Growing Tulips as a Cut Flower
(and why they’re different from your regular garden tulips)
You know tulips from your own garden, but you likely haven’t experienced the unique specialty tulips available to cut flower growers. There are frilly, many-petaled varieties that can pass as garden roses and double-height blooms that look like two scoops of ice cream. Perhaps the best aspect of many specialty tulips? The scent. You haven’t met a fragrant tulip in your garden before.
When growing tulips to perennialize, gardeners plant in fall with a bulb planter, often scattering them throughout a bed. I plant tulips in Fall, too, but I’m thinking about them as an annual. I dig a section of a bed about six inches deep and place the bulbs as tight as eggs in an egg carton. Using this tight spacing, I can fit 100 bulbs in about four square feet.
The first section that I dig, I place in a wheelbarrow. For each successive section, I use the dirt from where I’m digging to cover the previous section. This way, I’m only moving the dirt once.
Come Spring, when the tulips buds start to color, I use a pitchfork to loosen the bulbs’ roots and pull the whole plant out of the ground with the bulb attached. The bulbs act as a built-in food source for the flowers until the week of Mother’s Day, when most of my tulips are destined to reach customers.
To prepare the flowers, I cut the bulb off and place the tulips in a hydrating solution to ensure the longest vase life.
Depending on the variety and the wholesale source, each tulip bulb is somewhere between $0.20 and $0.80. It’s a big investment in Fall, and sometimes feels like burying money in the ground. This is especially true when you compare tulips to other annual flowers grown from seed. Each tulip bulb equals one flower, but a fancy zinnia seed is about $0.05, and each plant can produce 20+ stems.
Because of this huge difference in cost, locally grown tulips cost more for me (and other growers) to produce. Most early Spring flowers are grown from bulbs so I need to price them accordingly.
I hope you enjoy them and appreciate their value as much as I do!
westlanevt (at) gmail.com