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How to plant and care for cold-treated tulips

How to plant and care for cold-treated tulips

The majestic tulip, beloved by poets, artists, and avid gardeners for centuries, ranks among the world's most cherished plants and cut flowers. If you fancy a bit of history, you may know that contrary to popular belief, tulips didn't originate in the Netherlands. In fact, they come from the foothills of the Himalayas. According to ancient records, these blooms were cultivated by the Turks in the Ottoman Empire over 3,000 years ago and only made their way to Europe in the 16th century. Today, these tantalizing tulips bloom with overwhelming beauty right here in sunny South Africa, and we are here to answer all your questions about growing them in your own garden.

Can I grow tulips in South Africa?

Yes, cold-treated tulips can be grown with ease in South Africa. Additionally, tulips that haven't been cold-treated can grow in parts of South Africa that experience cold winter temperatures and a mild springtime.

In which season do tulips bloom in South Africa?

Tulips bloom from late winter to spring. Cold-treated tulips typically bloom 6-10 weeks after planting, depending on the length of their cold treatment. This year, anticipate your cold-treated Hadeco tulips to bloom approximately 10 weeks after planting.

Which is the best month to plant tulip bulbs?

Cold-treated tulips should be planted from late June to late July. 

Where do tulips grow best?

Tulips thrive in semi-shaded areas. You can opt for a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade which will provide relief from midday heat and prolong flowering. They can be beautifully cultivated in garden beds, containers, or grown hydroponically.

How do I grow cold-treated tulips in South Africa?

  1. Once you receive your bulbs you should plant them immediately, in well-draining soil with the pointy end up. Space your tulip bulbs 8cm apart and cover them with 2cm of soil. In containers they can be planted closer together for a fuller effect. 
  2. Add a 2cm layer of compost that will act as a blanket and protect your bulbs from daytime heat and help retain water. You can overplant with winter annuals which will provide colour while your tulips grow. Doing this will also act as a living mulch which is highly beneficial for regulating the soil temperature. 
  3. Once planted, water your tulips every 3-4 days for 10 minutes if planted in garden beds, provided it hasn’t rained. If you have chosen to plant in pots, water them every 2-3 days until water runs out the bottom of the pot. If you have a saucer underneath the pot, empty it 30 minutes later. Watering to root level is of utmost importance, to ensure your bulbs bloom beautifully. 
  4. In approximately 10 weeks, after planting, your tulips will provide spring colour with their extravagant blooms. At this point you can cut the stems to enjoy them as cut flowers or if they are in a small pot, you can bring them inside and fill your home with blooming colour. 
  5. When the flowers have finished blooming you should discard the bulbs as they are unlikely to flower again next year, because our springtime is too warm to make ‘daughter’ bulblets.


Three tips for tulip planting

  1. Tulips don’t enjoy reflected heat, so don’t plant them against north facing walls, open pathways or in hot courtyards. 
  2. Plant them in swathes or groups of 10 or 20 to get the best display come spring. As some do reach around 60cm in height, don’t plant them at the front of a bed, or in too small a container. 
  3. If you live in a windy area, give them some protection from stiff breezes that could snap the flowers off the stem. 

Did you know? 

Even when tulips are cut from the plant, they can continue to grow. Once they’ve been placed in water, it triggers a survival mechanism which prompts them to elongate their stems in search of nutrients. This is the reason why they remain fresh for so long and enjoy a long vase life. 

So, without further ado, get your beds and containers ready for a grand display of tulips, that are set to brighten your springtime. Happy planting! 

Next article July Garden Checklist

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