2018 is the Year of the Tulip

Tulip vintage charm blend. Courtesy photo

By David Graper
SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist

Reprinted from the National Garden Bureau, www.ngb.org

Tulips say “spring” like no other flowers. Their vivid, paint-box colors are a feast for winter-weary eyes. These members of the lily family (thus, a relative of onions) typically grow a single stem and flower from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in fall for spring flowers. Tulip bulbs require a dormancy period with cool, winter-like temperatures. During this time, the bulbs sprout roots and the embryonic leaves and flowers inside the bulb begin to develop.

Tulips are native to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia. Works of art depicting their distinctive shape date back to the 10th century. They have been cultivated in earnest for at least 400 years. By leveraging the tulip’s natural tendency toward diversity, generations of breeders and tulip collectors, have brought forth a mind-boggling array of flower forms, heights, colors and bloom times. Today, Holland produces most of the world’s annual tulip crop, which exceeds 4 billion bulbs annually.

It’s been said that various colors of tulips have significant meaning when gifted: Red means love, white means I’m sorry and purple represents loyalty.

Garden how-to’s

Purchase tulip bulbs that are large, firm and heavy. Store the bulbs in a cool, dark place until planting time.

Plant tulips in mid to late fall, when you are raking leaves and doing other fall clean up chores. Soil temperature should be 55°F or cooler. Choose a planting location with full to part day sun, where the soil is well drained and easy to dig (never soggy). Loosen the soil to a depth of 10”.

Tulips look best when they are planted in informal groups of 12 or more bulbs. Space the bulbs approximately 3 to 4” on center and plant them 6 to 7” deep. Use a garden trowel to plant individual bulbs or remove the soil from the planting area, place the bulbs and then refill the hole.

Tulips are at their best the first spring after planting. For this reason, the bulbs are usually treated as annuals and dug out when they finish blooming. Under ideal growing conditions (sharply drained soil, cold winters, cool springs, hot, dry summers) some tulips will return to bloom again another year. The best candidates are Darwin hybrids and Species tulips. To encourage re-blooming, cut off the spent flowers as soon as they fade and allow the foliage to continue growing until it is yellow and dry.

Basic types of tulips

There are over 150 species of tulips with 3,000+ different varieties classified into Divisions by type:

Division 1: Single Early. Medium size blossoms with a classic tulip shape. Short, sturdy stems with an overall height of 10-14”. Often fragrant. Flair, Purple Prince, Bestseller, Apricot Beauty

Division 2: Double Early. Extra petals give these flowers a very full look. Shorter than most other tulips, most are about 12” tall. Lovely cut flowers. Abba, Monsella, Foxtrot, Monte Orange

Division 3: Triumph. This class offers the widest range of tulip colors. Triumphs are midseason bloomers and stand 15 to 20”. Barcelona, Bastogne, Jimmy, Princess Irene, Ronaldo

Division 4: Darwin Hybrid. Strong plants with large flowers. Bulbs often return and bloom for several years. Mid- Spring. 22” tall. Ad Rem, Apricot Impression, Banja Luka, Pink Impression

Division 5: Single Late. Tall, egg-shaped flowers are large and long-lasting. Regal presence in the landscape. Heat tolerant. 22” tall. La Courtine, Menton, Dordogne, Violet Beauty

Division 6: Lily-Flowered. Long, narrow cups with pointed petals that flare out at the top. Excellent for cutting. 12-20” tall. Elegant Lady, Marilyn, Merlot, Pieter de Leur, Sapporo

Division 7: Fringed. The top edge of each petal is whiskered and often slightly paler in color. Bloom time is mid to late spring. Overall height 20”. Carousel, Fancy Frills, Lambada, Red Wing

Division 8: Viridiflora. Streaks of green give these tulips a distinctive look. Most cultivars bloom mid to late spring. Long-lasting cut flowers. 20” tall. Groenland, Spring Green, Flaming Spring Green, Artist

Division 9: Rembrandt. Petals display exotic markings and color breaks. Resemble the tulips in 17th century paintings. 20-24” tall. Rembrandt Mix

