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How to grow tulips in problem places


If grown in the right spot, tulips can flower for years on end, adding a splash of dramatic colour to gardens every spring. But they can be difficult to grow in heavy soil or partial shade, only thriving in a light, free-draining medium in full sun. By planting tulips in aquatic baskets, you can 'trick' them into performing well.

Simply plant your tulip bulbs in the baskets and plunge them into your borders. As soon as flowering has come to an end, lift the baskets and leave them in a sunny spot, ensuring the bulbs bake and ripen.

How to do it


Fill the bottom third of an aquatic basket with equal parts of compost and grit. Place bulbs on the surface, at a depth of roughly 10cm, spacing them 3-4cm apart. Cover with compost to the top of the basket.


Prepare a hole in your border the same width as the aquatic basket, and 4-5cm deeper than the height of the basket.


Plunge the basket into the hole and backfill with soil. Water well and mark the spot so that you don't plant over it by mistake.


Once your tulips have finished flowering, remove the dead blooms. Carefully lift the basket out of the soil, leaving the foliage intact.


Stand the basket in a sunny spot to dry out for at least eight weeks, then lift bulbs from the soil, and clean and store them. Don't water them. Then, simply replant in autumn.

Our tip

Tulips can be planted between September and December, but planting them from November onwards can limit the chances of them developing the fungal disease, tulip fire.

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Talkback: How to grow tulips in problem places
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WildGardener2 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Great advice! Thank you!

Sean Fishpool 25/11/2011 at 00:26


Yen 29/08/2012 at 13:52

For step 5, it states that "Stand the basket in a sunny spot to dry out for at least eight weeks". May I know if it is alright if it rains?

How dry does it need to be? And how do you store the bulbs? Do you have to cut the foliage.

kate1123 29/08/2012 at 14:05

After the 8 weeks or when their leaves have died back, I clean off my bulbs, remove any leaves,  bin any that have rotted and store them in a wire basket in the shed.

They need to be stored somewhere dry or they will rot. If you left them in the rain in a puddle that is where the problem starts, I try to get mine under the eaves so that they get the sun but do not get too wet.