Spring flowering bulbs are some of my most favorite flowers to grow! They are planted in the fall before the ground freezes in cold climates, and in the late autumn/early winter for the rest of us. Often these bulbs show the first signs of life in the early spring, and it’s a much needed reminder that the flowers will once again be blooming after drab winter.
I will be the first to admit that growing tulips in the South can be tricky. Our winters are not quite cold enough for many of the really special varieties that we all drool over (and that we sell in our online shop), but there are a few systems to ensure that you have a lovely tulip crop in most places.
In colder climates where the ground freezes during the winter, it is important to plant your tulips and narcissus while you can still work the soil. The cold winter temperatures in these climates will provide the necessary vernalization for tulips to grow on long stems. These flowers need a long period, about 12 weeks, of winter cooling (also called vernalization) in order to flower and grow properly. Vernalization occurs naturally in cold climates or can be artificially achieved in warmer climates. Tulips and narcissus should be planted in the late Fall in cooler climates where the ground freezes.For those of us in areas where the ground does not freeze (or does only for a short period of time), tulips and narcissus should be planted in December or January. The bulbs can be cooled in a refrigerator for up to 4 months before planting, creating an artificial vernalization period. Do not store bulbs in plastic in the fridge because they require ventilation – a paper bag, egg carton, mesh or canvas bag is best. And do not store bulbs with fruit because fruit emits ethylene gas which will ruin the bulbs. Storing bulbs in the fridge for about 6-8 weeks before planting is ideal. Only take the bulbs out of the fridge when you are ready to plant.