*Looking for a quick tulip review? Scroll down to the end.*
Fringed, Parrot, Double, French...nothing says spring like tulips. But if you're growing in a warmer climate you know that sometimes your tulips are 2" tall, if they even bloom at all. It's so frustrating to wait all winter for those colors to shine only to have nothing. So let's fix that!
First and foremost, let's dispel a myth. It's NOT a "bad batch of bulbs". Do bulbs vary in quality? Absolutely. But when an entire growing region struggles with the same problem, you can be assured there's a greater underlying reason. And for our region it's water and cool temperatures.
Water also plays a key role in tulip success. When you first plant your tulips, you need to give them a good watering. Not only does this help to settle the soil around the bulb, it encourages the bulb to root. The amount of watering for tulips after this initial watering depends on the amount of rain and/or snow that you receive. If you live in an area that receives consistent moisture, then most likely you won't need to supplement that. However, if you're in an area that receives little or very inconsistent moisture, you'll need to water them a few times over the course of the winter. Remember that you have planted these bulbs 6"-8" deep and you'll need enough water to reach that far.
There has been some debate on whether gardeners in zone 7 should pre-chill their bulbs. (Pre-chilling is when you place your bulbs in 33°-45° temperatures before you plant them; zones 8 and higher need to do this) Pre-chilling is an extra step in the process, but there's no such thing as providing too much chilling time. To pre-chill at home, simply place your bulbs in a refrigerator for the amount of weeks you want to chill them, making sure they have ample airflow. However, DO NOT place them in a refrigerator with any food products. Fruits and vegetables emit ethylene gas which can kill the flower inside your bulb. If you'd rather skip this step, it's possible to buy pre-chilled bulbs. Most bulbs you buy are not pre-chilled, so you'll want to ask before you purchase if it's not specified.