The perennial tulip flower grows from bulbs. The tulip bulb gained popularity in the 1600s in Europe. Since then, the development of new varieties in nearly every color and size makes them suitable for many landscapes. Tulips require cold, dormant periods and grow best in Northern areas. They provide early spring blooms--a welcome sight after winter. The tulip is easy to care for once it is established. The versatility of the tulip allows for several uses including mass plantings, scattered among other plants as accents, as borders and along walkways.
Decide what type of tulips you want to plant. Because they need to be planted in the fall, you will need to plan. Order bulbs from a mail-order company or buy them locally. You can find tulip bulbs in garden centers, hardware stores and some department or grocery stores. Choose from thousands of existing varieties.
Choose a planting site for the tulips. They require full sun and fertile, well-drained soil conditions. Prepare the location by adding 3 inches of compost and digging it into the bed with a shovel to a depth of at least 10 inches. If you plant in a pre-existing bed, you may not need to amend the soil. Tulips do not do well in compacted soil, such as clay. If you have clay soil, you may want to add 2 inches of peat and sand.
Plant the tulips in October or November. Dig holes with a trowel 5 inches deep for small bulbs and 8 inches deep for bulbs more than 2 inches in size. Space small bulbs at least 1 inch apart and large bulbs a minimum of 4 inches apart. Plant at least six bulbs in a group for the best effect.
Place the tulip bulbs in the holes with the pointed side up. Firm half of the soil over the bulbs and fill the rest with water. Finish filling the holes with soil when the water settles. Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch over the area.
Apply a 5-10-10 fertilizer after planting and again every spring when the leaves poke through. Follow manufacturer's directions on the amount of fertilizer to use. Keep the fertilizer from touching the emerging leaves.
Snip off the flower stem with sharp scissors for cut flowers or after the petals have fallen. Do not remove the leaves because they help supply the tulip with food. Once they turn yellow and die off, you can cut them back.
Water tulips during extended dry periods or drought. Spread a new layer of mulch in the fall. A 2-inch layer should suffice.