Most have one or two basal leaves with several shorter ones up the stem. A few have a basal tuft of leaves. They typically bear single flowers which are goblet-shaped or cup-shaped with six petals which may be rounded or pointed on the upper edge. A few have two or more flowers per stem. The height of plants varies with the species from as low as 10cm to as tall as 70cm.
They prefer an alkaline, well-drained, fertile soil. Most should be planted at a depth of around 10-20cm, 15cm on average. They may be planted deeper in light soils but not in heavy soils i.e. plant deeper in sandy soils or warmer localities and shallower in heavy soils or colder areas. In warmer climates, plant when ground temperatures are at, or lower than, 14°C and are falling. Plant in late autumn in snow prone areas. Plant in winter in milder areas (earlier flowering varieties have a better chance of performing well in milder climates). Select large, firm, healthy bulbs for planting, and only buy bulbs from a reputable nursery to avoid bringing disease into your garden.
In heavy soils, grow in raised beds. Plant in full sun - if grown in shade, the bulbs will deteriorate over several seasons. Bulbs will grow well in pots or tubs (plant about 15cm deep in pots). Smaller types grow well in rockeries. Commercial crops are often treated with a pre-emergent herbicide after cultivation and forming the soil into mounded rows.
Dig in manure or blood and bone some time before planting. Water regularly but not heavily. The soil must remain moist but not saturated. In pots, only water in the morning.
If growing as a garden plant, remove faded flowers as rotting stems can spread infections to other parts of the plant.
In mild areas, it is best for bulbs to be lifted annually after flowering when foliage is dying back. In snow prone, cold climates, they can be left in the ground for several seasons provided drainage is reasonable. Species tulips normally only need lifting every two to three seasons. After lifting, clean the bulbs (and possibly dust with a fungicide) before storing in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. Bulbs should be kept at a temperature no higher than 20°C over summer.
The easiest way to propagate tulips is by lifting the bulbs and separating offsets. These should be stored dry over winter. When planting out in spring, plant larger bulbils deeper than smaller ones. Larger bulbs may flower that season but smaller ones may take several years to flower.
Species and their natural varieties may be grown from ripe seeds harvested and sown in pots at the end of summer. Seedlings die off in the summer but the soil should be retained and kept dry. Commence watering the following spring. After the leaves die off in summer the bulbs can be planted out permanently. Garden varieties grown from seeds rarely grow true to type.
Tulips are prone to virus diseases such as arabis mosaic virus and cucumber mosaic virus which are often visible as disturbances in the colours of petals or bleached marks on the leaves. Other viruses cause brown blotches and death of plants. Grey bulb rot may destroy new shoots and is swiftly followed by blackening and destruction of bulbs. Tulip fire may result in scorched spotting followed by fungal growths and black bodies on the bulbs which rot. Various physiological disorders may also affect stored bulbs or cause withering or blindness in growing bulbs.
Pests include eelworms which may infest stems or bulbs causing distorted growth or death. Aphids may attack stored bulbs or young shoots. Slugs and rodents also eat bulbs.
Uses: Massed plantings, border plants, bedding plants, rockeries, pot plants, cut flowers.
Tulips are classified into fifteen groups based upon botanical origin, time of flowering, and flower shape. There are over 4,000 registered cultivars. The groups are:
Division 1. Single Early Tulips - to 15-40cm tall. These have single flowers, the flower petals sometimes flatten out in full sun, and they flower early to mid-spring in cool temperate climates.
T. 'Diana' - with white flowers.
T. 'Pink Beauty' - deep pink flowers with a white base.
Division 2. Double Early Tulips – to 25-40cm tall. These have double flowers 6-10cm wide. They flower in early to mid-spring in cold temperate climates
T. 'David Teniers' - purple to mauve flowers.
T. 'Peach Blossom' - dark pink flowers.
Division 3. Triumph Tulips - to 60cm tall. They have sturdy, conical-shaped flowers which resist bad weather. They flower in early to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Garden Party' - pink flowers with a white base and margin.
T. 'Orange Wonder' - deep orange with red tinge.
Division 4. Darwin Hybrids - to 60-70cm tall. These have large and showy flowers. They flower in mid to late spring. They are crosses of Darwin tulips and T. fosteriana.
