Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on December 1, 2005. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
It's time to plant tulips, hyacinths
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
This year was my first time to take part in the Black Friday Christmas shopping chaos. From now on, I'll just stay at home and plant bulbs. I am not talking about daffodils, although I suppose if you found a good buy you could certainly do that. What I am really talking about are tulips and hyacinths purchased back in October.
I am from the old school that buys the bulbs in October and chills them in the refrigerator until planting time in December. Be warned that this too can be problematic. The story is legendary in a county Extension office in Texas. A guy in Fort Worth wanted to surprise his wife by cooking a pot roast for dinner. The real surprise came when she realized that the weird onions placed around the roast were actually her prized tulips from Holland.
Regardless of whether or not you are a chiller, there is still a prerequisite -- preparing the bed. What a waste to spend money on tulips, spend time cooling them in the refrigerator and then shortchange the bed in preparation efforts. Leave them in the refrigerator and prepare that bed. Make it good and deep, organic-rich and well drained. Get those weeds out.
Next, take the bulbs out of the fridge. Daffodils, by the way, can still be planted, too. While we like to scatter daffodils to look like they are naturalized, we most often like tulips better if we treat them like toy soldiers or arrange them in a more formal design. Line them up like a marching band going down the football field.
In recent years, I have seen the tulip interspersed with pansies and violas, some even with Red Giant Mustard. This approach also works very well. Don't forget to plant them deep enough, about two and a half times as deep as the bulb is wide.
While very erect, the hyacinth looks too formal for the marching band design, yet it is not informal enough to be scattered like the daffodil. What does look good is to plant them in drifts and create a mass look. Hyacinths need to be planted 3 to 5 inches deep.
To me, there is not a better fragrance than that of the hyacinth. Sometimes I feel similar to a cat that rolls in the catnip. A bed of blooming hyacinths makes me want to “waller” in them.
You can take this olfactory “sensorama” indoors by saving some for forcing. There are actually little bulb vases made just for hyacinths. Once you force some like this, you will forever be hooked. You can force tulips, but I like to see these in small containers or bowls mixed with other bulbs that will bloom in a two or three week-long sequence.
We can grow tulips as pretty as anywhere in the world. When they are finished, simply dispose of them.