Since tulips were brought to Europe from Asia in the 16th century, they have been popular and showy additions to flower gardens; there are more than 100 varieties. Among the most dramatic are the parrot tulips, whose petals have scalloped or fringed edges. Although they are prized for their beauty, parrot tulips are notoriously tricky to grow, because their stems tend to be weak. Parrot tulips bloom in mid- or late spring, so they should be planted in October or November in most of the U.S.
- Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need
- Soil testing kit
- Lime (optional)
- Compost (optional)
- Tulip bulbs
- Watering can or hose
- Parrot tulips’ dramatic blossoms and relatively weak stems make them vulnerable to wind.
Choose your site. Most tulips can tolerate partial shade, but parrot tulips are very vulnerable to cold. Because they are also vulnerable to wind, choose a sheltered location to plant them.
- Test the soil. Tulips prefer soil that is nearly neutral, or very slightly acidic (pH of 6.0 to 7.0). Follow the directions on the soil testing kit and amend the soil, if necessary. Lime will make the soil more alkaline, and compost or old leaves will make the soil more acidic. Compost is a good, all-purpose soil amendment, adding nutrients and conditioning clay or sandy dirt as well as modifying pH.
- Tulip bulbs have pointed tops and flatter or slightly rounded bottoms.
Dig a narrow hole about 6 inches deep for each bulb. Place a bulb right side up in each hole. The top of a tulip bulb is usually more pointed. Space your holes at least 2 or 3 inches apart.
- Cover the bulbs with about half the soil from the hole and water thoroughly, then fill the hole and gently tamp soil over the bulbs. Water again when the hole is refilled.
- Fertilize the garden. Use a well-balanced fertilizer, about 10-10-10, and spread 3 to 4 lbs. per 100 square feet of garden space.
- Mulching the flower bed will protect the bulbs from cold and dryness over the winter.
Spread mulch 2 to 3 inches thick over the garden. Mulch will insulate the soil over the winter months. You can use straw, bark, pine needles or other plant-based mulches, depending on the appearance you prefer, what is available in your area, and your soil conditions. Contact your local agricultural extension office for specific recommendations.
- Fertilize again, when shoots emerge in the spring, but more lightly; use 1 to 2 lbs. of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden space.
Tips & Warnings
Parrot tulips make striking cut flowers, but as the blooms are exposed to sunlight, they gradually open out, losing their distinctive tulip shape. Cut them early or late in blooming, depending on the look you want for your flower arrangement.
Parrot tulips are very sensitive to cold. Although most cultivars can be grown in hardiness zones 4 to 7, you should consider planting them in containers if your area is prone to cold snaps during spring. In addition, if your garden bed is near your house, the tulips will receive some measure of protection from cold temperatures.