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Grow your best tulips ever

By: Garden Gate staff
Want to know the secret to the biggest and best tulips every spring? Try these tips and meet a few reliable bloomers you should be growing.

For bright, vivid color that celebrates the start of the growing season and creates tons of curb appeal, try tulips. Garden pro Linda Vater uses tulips to create a spectacular spring show every year. She has some great tips for ordering, planting and getting the best tulips for your garden.

Shopping for the best tulips

To prepare for spring, choose your favorites well before fall arrives. This way, when it comes time to order, you’re ready to purchase, instead of still selecting varieties while your must-haves are going out of stock. Linda relies on Colorblends and John Scheepers when ordering, because she always trusts her bulbs will arrive healthy and at the right time for planting. If you're planning to shop at a local garden center, here's how to sort out the best ones in the bin.

Planting the best tulips

Since Linda orders hundreds of tulips every year, it’s important that planting them is as simple as possible. Once she receives the entire order, she dumps the bulbs into a wheelbarrow, gently mixes them and scoops from here as she plants. This guarantees a natural-looking distribution of color and bloom time across the entire front yard.

Next, where the tulips were already pulled earlier in the year, she digs wide holes, about 6 to 8 in. deep, and plants 50, as opposed to 15, bulbs at one time. For the biggest impact, stagger these clumps close together, so the tulips come up almost like a bush or in a dense stand.

See also Plant Guide

Choose great varieties

See six of Linda’s tried-and-true favorites, and what she loves about them, in the photos below.

‘Gudoshnik’ tulip

In addition to its huge flower head and sturdy stems, this cultivar has stunning variation in color, from solid red to creamy orange to yellow-streaked — no two blooms are quite alike. Its hues change as the flower, which opens in early to mid-spring, matures, too.

Light Full sun Size 22 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

‘Akebono’ tulip

With its cream-variegated green sepals and red-edged pale yellow petals, ‘Akebono’ makes a great companion for a range of tulips. The semidouble, midspring bloomer has a sweet, light fragrance.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 22 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

‘Sorbet’ tulip

Clear white petals are covered in striking, vivid red flames, or streaking, that continues to swirl as the tulip matures. Strong stems help hold up the large late-spring flower heads in inclement weather, too.

Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

‘Shirley’ tulip

Creamy white buds open in early to midspring, and petals quickly turn white, with a purple edge that starts at the top of the bloom, speckling and stippling the rest of the flower as it ages.

Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 22 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

‘Dreamland’ tulip

A soft white interior and base complement the rose-pink upper petals of this late-spring bloomer. Pair ‘Dreamland’ with other white, late-blooming varieties, like ‘Maureen’.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

French Blend Rose™

This late-, long-blooming blend of pinks and softer sorbet colors, such as apricot, changes hues as flowers mature.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

‘Gudoshnik’ tulip

In addition to its huge flower head and sturdy stems, this cultivar has stunning variation in color, from solid red to creamy orange to yellow-streaked — no two blooms are quite alike. Its hues change as the flower, which opens in early to mid-spring, matures, too.

Light Full sun Size 22 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

‘Shirley’ tulip

Creamy white buds open in early to midspring, and petals quickly turn white, with a purple edge that starts at the top of the bloom, speckling and stippling the rest of the flower as it ages.

Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 22 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

‘Akebono’ tulip

With its cream-variegated green sepals and red-edged pale yellow petals, ‘Akebono’ makes a great companion for a range of tulips. The semidouble, midspring bloomer has a sweet, light fragrance.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 22 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

‘Dreamland’ tulip

A soft white interior and base complement the rose-pink upper petals of this late-spring bloomer. Pair ‘Dreamland’ with other white, late-blooming varieties, like ‘Maureen’.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

‘Sorbet’ tulip

Clear white petals are covered in striking, vivid red flames, or streaking, that continues to swirl as the tulip matures. Strong stems help hold up the large late-spring flower heads in inclement weather, too.

Light Full sun to part shade Size 18 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 8 to 1

French Blend Rose™

This late-, long-blooming blend of pinks and softer sorbet colors, such as apricot, changes hues as flowers mature.

Light Full sun Size 20 to 24 in. tall Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, heat-tolerant in AHS zones 7 to 1

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