Both tulips and daffodils are "hardy" bulbs because they can tolerate our Canadian winter and are planted in the fall to fill gardens with spectacular colour in the early spring. Fall planting is so that they can get their roots and other structures established. A strong root system is needed for water and nutrient uptake in the spring when they are flowering. The leaves and flower buds also begin to form within the bulb before winter to be ready for spring flowering. Then just like an intermission between periods in a hockey game, the growth pauses for the winter. Tulips and daffodils require this cold period (also called vernalization) to start the flowering process. They need a minimum of 10-12 weeks of cold below 4 C, longer doesn't hurt them either, that is why tulips and daffodils are ideal flowers for our Canadian gardens.
How to Grow Tulips and Daffodils Successfully
Tulips and daffodils have 2 essential requirements:
good soil drainage
sunlight - they like lots of it!
If you can meet these 2 requirements your bulbs will produce blooms in the spring.
When to Plant:
Daffodils need to be planted earlier than tulip bulbs, so early fall (mid-October) is best for daffodils. Tulip bulbs prefer a bit later planting, towards the end of fall (late October, early November). This is a great advantage of tulip bulbs, they don't mind if you procrastinate, they prefer if you do your other fall gardening chores first and plant them when it's starting to feel like winter is near.
Where to Plant:
Plant in full sun. You want to find a spot where tulips and daffodils will get minimum 6 hours of sunlight daily during the spring bloom period. Remember this can still be close to or under trees in your yard because tulips and daffodils will begin to bloom before most trees have fully leafed out in the spring.
Tulips and daffodils will grow in most soil types as long as there is good drainage. The optimum soil type is sandy loam, so if you have heavy clay soil we would recommend adding some potting soil or compost to the hole before you plant the tulip or daffodil bulb. Also make sure to loosen the soil before planting, this helps with drainage and will allow for the flower to easily push up through the ground in the spring.
How to Plant:
Dig a hole roughly 6 inches deep (or 3 times as deep as the bulb height) to plant your tulip or daffodil bulbs in. Space bulbs 3-6 inches apart. This is very important as tulips and daffodils multiply over time, so you want them to have space to expand. Place the bulb at the bottom of the hole with the pointed tip facing upwards. Cover the bulb up with the loose soil, and if you have some mulch or compost spread that on the surface above where you planted the bulbs. Give the bulbs a deep watering after planting.
Then let Mother Nature do her job while you start dreaming of spring.