consistent cold winter temperature with good water drainage in order to produce a mature root system that will permit foliage growth and flower production in the spring.

Bloom Times, Size and Color

The bloom time listed for each variety is for horticultural zone 5 in ‘normal’ spring conditions. The warmer the horticultural zone, the earlier Tulips will bloom in the spring. The colder the horticultural zone, the later Tulips will bloom in the spring.

Flower bulbs do everything in response to temperature sunlight and site conditions. Bloom times, heights and colors are approximations affected by temperature and site conditions regardless of the calendar date. If it is a warm spring, bulbs will bloom earlier. If it is a cold spring, bulbs will bloom later. If it is a long cool spring, followed by rapid warming, you may find odd bedfellows: earlier blooming flower bulbs flowering right along side later blooming varieties. Each spring can offer a different sort of garden surprise party.

In the event of a mild winter or a warmer-than-usual spring, Tulips with emergent stalks and set buds may bloom early, small and short, although they will likely grow taller and larger as long as temperatures moderate. Temperature spikes can also affect mature root development, the actual form of the flower and, particularly for Tulips, the actual color. An example would be Triumph Tulip Apricot Foxx. In normal or warm temperatures, the flower is a buttery caramel-apricot color, whereas in a cooler spring, it is an intensely colored apricot-raspberry two-tone. Generally, cooler weather inhibits fragrance, whereas warmer weather incites fragrance.

Spring Enjoyment and Care

Before the Tulip sprouts emerge, loosen or remove any mulch. As the sprouts first poke through the soil, broadcast a light top dressing of a granular, organic 4-10-6 fertilizer on top of the soil. You may lightly water it in if rain is not forecast. This will help to grow the foliage and flowers.

Enjoy every moment of Tulip blooms in the spring, for it will be a whole year before you can luxuriate in their beauty and spirit again. Tulips are the art and soul of spring.

When the flowers start to die back, broadcast another light top dressing of a granular, organic 4-10-6 fertilizer to help grow the bulb itself. After the flowers die, dead-head them an inch of two under the flower, if possible, to avoid the development of an unnecessary seed pod in the neck of the stem. Discard the felled cuttings to promote garden health free of fungal disease.

If you intend to grow the Tulips on for another year, allow the stem and foliage to thrive unfettered for six to eight weeks, until they die back naturally for maximum photosynthesis and chlorophyll production that nourishes the bulb. Do not braid foliage, have other plant material grow to cover the foliage or allow it to be mowed down prematurely. Insufficient photosynthesis results in malnourished bulbs that will fail to thrive. Once the foliage has yellowed- or browned-out, it is dead. Then, it may be raked up and discarded to promote garden health.

Plant a Separate Cutting Garden

If you intend to cut Tulips for bouquets, you should plant a separate cutting garden, rather than cutting display Tulips. Cutting Tulip stems destroys the vitality of the bulb for even a hope of subsequent year blooms.

Tulip stems continue to grow in height once cut so when you are designing your arrangements, plan for up to an additional 4" of height. Never mix Tulips with Narcissi in arrangements: Narcissus stems secrete a viscous substance that clogs up Tulip stems and prevents water absorption.