Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

September 23, 2013

How to plant tulips in the desert

It's September 23rd, 2013, and I am planting tulips here at The Tropical Paradise. No, not ordinary tulips, these are the type that tulips looked like before the Dutch started hybridizing them in the 1500s. And that's why I am hopeful, because you really can't grow tulips here in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

I am planting Tulip Dasystemon Tarda. I got these from Easy to Grow Bulbs, my source for some pretty cool stuff, and some great advice.

Anyway, over the years I've planted a lot of bulbs, so I figure that I have made most of the mistakes that can be made. Although I expect I will make more! If I described all of the wrong ways to plant bulbs, this post would be waaaay too long, so here is the right way:

Prepare a planting bed. If you just stick the bulbs in the ground and hope that they will be OK, you're gonna have a bad time. I had this bed all prepared a couple of days before the bulbs arrived.

Get a stick and break off a piece each time you put a bulb in the ground. I had some bamboo sticks from the dollar store. This is just so you can see where you have planted the last bulb. Once they are in the ground, it's kind'a hard to know where to dig for the next one. This is just a trick.

Tulips bulbs and a small bamboo stick
As I plant, I add some slow-release dry plant food and some water crystals. Each bulb gets a little stick directly behind it.

Tulips planted with bamboo stick marking their position.
The bulbs go in, as per the instructions, about three inches deep and two to three inches apart. Once they are in, I water lightly and then mulch.

Tulips planting area mulched
The mulch I use are the leaves that fall from my olive tree. I collect them up in the courtyard and sprinkle them over the planting area. Doesn't look like much now, but I am hoping for the best!

I just learned from Easy to Grow Bulbs that tulips are native to what is much closer to my climate than what the Dutch tulips now need.  They were found growing on the desert slopes of Turkey and Iran.

Update January 3. Wow, I had just about given up on these bulbs ever showing up, and I just saw them today. They're all starting to appear. Let's see, doing the math, they were planted on September 23rd and are just barely visible today, on January 3rd. That's a long time! They must have some serious roots by now! Anyway, I brushed away some of the mulch and gave them a nice drink of water. Hopefully they'll get moving now!

Tulip plants just beginning to emerge on January 3rd, 2014. Planted September 23rd, 2013.

Update January 5. I have gently brushed away the mulch and am now seeing twelve thirteen nice little sprouts.

Tulips sprouts with the mulch brushed away January 5th, 2014. It's time to bring in more light.

Tulip Dasystemon Tarda emerging January 14th, 2014

Tulip Dasystemon Tarda January 28th, 2014.
First signs of division of the emerging sprout. About an inch tall.

Tulip Dasystemon Tarda February 21, 2014.
Not much change in almost a month, still about an inch tall.

Sad to say, they never bloomed. As the summer wore on, they just looked kind'a sickly, so I trimmed them to the ground and planted some other stuff in that area. The bulbs are still in the ground, though, so maybe next year...!
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