The Veg Plot

How to plant tulip bulbs for spring colour

how to plant tulip bulbs

Over the past few months our New Business Team* has been working away to secure a top notch deal with ace bulb specialists Dutch Grown. The main thrust of the deal will see our Content Provision Team* produce guest blogs for the UK version of the Dutch Grown website when it launches (the first feature is on the remarkable looking Tulip Nachtwatch).

To help cement this working relationship we’ve also agreed to write about some of Dutch Grown bulbs, and they kindly sent down a selection of mostly tulips for our Garden Build Team* to test out. We will go into these in more detail next spring when they’re in full bloom, but until then here’s a handy guide to planting tulips…

How to plant tulip bulbs

Tulips are great for folk like us who prefer maximum rewards from minimum efforts, as growing them involves little more than sinking bulbs into the ground and letting them get on with it. But for your best chances of success there are a few basic rules it’s worth following.

When? October and November are your best months for tulip bulb planting, although you could get away with it a little later providing your soil isn’t rock hard from frost.

Where? Tulips prefer a sunny position (and look much better in the sunshine) and are best planted in groups or en masse. They’re suitable for borders and pots but won’t tolerate over-saturated ground, so dig in grit if you think this could be a problem.

How? Pop them in holes around 15cm to 20cm deep (according to size of of bulb) and make sure you place the pointy end upwards. Keep them around 20cm apart, although you can pack them tighter for smaller groupings (such as in pots).

Care? If your soil is a bit tired and lacking nutrients then pep it up with some good compost before planting. After they’ve been planted they need little attention, other than watering in the unlikely event of a prolonged dry spell (although tulips in pots will almost certainly need occasional watering).

What we’re growing

Here’s a run down of the tulip varieties we’ve been sent to trial, along with a few other bulbs. We’ll be sharing some of these with friends to compare results.

Tulip Dutch Dancer: Big tulip with fiery orange petals. Looks a real beauty.

Tulip Elsenburg: A fancy ‘Parrot Tulip’ with pink and white ruffled blooms.

Tulip Wow: A very unusual looking tulip, the likes of which we’ve not seen before. Massed with indigo petals that are white at the base. Looking forward to this one.

Tulip Gorilla: Despite the name, this one looks a bit posh. Rich purple in colour and with a dainty fringe to the petals.

Tulip Clusiana Mix: Clusiana tulips are small and pointy. We’re guessing this mix will contain several varieties for a kaleidoscope of colour. We will find out…

Tulip Harbor Light: Another unusual tulip. Its white petals look like Mr Whippy has got a bit carried away filling a leafy green cone.

Hyacinth Dark Dimension: A mass of purple flowers that are so dark they’re almost black. Grow these right and we could have a showstopper on our hands.

Hyacinth Carnegie: The dainty white ying to Dark Dimension’s yang.

Allium Art: The alliums we’re most familiar with open into cylinders made up of tiny flowers. This allium has gone renegade, shooting off flowers in all directions.

Dichelostemma Ida-Maia Pink Diamond: Clusters of dainty tubular bloom that are bright pink with paler pink tips.


After one of the wettest, most miserable starts to the year, come spring our bulbs were emerging from the soggy soil and pots we planted them in. First up were the creamy pinks of the Tulip Eisenburgs, their delicately artistic petals standing out in contrast to the ugly weather. The hyacinths looked like they were struggling, but most still made it through, and the curious twisty Allium Art saved themselves and were the last to show.

All of the tulips put in a tremendous performance throughout spring, while the rest of the garden hid until summer, and we’ve now decided upon our favourite variety: We admired the unusual paintwork of Tulip Eisenburg and Tulip Wow; were cheered by the fun colours of the Tulip Clusiana mix and the vibrance of the deep orange Dutch Dancer; but our preference was the intense purple of Tulip Gorilla and its crinkly petals. 

Pictured, clockwise from top left: Tulip Eisenburg, Tulip Gorilla, Tulip Clusiana, Tulip Wow, Tulip Dutch Dancer, Tulip Clusiana

*Nick & Rich

1 Comment

  • Tulips are something that I never think about at the right time! Maybe this year I will finally get on the ball about planting those bulbs in the fall. I just love the color they provide in the spring.

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