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Getting tulips to last

RullahRullah Posts: 54
Hi all, first of all I am brand new here, so apologies if I'm posting in the wrong place. 

We have installed a new (very big) raised bed and I would like to add around 200 tulips to it. However, I do not have the time nor patience to be digging them up to store each year, and don't really want to be buying new ones yearly either. 

My garden is south facing and (sometimes unbearably) hot. The raised bed is still currently empty, so I am able to add whatever is necessary to make conditions as appealing as possible for the tulips. I do have some tulips that have been coming back for about 4 years already, they would have been bought from a supermarket so no idea what type they are, but some are red and some pink. They are in very well draining planters that were filled purely with B&Qs cheapest type of compost. Because of this, I assumed all tulips came back yearly with no hassle, and was pretty gutted to discover otherwise! 

Now for my questions: 

1. Do you have any tulips in your garden that come back year after year, and if yes, do you know the name of them? Bonus points if they are purple, pink or white as these are the colours I would prefer!

2. Do you know the name of any tulips in your garden that definitely didn't last more than one year? I have heard that the fancier they are, the less chance they stand of coming back (sob sob because I love the frilly looking ones)

3. Am I right in thinking the best conditions for my raised bed would be to put a lot of gravel at the bottom so it drains really well? What else should I ideally do? 

4. I have no real preference with what else goes in there, other than a bit of a wild flowery look (doesn't need to specifically be 'wildflowers' just look a bit wild) anything you would recommend to keep it looking great through the year?

If you've got this far, many thanks!!! 


  • SkandiSkandi Posts: 1,721
    I got given lots of purple tulips a couple of years ago, some doubles some frilly very dark nearly black ones and some single purple, I chucked them in the front flower bed I have well drained chalky soil and they are in a S/E facing bed which is shaded from May through to September.
    I have not noticed any losses, the fancy frilly black ones are coming back just as well as the double purples and the single purples. I also have some plain reds that manage in an unweeded bed full of ground elder.
    Unfortunalty they came direct from holland with some friends so I have no idea what the variety names are but all types flower every year and I do not really weed or take care of them at all, they do not get any fertiliser and they have to fight it out with bluebells, roses, and any weed than wants to grow there.
  • arneilarneil Posts: 312
    I never lift mine , at the moment they are blooming amongst the Agapanthus leaves that are struggling to break through 
  • RullahRullah Posts: 54
    @Skandi thank you, that is great to hear that you have some more 'fancy' ones that are doing well! "I do not really weed or take care of them at all" is definitely my style of gardening, so glad go hear that it is working!
  • RullahRullah Posts: 54
    @arneil that's great to hear. To be honest I had no idea that you were supposed to lift them until I recently started looking into buying them in bulk. I was a bit shocked as all previous ones I'd casually chucked in the ground had always come back.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353
    The species ones are the only ones which reliably return. They still need good growing conditions, and I lose some each year, but most tulips will only give a light repeat showing in subsequent years, or no show at all, and how well they reappear will depend on general growing conditions, location and climate :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Bee witchedBee witched Posts: 1,264
    Hi @rosielullah and welcome to the Forum,

    I have two types of tulips which I never lift and which come back each year.
    I garden in a damp valley in southern Scotland .... so if they are happy with me they should be happy in your sunny site.

    Tulip Red Impression - had this for at least 10 years now.

    and Tulip Negrita - 4th year for this

    Getting the drainage right is important, and once they are finished snip off the spent flowerhead to avoid them wasting energy. Feed with a high potash liquid feed a couple of times as they are dying back.

    Look for tulips that are of the Darwin or Triumph type as they are said to be more reliably perennial.

    I grow Geranium 'Ann Folkard' alongside the tulips as it soon hides the dying foliage. It's a bit of a sprawler  ... in a nice way.
    lt would be fine in your south facing bed.
    This year I'm going to add some californian poppies for a bit of extra zing. 'Ann Folkard' produces purple,blooms regularly to prolong flowering.

    Bee x

    Gardener and beekeeper in beautiful Scottish Borders  

    A single bee creates just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,070
    edited April 2021
    I have two species tulips, both in the pink spectrum, that come back reliably - "Lilac Wonder" and "Little Beauty". (other suppliers available, I picked ones with realistic-looking pics). I have well-drained sandy soil (much improved over the years, but still drains well).
    I have a few random bigger types that have come back but I don't know the names. I like to grow other things in the same space to flower in summer/autumn so the tulip bulbs don't get sun-baked, which might be part of the reason why many don't come back reliably, but I don't want bare empty patches all summer just for the sake of keeping the tulips going.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • micearguersmicearguers Posts: 625
    I have 'Ronaldo' (apparently a Triumph variety) that was once a surprise free addition to a bulb order from Parkers, and they have been coming back for a few years now even without snipping seed heads or extra feeds. It's a beautiful smokey dark purple.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353
    Yes - I have Ronaldo too @micearguers, and a few have kept going for about three years now. As @Bee witched says, there are some which can be kept going for a few years, and the Triumph types are definitely fairly good. I might take a look at Negrita for future years too  :)
    The red and yellow Apeldoorn types are also quite reliable. 
    Nyssens, and many other suppliers, list their varieties by species, so it's easier to pick those ones if you want to be more assured of a more reliable return. Many are smaller though, which isn't always what people want for a display. 

    Generally though, it's quite hard in the UK to produce the conditions many tulips really need, and as long as people know that, they can plan in advance. If they get a few that keep going, it's a lovely bonus  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • edhelkaedhelka Posts: 2,350
    Most tulips come back in my garden if they are in the ground (the ones in pots don't). Interestingly, daffodils don't (or not the fancy ones). I have sandy soil.
    The fancy tulip varieties can be less fancy in their second or third year (I'll find some photos).
    I usually prefer to add some new tulips every year and remove the ones that come out blind.
    A very reliable tulip for me (4 years or more) is Queen of Night.
    Peter Nyssen have some tulips listed as more perennial than others, these would be a good start.
    A raised bed should drain well if it is filled with topsoil, maybe mix in some grit but don't overdo it, you don't want the bed to get too dry in summer.
    Hardy geraniums would be good after tulips, they start growing just in time to hide dying tulips' foliage.
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