Tulip Tips for Texans
Texas isn’t prime country for most types of tulips, yet there is one thing you can do that will help them more than anything else, and that is to chill them – give them an artificial winter.
Put your tulips in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Keep them at 45 F for at least 45 days. Without that "precooling" the bulbs will produce short flower stalks and poor blooms, often only an inch or two out of the soil. Plant them only when soil temperatures fall to below 50 F for three consecutive days. That will be mid-December in North Texas and toward the end of December in Central and South Texas.
Of course, all of this depends on your starting with quality bulbs in the first place. Buy from a reputable nurseryman and buy only the best bulbs. Squeeze them gently to be sure they’re firm.
Prepare your tulips on close spacings, preferably only 2 to 4 inches apart. Set them in clusters rather than rows. You want to see them bloom en masse, not individually. Set the bulbs 2 to 3 times as deep as they are tall. Water the planting immediately after you cover them with good garden soil. They will need little or no supplemental feeding in most cases.
Most tulip varieties should be handled as annuals in Texas conditions. The fancy hybrids are generally reluctant to rebloom in following years. Species tulips, however, often will establish and return for many years. While smaller-flowering and somewhat harder to find in nurseries, they’re certainly delights in the perennial border.