collection of coloured tulips in a field

There are so many varieties of tulip from which to choose
Image: paula french/Shutterstock

Think it’s too late to plant tulip bulbs? Fear not. The best time to plant these enduringly popular spring bulbs begins in October. At Thompson & Morgan, we’re always on the lookout for special and unique plants. So which tulips do we love the most?

Here are our top tulip picks, along with other favourites to grow for scent, colour, size and indoor vases…

When to plant tulips

bulb planter from T&M

Plant tulip bulbs in late autumn to a depth of 2-3 times the bulb’s height (8-15cm)
Image: Bulb planter from T&M

Garden centres often try to sell tulip bulbs from late summer but the best time to plant tulips is much later than many people imagine. In fact, you shouldn’t put your early bulbs in the ground before October or November when the soil has had time to cool down.

Colder conditions kill some of the soil-borne pests and diseases that can attack tulip bulbs. Later planting also means your flowers will bloom at the optimum time – mid to late spring. This slightly later display provides a vital splash of colour that perfectly bridges the period between spring-flowering daffodils and the first summer-flowering perennials.

Our three favourite tulips

Tulip 'Florist's Treat Mixed' from T&M

This mix contains voluptuous doubles, fringed petals and a magnificent array of colours
Image: Tulip ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ from T&M

Rather than the usual tulips available in supermarkets, why not grow your own colourful bouquets with ‘Florist’s Treat Mixed’ (featured above)? We love this selection of vibrant, peony-flowered tulips for their unashamed flamboyance.

Also in our top three, ‘Red Impression’ is a classic red tulip. A fantastic perennial, this will come back year after year with a strong display every season. Our top tip? Be bold and grow them nice and close for maximum impact.

Last but not least, our third choice is the classic Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’ which combines the looks of a heritage tulip with modern vigour and a tough attitude! Each petal looks almost hand-painted in the most divine lilac-blue shade. Try giving it pride of place in a container on its own – pack the bulbs in and max out your display.

Best three tulips for fragrance

Double Sugar Tulip from T&M

These frothy sweet-scented blooms beautifully herald the arrival of spring
Image: Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ from T&M

Tulips are usually selected for spring colour rather than scent, but there are several varieties that offer both. For a truly angelic fragrance, choose Tulip ‘Angelique’. Growing up to 50cm tall, it boasts beautiful pink rosettes replete with elegant petals. The perfect spring bulb, grow it in a sunny position that’s sheltered from high winds.

Tulip ‘Double Sugar’ (featured above) takes its name from the delightful sugar-sweet scent of its large ruff-like blooms. Why not give this opulent tulip pride of place in borders and patio containers? Blooming from March through to May, it’s sure to get your summer display off to a vibrant start.

Looking for scent and drama? Tulip ‘Blenda-Flame’ makes a great addition to spring gardens. Featuring dazzling white blooms with stunning cerise variegation – this tulip is perfect for mass planting in beds and borders and offers a pleasingly subtle perfume.

Best three miniature tulips

Tulip Ground Cover Mix from T&M

Growing to just 25cm high, these mixed tulips are a clever way to suppress weeds
Image: Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix from T&M

Miniature tulips look fabulous at the front of borders and around the edges of your container displays. Coming in a fantastic array of colours and shapes, they’re also less likely to be battered by wind or spring showers.

Tulip ‘Red Riding Hood’ offers lovely mottled and striped foliage which gives way to striking and long-lasting red blooms. Growing to 20cm in height, this miniature tulip will thrive in your rockery, and makes a good cut flower too.

If you’re looking for spring ground cover to provide a dazzling display and discourage weed growth, you’ll love our Tulip ‘Ground Cover’ Mix (featured above). An ensemble of varieties, this low-growing mix includes the ever-popular butter-yellow ‘Tulip Tarda’.

Another top ground-cover selection, Tulip ‘Murillo Mixed’ offers early colour, and excellent longevity, ensuring your borders are filled with action until the first of your summer blooms kicks in.

Best three tulips for cut flowers

Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Gorgeous in bouquets with pale pinks or sizzling reds
Image: Tulip ‘Black Satin’ from T&M

Tulips are guaranteed to add extravagance to your spring cut flower displays, enriching your home and bringing their delightful early season scent indoors.

Looking for a professional colour matched cut-flower display? Try our gorgeous ‘Tulip Magic Lavender’ and ‘Mango Charm’ collection. Blooming simultaneously, flamboyant deep mauve and complementary soft yellow-pink combine to bring harmony to your borders and vases.

For a cut flower display which really packs a punch, you can’t beat Tulip ‘Striped Mix’. Combining three varieties; Tulip ‘Slawa’, Tulip ‘Gavota’ and Tulip ‘Havran’, it guarantees spring vases with the ‘wow’ factor.

And for something really unique, add a stunning contrast to your cut flower arrangements with Tulip ‘Black Satin’ (featured above). This deep maroon-black flower contrasts perfectly with soft pink. Alternatively, try combining it with rich reds for sultry bouquets that ooze gothic sensuality.

Whichever tulips you choose for your borders, containers and cut flower displays, do remember to plant your tulip bulbs later in the autumn after the soil has had time to cool. That way, you’ll give your tulips the best chance of producing a warm and vibrant spring display.

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