Combining various types of tulips

If the only tulips you know are the classic red ones lining a neighbor's walkway, you're in for a treat. The world of tulips is amazingly varied. You can find a wonderful range of hues, from royal purple to golden yellow to shell pink to pure ivory white; there are also many fabulous bicolors, especially the smashing red-and-yellow and pink-and-green ones. Forms also vary, from the popular goblet-shaped flowers (mainly the Darwin hybrids) to ones that resemble plush peonies or elegant lilies. Some tulips have flared or fluted petals or petals with fringed edges. Some are nearly knee-high; others are surprisingly low to the ground. All tulips are equally easy to grow.

But before you get carried away with an ambitious planting scheme, remember also that although tulips are always spring bloomers, they don't all bloom at the same time. You can find everything from "single early" to "double late" tulips, and you have to take these designations into account if you want your plans to work out. Check out the following tips for different types of displays:

  • For single-color displays: Use a large quantity of the same exact tulip variety and plant closely.
  • For mixed-color displays: Stick to a theme, such as pastel or bold colors. Tuck in a few bicolors that tie the display all together. Of course, if you have lots of space, going for the full rainbow can be fun, but to be effective, such a show needs to have a generous number of tulips in every hue.

1 For a longer-lasting show: Research the bloom times so you get a range. Then mix up the varieties up throughout the display so it doesn't look unbalanced and so something is always in bloom.

i For smaller areas or pots: Choose tulips of different heights and place the taller ones in the middle. That way, you can distinguish each one, and the variety and complexity of the show gives it more splash.

Don't plant your tulip display in a shady spot. Some spring bloomers don't mind, but tulips do.

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