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Best expert advice on growing tulips

Collection of colourful tulips

Tulips are wonderfully varied, their appearance announcing that spring is well and truly here. With so many colours, shapes and scents to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which varieties to buy. Fortunately, we’ve gathered expert advice from independent gardening bloggers to give you a head start.

Whether you want to grow these iconic flowers in containers, borders or indoors, browse our full range of tulip bulbs for inspiration. 


Planting tulips in containers

Singular white and pink tipped tulip
This multicoloured tulip is perfect for containers and cut flowers
Image: Tulip ‘Shirley’ from Suttons

Over at Erica’s Little Welsh Garden on YouTube, Erica’s large container combines tulips with other bulbs “to create a beautiful flowering display from very early in the spring all the way to mid-summer.” Watch her bulb lasagne video to see how she layers multicoloured tulips with daffodils, grape hyacinth, iris and allium. 

Squirrels and other rodents love to dig around in containers and eat your newly planted tulip bulbs, says Katrina of Homegrown Garden. Her clever solution is to cut chickenwire to fit her pots, pushing it down over the buried bulbs and then covering it over with compost. Katrina has had success with this method in previous years and assures us that “the bulbs will actually grow through this absolutely fine.” Check out her spring bulb planting video for more great tips.

Even at the end of October there’s still time to plant your spring-flowering bulbs, says Martin of Pots & Trowels. He likes to use tulips as the first layer in his container displays, but says that you should wait a few more weeks if you’re going to plant them in the ground. His three secrets to success? Drainage holes, “crocks” in the bottom of the pot, and mineral-rich bulb compost. Watch his full video about planting tulips in containers for more tips and tricks. 

Johanna Bobbio’s YouTube channel is a treasure trove of knowledge and advice about growing flowers. She recommends packing your tulips really close together (almost touching) in containers to create really beautiful, dense shows. For more tips, including how to avoid common growing problems, watch her video: 12 Things I Wish I Knew Before Planting My Tulips

Planting tulips in the ground

Group of pink and white tulips in groups
Plant tulips among other flowers for beautiful mixed displays in springtime
Image: Tulip ‘Flaming Club’ from Suttons

Stephanie Fox of @loving_my_garden planted her tulips in pots last year and plans to transplant them into her borders once they’ve finished flowering. As she explains to one Instagram follower, “as soon as the flower petals drop off I pull them out if their pots – leaves and all and plant them into my borders with the leaves showing a little and they will come up next year – this way you can see exactly where to put them amongst your other spring flowers.” Follow her Insta account for snaps of her stunning garden.

Experienced tulip-grower Jane found that planting too many tulip bulbs in one spot in her garden looked “amazing when they all bloomed together” but led to fungal diseases like tulip fire. She now spaces her tulips more carefully and plants other flowers among them to get the full “showy effect”. Read her article over at Snapdragon Life for more expert advice on how to get your tulips to come back year after year.

Devon-based @katiegracegardens naturalises her tulips, adding more bulbs every winter and removing any old ones that come up blind in the spring. Katie says that this constant rejuvenation “gives a lovely natural look rather than full-on massive blooms all through the borders,” as the different aged bulbs are different sizes. Take a look at her tulip-filled borders on Instagram – it’s a lovely effect!

Before you start planting tulip bulbs in your border, check the final height of each flower, says Alexandra Campbell in her spring gardening video over at The Middlesized Garden. That said, it’s certainly not the end of the world if you end up with tall tulips at the front and shorter ones in the middle. To ensure your tulips reach their full height, make sure they’re well watered for the 3-4 weeks before flowering if it’s a dry spring, says Alexandra.

If you’re looking to get the most from every inch of your allotment, try interplanting tulips and veggies. Instagram’s @alastair098 planted tulips “all over the allotment in winter” and was pleased with how well his early-blooming yellow tulips complemented the artichokes this spring. His organic, no-dig approach is paying dividends, as you can see in his photos.

Planting tulips to force indoors

Two peach coloured tulips
Dwarf tulips like ‘Fur Elise’ are particularly well suited to growing in containers
Image: Tulip ‘Fur Elise’ from Suttons

You don’t need special varieties of tulips to grow indoors – “your usual garden varieties are perfectly suitable bulbs for planting in this way,” says Catherine over at Growing Family. Forcing bulbs is simply a way of speeding up the flowering process by “tricking your bulbs into thinking that it’s already winter by creating winter conditions.” Follow her simple guide to enjoy spectacular displays of indoor tulips this winter. 

Over on the Suttons blog, our experts prefer to use dwarf tulips for indoor displays. Although tulip bulbs need a longer period of cold than other spring flowers – “you’ll need to chill your bulbs for 14 to 20 weeks to encourage good flowering” – your patience will be rewarded with bursts of gorgeous colour in the depths of winter. Check out our guide to forcing indoor bulbs for top tips. 

Fantastic tulip varieties to try

Orange tulip with yellow frilly edges
As well as the classic ‘cup’ shape, tulips can also be frilled, striped or lily-like…
Image: Tulip ‘Miami Sunset’ from Suttons

While most tulips are best treated as annuals, there are several perennial varieties, explains Carol in her excellent article on how to choose tulips which flower again over at The Sunday Gardener. Carol recommends dwarf perennial ‘Red Riding Hood’ for windy spots and balconies. Her top tip to encourage repeat flowering? Plant the bulbs quite deep – at least 4x the size of the bulb. 

Looking for new and interesting tulips to try? The expert team at Suttons offer a plethora of recommendations for award-winning spring bulbs to give your garden the wow factor. Alongside daffodils, crocus and grape hyacinth, they suggest tulips such as the delicately-hued ‘Apricot Beauty’ and late-blooming ‘Carnival de Nice’ for colourful displays in beds, borders and pots. See the full list for more inspiration. 

We hope we’ve tempted you to add more tulip bulbs to your planting scheme this year. Incredibly versatile, these elegant blooms look lovely in formal beds or naturalised in lawns. See our full range of new spring bulbs if you’re looking for ideas.

Lead image: Tulip ‘Everlasting Mixed’ (Perennial) Bulbs from Suttons

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