Tulips and hyacinths FAQs

Are there any tulips, large or small, that I would not have to lift each year?

Most of the large Darwin hybrids, such as ‘Apeldoorn’, are so strong’ that they can be left where they grow for up to five years without harming the bulbs. After their first season the huge flowers will be somewhat smaller, but they remain gorgeous and impressive.

Many of the species tulips, given reasonable sites with good sun and drainage, can be left indefinitely. In particular, Tulipa praestans in the rock garden or in the border will increase year after year, and T. kaufmanniana and T. greigii are equally good.

Which tulips would you recommend for growing in pots?

I have seen most types growing happily in pots and other containers. Certainly the early doubles are easy and showy, with flowers almost like peonies. The shorter-stemmed kinds are obviously more easily managed; these include all the early-flowering T. kaufmanniana and T. greigii hybrids. Particularly good are ‘Red Riding Hood’ (brilliant red with striking purple-marbled foliage); ‘Stresa’ (early; gold and orange); Toronto’ (neat, pointed buds; clear rose pink); ‘Heart’s Desire’ (neat grower, rich pink and white). I am especially fond of the delicate T. batalinii ‘Bronze Charm’ (miniature series, with grey-green foliage and exquisitely shaped broad-based blooms).

Which tulips are best for bedding?

The Darwin hybrids are the largest-flowered, strongest-growing kinds, and will therefore make the boldest display. Colours range from white through yellow to orange, pink, and red; the red ‘Apeldoorn’ < and its sports are widely available, and bloom in April and May.

Earlier April display can be had from the double early group. These are short-stemmed and sturdy, and look rather like peonies.

Wallflowers can be associated with Darwin hybrids to prolong the display. Forget-me-nots can be used with the doubles or the lily-flowered types such as the favourite ‘China Pink’. The dwarf T. kaufmanniana and T. greigii hybrids are also being used increasingly for bedding.

We have a wind-swept garden. Can you suggest which tulips might be most suitable?

All dwarf species and their hybrids are suitable. Of the older-established kinds, the dwarf early double types make attractive bedding plants. The lily-flowered group, such as ‘China Pink’ and the red and gold ‘Aladdin’, are not dwarf but their strong-stemmed flowers withstand rough weather. Absolutely reliable are the T. kaufmanniana and T. greigii races, available in a wide range of colours. Among species tulips, try T. tarda, with prostrate shining foliage, and a nest of green buds opening to white and yellow stars, and virtually stemless; T. maximowiczii and T. I’mifolia, which are neat, brilliant red and about 125 mm (5 in) tall; and T. praestans, with several brilliant orange flowers, are 125-175 mm (5-7 in) tall.

I wish to grow Tulipa kaufmanniana and T. greigii hybrids but am embarrassed by the vast numbers from which to choose. Could you list five distinct examples of each?

My favourites among the T. kaufmanniana hybrids include: ‘The First’ (white, widely banded red in bud); ‘Brilliant’ (small early scarlet); ‘Stresa’ (gold, broadly banded red outside); ‘Gluck’ (marbled foliage, flowers cream and pinky red); ‘Heart’s Desire’ (mottled foliage, flowers outside pink and red, inside cream and gold).

From T. greigii hybrids I select: ‘Lady Diana’ (pointed petals, cream and red flowers); ‘Mary Ann’ (mottled leaves, milk-white and pink flowers); ‘Zampa’ (dwarf, red and gold); ‘Red Riding Hood’ (marvellous purpled foliage); ‘Mizkodeed’ (gold-flushed orange).

I want to plant some tulip species with character in the rock garden. Which are best?

The larger the rock garden, the larger-flowered can be the bulbs. Here are a few of various sizes: T. acuminata (syn. T. ‘Cornuta’), 450 mm (18 in), the horned tulip, yellow and red; extraordinary long, very narrow petals; flowers in May. T. batalinii ‘Bronze Charm’ 100-150 mm (4-6 in), a series of hybrids with T. linifolia; very neat, broad flowers in shades of bronze, apricot and peach. T. clusiana, 200-300 mm (8-12 in) lady tulip, slender, pinky crimson buds, opening white with blue-black base. T. kolpakowskiana, 150-200 mm (6-8 in), neat little bright yellow stars when open, buds striped red. T. linifolia 100-150 mm (4-6 in), prostrate foliage made attractive with waved margin; large, superbly red flowers; late. T. praestans ‘Fusilier’, 200 mm (8 in), several red flowers on each stem. 7. tarda 100-150 mm (4-6 in), polished prostrate leaves, green buds, white stars, golden bases.

What is the difference between ‘prepared’ and ‘unprepared’ hyacinths?

Prepared bulbs have undergone a regime of temperature control while in storage. This treatment simulates the passage of winter, and so galvanises the bulbs into early activity: they bloom a month or more in advance of unprepared bulbs. The effect is most marked with bulbs grown indoors. The treatment needs to be repeated every year, which is obviously beyond the scope of most amateur gardeners; the most sensible course, after your prepared bulbs have flowered, is to plant them outside, where they will bloom at the same time as unprepared hyacinths next spring.

I enjoy hyacinths but have been disappointed recently with some of my bulbs. Can you suggest where I might have gone wrong?

Grow only one variety in each container to be certain of simultaneous flowering, making sure that the bulbs are even-sized and undamaged. Use containers with drainage holes to ensure the bulbs do not become waterlogged (expanded mica and poly-granules are too light and free-moving to make suitable anchoring media for most bulbs). Plant with the noses level with the top of the potting medium, which may be potting compost or fibre. Allow enough space between the compost and pot rim for watering.

Keep the bulbs moist and cool for the first six to eight weeks to encourage growth of an extensive, healthy root system. Bowls may be kept in the dark during this period, but this is not necessary. At the end of this period bowls should be brought into a light, warm spot and be given progressively more heat.

I grow hyacinths every year, but have been fairly conservative in my choice of varieties. Can you suggest some reliable ones that are just a little different?

Strikingly coloured varieties include ‘Blue Magic’ (a rich blue with white eyes); ‘Gipsy Queen’ (unusual salmon-orange with florets somewhat frilled); Violet Pearl’ (mauve-violet); ‘Blue Giant’ (well-formed heads of large, pale-blue florets); ‘Amsterdam’ (rich red). Double-flowered hyacinths include ‘Chestnut Flower’ (large soft-pink flowers), ‘General Kohler’ (clear lavender blue); ‘Holly-hock’ (rich red). You could also try the multi-flora hyacinths; these give stems of loosely arranged flowers.

I have a large bowl which I want to fill with hyacinths. Which kind would you recommend?

The rich blue ‘Ostara’, is one of the best current varieties: ‘Pink Pearl’ and ‘L’Innocence’ (white) are equally good. All have the characteristic hyacinth scent.

We find an odd number of bulbs to be more appealing than an even one; we plant in 3s, 5s, 7s, and so on. We have rarely found it successful to mix varieties. Prepared bulbs produce flowers a month or more earlier than those not prepared.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.