Division 10: Parrot. Ruffled, puckered and fringed petals twist as they mature. Excellent cut flowers. Heights vary from 14-22”. Black Parrot, Estella Rijnveld, Silver Parrot, Texas Flame

Division 11: Double Late. Plush, peony-like flowers are long-lasting in the garden or in a vase. Many cultivars are fragrant. 15-22” tall. Angelique, Carnaval De Nice, Upstar, Yellow Pomponette

Division 12: Kaufmanniana. Early bloomers with a tall, narrow cup and pointed petals. Blossoms open out flat in the sun. 8-10” tall. Johann Strauss, Scarlet Baby, Stresa, Heart’s Delight

Division 13: Fosteriana. Also known as Emperor tulips. Big flowers are 4-5” tall and open wide on sunny days. Early spring. 18” tall. Albert Heijn, Orange Emperor, Purissima, Red Emperor

Division 14: Greigii. Decorative foliage adds to the appeal of these flowers. Some cultivars have two to four flowers per stem. 12” tall. Mary Ann, Quebec, Red Riding Hood, Toronto

Division 15: Species. Wild or wild-like cultivars with relatively small flowers on slender stems. Good naturalizers. 4- 10” tall. Lilac Wonder, Lady Jane, Peppermint Stick

Division 16: Multiflowering. Sometimes called “bouquet” tulips. Three to five flowers per stem extends bloom time and impact. 14-20” tall. Candy Club, Flaming Club, Happy Family

The National Garden Bureau recognizes and thanks Kathy Laliberte from Longfield Gardens as author and contributor to this fact sheet. This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau.

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on the Member Directory at http://ngb.org/member-directory/ for details about our members. Gardeners looking for seed and plant sources may click on this link: http://ngb.org/shop-our-members/.

Christmas cactus potting soil

Q I transplanted some Christmas cactus plants in cactus potting soil but it doesn’t seem to be the correct soil. I thought the mix would contain some gravel to keep the soil well drained. Would Miracle Grow potting soil work for Christmas cactus?

A Christmas cactus are not the same type of cactus as the type of cactus one would associate with a hot, dry environment. They are actually sometimes called “jungle cacti” referring to their native environment which has much more moisture but but the plants still need a well-drained growing media. So, I think this mix might work ok, you will just have to water more often. Miracle Grow potting soil could also work fine, but I would maybe add some additional perlite to improve aeration.

Grass ID

Q Could you help me identify this grass? (See photo). Would you know where I might get some for my landscaping?

A This looks to be Chinese Silver Grass or Japanese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis). There are quite a few different cultivars of this popular ornamental grass available. It seems to grow well and is hardy enough for the much of the southeastern part of South Dakota but may have difficulty surviving in areas further north or west. But, it may also do well in the Rapid City area. They have an excellent collection of many of the different cultivars at the MN Landscape Arboretum. This past spring, a new ornamental grass collection was planted at McCrory Gardens. It will be interesting to see how many of the Miscanthus cultivars and other grasses perform in the Brookings area.

Mark your calendars

The annual Music and Mistletoe at McCrory Gardens will be held Friday, December 1, from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m., 631 22nd Ave., at Brookings, S.D.

Join them for a classic holiday evening, igniting the lights and spirit for the season of Garden Glow. Support the Gardens through the purchase of raffle tickets and have the opportunity to win through our Chance-to-Choice Auction – purchase the number of chances you would like – place them in the container of the item(s) of your choice. Winners drawn the night of the event.

Support the Gardens with a Giving Garland Sponsorships – for those that want to support the gardens’ specific needs. We’ll have our wish list ready! Come join us at our one-of-a-kind venue to kick off the season in nostalgic style.

• 7-8:30 p.m. – Hors d’ouerves buffet featuring a “Twist on Tradition” with a cash bar.

• 8:30 p.m. – Grand lighting of Garden Glow 2017 – the biggest show yet!

• 9:00 p.m. – Dessert, coffee and caroling, and a photo-booth – It’s selfie time! Goofy hats, silly ‘staches, maybe even a grass skirt. You know what to do.

Tickets for Music & Mistletoe are $35. Purchase your tickets by calling the welcome desk at (605) 688-6707.