Growing tulips and daffodils in a garden

Tulips and daffodils are highly valued for their bold splashes of color in the spring. Growing them together will extend the early flowering season well into late spring.

Tulips and daffodils are highly valued for their bold splashes of color in the spring. Growing them together will extend the early flowering season well into late spring.

Tulips are an excellent flower for beds or borders and many daffodils are especially suited for grassy areas. Dwarf forms are ideal for rock gardens, in containers or hanging baskets.

Tulip and daffodil bulbs in a formal bed usually look best planted in groups of the same species, whether bordering with other plants or forming a single, swaying sea of color in a formal bed or flowing over into the grass. Plant the bulbs in blocks of each color, each of one type of bulb or in mixed groups that flower at different times to provide a long display of color during the spring.

Using bulbs in a mixed border extends the flowering season before the herbaceous shrubs in the border begin to grow and spread. Smaller daffodils can be planted in front of the shrubs to bring that area alive in early spring.

Planting tulips and daffodils in ornamental pots, window boxes and other containers can provide a varied and spectacular color for any area around the house or garden. After these bulbs have completed their blooming and began to die down, the bulbs can be lifted and planted in the garden for next year and the containers used for the tender summer perennials and annuals.

Tulips are divided into fifteen divisions based on the flower form, but are grouped by their flowering season. Planting a variety of these different tulip groupings will extends the blooming season over a longer period of time.

Early tulips have classic, goblet—shaped blooms with a variety of stripes, flushed or margined petals. Midseason tulips including Triumph tulips and the Darwin hybrids have rich and intensely colored flowers, often with a satin, basal blotch and dark, velvety anthers. Late season tulips have the most vibrant colors of intricate forms of all the tulips. Dwarf species such as compact Kaufmanniana hybrids produce brightly colored blooms early in spring while the taller Fosterianan and Greigii tulips usually flower a little later.

Most tulips thrive in fertile, well-drained humus soils in sun and some shelter from winds. In ideal conditions some robust cultivars persist from year to year. Many, however, are best regarded as short-lived after a few years and should be discarded. Where soils warm up rapidly, unless planted deep, the bulbs usually divide into several smaller ones, which are too small to produce flowers. These should be dug up and new healthier ones planted.

Daffodils or sometimes called Narcissus, are among the easiest and most rewarding bulbs to grow. Daffodils provide a wide variety of shapes and forms from the tiny Cyclamineus hybrid with their swept-back petals to the tall trumpet daffodils and the showier double form. Most developments include the split corona and collarette types. In addition to the characteristic bright golden flowers, varieties display a wide range of shades of white, yellow, pink and orange.

Daffodils can be planted in containers if they are deep enough to allow two inches of rooting space below the bulb. In the garden, daffodils are the most reliable bulbs for naturalizing or planted as if nature placed them. The bulbs rarely need lifting in borders or in grass.

Daffodils will grow in almost any soil type, but prefer well-drained soils that are slight alkaline. They thrive in full sun or light, spotted shade. Plant the bulbs, including tulip bulbs, two to three times their depth in late summer or early fall.

When purchasing tulips and daffodil bulbs always buy the bulbs when they are fresh, which usually means as soon as they arrive at the store. Look for firm plump bulbs that haven’t dried out.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column for The Lawton Constitution.