Monty Don shares ‘essential thing’ gardeners must do planting tulips

Alan Titchmarsh shares what to do with tulips when flowers fall

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Tulips are one of the quintessential plants of spring, producing beautiful pastel or bright vibrant flowers. Tulips can either be planted in containers or planted in borders to create beautiful splays in April and May.

Tulip bulbs need to be planted in November to produce flowers in April and May. They will then need to be cut back in June and July.

Some tulips flower earlier than others. Early-flowering varieties bloom from late March to April, mid-season ones will flower in April to May and late-flowering ones will bloom in May.

With this in mind, gardening expert Monty Don has shared the “essential thing” gardeners must remember when planting tulip bulbs.

Monty, 67, who’s the lead host of Gardeners’ World said November is the “perfect time for tulips” whether they’re being planted in containers or in the ground.

Monty posted on his blog: “November it is tulip-planting time. This is, to my mind, the most important and best job of the month.

“It is actually something that can be done at any time between now and Christmas although the earlier they get into the ground the earlier they will flower.

“The essential thing with all tulips is to make sure that they have good drainage.

“This matters less if they are to be treated as annuals and dug up after they have flowered but even so they will be happier with plenty of grit or sand added to heavy soil.

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“If they are to be permanent it is important to plant them as deep as you can – I often use a crowbar to make a hole 12 inches or more deep – and the deeper they are the stronger and straighter the stem will be.

“If you are growing them in a container then drainage is easier and they do not have to be so deep and can also be planted in layers.

“A tulip lasagne, with an earlier variety such as ‘Orange Emperor’ planted deepest that will flower first, followed by a mid-season variety like ‘Negrita’ planted above it and then finally, in the top layer a late-season one such as ‘Queen of Night’.”

Tulips like a sunny, sheltered spot and well-drained soil. They work best in borders when they’re planted behind perennials.

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If the soil in the garden is heavy clay or too sandy for tulips, add well-rotted organic matter before planting.

Particularly heavy soils can have grit added to the bottom of the planting hole to improve drainage.

Tulip bulbs can be planted from mid-October but November is the best time because it reduces the risk of fungal infections.

Tulip bulbs are at risk of developing a fungal disease known as tulip fire. The fungus attacks the emerging tulip leaves which leads to them becoming malformed.

This can also lead to rotting on both the foliage and the flowers or buds could fail to open all together.

While everything does slow down in November, there’s still plenty to grow in the garden this month.

Daffodil bulbs can also be planted this month as well as Christmas roses, hyacinth bulbs, magnolia trees, heathers and winter-flowering annuals.

Onion, shallot and garlic sets can also be planted outdoors in November along with asparagus crowns.

Rhubarb crowns, strawberry plants, raspberry plants, blackberries, gooseberries and blueberry plants can also be planted this month.

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