You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers. Mostly. But I know where to look and who to ask if I need backup.
Hey Dolly D. I’d really like to grow some tulips. When you get a chance, can you give me some tips… And let me know if it’s too late to start? – A.C. 4/16/20
The general answer is yes, it’s too late to start–for spring. Bulbs are typically planted in the fall a couple weeks before the ground freezes. So here in NC, plant around Thanksgiving and they’ll come up in late February/early March’ish. I found this great Farmer’s Almanac primer on tulips. One thing it suggests is that if you want to plant bulbs at weird times of the year, take a chance and see if they’ll grow. They like a sunny spot, I’ve found, and will stop blooming once the area gets too shady. That’s always a bummer because the leaves shoot up, but no bloom.
One thing you can do now is force it indoors. That means grow it in water. Tulips need a cool season to let the roots establish, so by ‘forcing’ them in water, the roots will grow and be hearty for transplanting to the ground at Thanksgiving. Up north, you’d have to plant them in September or so, before the ground freezes. Anyway, forced bulbs are really pretty. Here’s a great How-To from Pennington.
It takes a couple weeks, but they’re really pretty indoors. I have a couple forcing vases, which have the correct height and shape to hold the bulbs above the water (they don’t like wet butts) but you can use other things. Make sure you use glass, though. For some reason (science), forcing bulbs or rooting clippings only works in clear glass. Small jelly jars that are around six inches tall and three or four inches around work well. Layer smooth river pebbles in the bottom to give the roots something to grow around and help weigh down the jars so they won’t get top-heavy and topple over when the daffodils bloom.