T. 'Beauty of Apeldoorn' - orange inside with a black base and red tinge on outside of petals.
T. 'Golden Oxford' - yellow flowers with red margins.
Division 5. Single Late Tulips (Sometimes called Darwin tulips, but not Darwin hybrids) - to 50-75cm tall. Their petals are rounded. They flower in late spring, or in cold areas sometimes in early summer.
T. 'Charles Needham' - with bright red flowers.
T. 'Queen of Night' - with deep purple flowers.
Division 6. Lily Flowered Tulips - to 45-60cm tall. The petals are curved outwards and pointed. The flowers are delicate. They flower in late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Arkadia' - bright golden yellow flowers.
T. 'China Pink' - pink flowers with a white base.
T. 'La Tulipe Noire' - with dark chocolate purple flowers.
Division 7. Fringed (Crispa) Tulips - to 60-80cm tall. The flower petals have a fringed edge.
T. 'Arma' - red flowers with dark red outer shading.
T. 'Blue Heron' - mauve-purple flowers.
Division 8. Viridiflora (Cottage) Tulips - to 30-90cm tall. The petals have some shades of green in them.
T. 'Artist' - salmon petals with a green vertical central stripe.
T. 'Deirdre' - white flowers with green stripes.
Division 9. Rembrandt Tulips - 40-70cm tall. The petals have streaks of colour (caused by a virus). They are late flowering.
T. 'May Blossom' - cream flowers with purple blotches.
T. 'Zomerschoon' - pinkish-red flowers with cream blotches.
Division 10. Parrot Tulips - to 45-60cm tall. Their petals are twisted and have a frilly or fringed edge. They are late flowering.
T. 'Black Parrot' - deep purple flowers
T. 'Blue Parrot' - blue to purple flowers
Division 11. Double Late Tulips (also known as Paeony Tulips) - to 40-60cm tall. These have double, showy flowers. They are delicate flowers with sturdy stalks. They flower mid to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Blue Flag'- violet flowers.
T. 'Brilliant Fire' - fragrant red flowers.
Division 12. Kauffmanniana Tulips - These are bred mainly from Tulipa kaufmanniana. To 10-25cm tall. They have 6cm diameter flowers similar to those of a water lily. The flowers usually bicoloured.
T. 'Mendelssohn' - cream and red flowers.
T. 'Johann Strauss' - cream, white and red flowers.
Division 13. Fosteriana (Emperor) Tulips - These are derived mainly from Tulipa fosteriana. To 45cm tall. They have very large and brightly coloured flowers.
T. 'Canatata' - red flowers.
T. 'Purissima' - yellow and cream flowers.
Division 14. Greigii Tulips - These are bred mainly from Tulipa greigii. To 20-40cm tall. Their foliage usually has streaks of colour and an attractive twisted or wavy shape. They flower in mid to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Red Ring Hood' - red flowers.
T. 'Yellow Dawn' - yellow and red flowers.
Division 15. Species (Botanical) Tulips - characteristics vary greatly. Some are commonly grown, but not usually for cut flowers.
T. kaufmannia (Water Lily Tulip) - to 25cm tall. White flowers with red and yellow outer marks.
T. pulchella - to 15cm tall. Violet flowers with greenish bases.
WHY WOULD YOU STUDY THIS COURSE?
A graduate from this course is more capable of growing better quality cut flowers; and making a success of it.
For some, this may lead to better employment opportunities, and for others it may be better business opportunities.
If you want to be successful with cut flowers, you first need to acquire the general horticultural skills covered in the first half of this course. That provides an underpinning foundation needed to develop an ability to grow any type of plant in any type of situation, from woody shrubs to perennials, herbs, bulbs and even annual flowers.
Being successful however requires more than just an ability to grow. You also need to understand what can be grown, then choose what you grow according to the resources you have and the market potential that exists where you are operating.
Cut flower operations can be commercially viable on relatively small properties (even a quarter acre or less); if you are growing appropriate plants in an appropriate way.
This course raises your knowledge and awareness in all of these areas, and leaves you with a highly valuable foundation upon which you can build a career or business in the cut flower industry.