From The Sperry Garden – January, 2009

Looking Ahead By A Few Weeks

I bought half a dozen of these "species" tulip bulbs off a nursery end cap 30 years ago. I planted them in a dry, sunny bed at the base of our chimney on the east end of our house. They’re a wonderful little type known as Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Stresa,’ and over those 30 years they have established, multiplied and rebloomed faithfully each spring. My best guess now would be that there must be 40 or 50 bulbs in their little area of 2 or 3 square feet.

Most tulips are annuals in Texas, meaning that you must buy new bulbs every fall. Since those bigger, fancier types grow best where winters are colder, we here in Texas must refrigerate them for at least 45 days at 45 degrees. Without that chilling, they’ll produce very short floral stalks, often only an inch or two above the ground. Although they’re beautiful landscaping additions, you’ll need to remove the spent bulbs and plant new ones each fall. – Such is the life when you grow the large-flowering, hybrid tulips.

These little species types, however, just get better and better over the years. They colonize, and you never have to dig and chill them under Texas conditions. All they ask is full sun, good drainage and to be left undisturbed. Since their tops die down by May, your biggest challenge may be to remember where you planted them so you won’t spear them when you’re digging and planting summer flowers in the area.

If you spot species types of tulips this spring, make note of the ones you like, then start searching for sources for planting next fall. These little babies are big winners.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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