Tulips (genus Tulipa) and Daffodils (genus Narcissus) are often the first flowers of spring. Tulips are available for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, while daffodils grow in USDA zones 3 through 11. Most daffodils feature bright yellow tubular flowers, while tulips come in a rainbow of colors. Mixing the two bulbs in a single bed creates a colorful spring display and can increase the flowering period if you mix early-flowering daffodils with midseason or late-blooming tulips. Both flowers grow best with full, all-day sunlight and have similar care needs, making them amiable companions.
1. Spread a 2-inch (5 cm) thick layer of compost and 1 pound (450 g) of 10-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet (4.6 square meters) of garden bed in the fall. Dig the compost and fertilizer into the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil with a shovel.
2. Arrange the tulip and daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Generally, cluster 5 to 7 bulbs together, spacing the bulbs 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) apart within the cluster but setting clusters 12 inches (30 cm) apart. Alternate the bulbs in the cluster between tulips and daffodils so that each cluster contains both flowers for an informal look. For a more formal look, alternate clusters only containing daffodils with clusters only containing tulips.
3. Dig a planting hole for each bulb using a trowel. Make the hole deep enough that the flat bottom of the bulb is at a depth equal to about three times the bulb’s width. Set the bulbs in their holes, and fill the holes in with soil.
4. Water the bulb bed immediately after planting to help settle the soil. The tulips daffodils require no further care until growth begins in spring.
5. Resume watering when the bulbs send up shoots in spring. Provide about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water weekly, or enough to moisten the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil, if spring rain doesn’t keep the soil moist.
6. Sprinkle 1 pound (450 g) of 10-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet (4.6 square meters) of bed, applying the fertilizer to the soil between bulb clusters, after shoots appear. Water the fertilizer into the soil so that the roots can access the nutrients.
7. Cut off the flowers as soon as they begin to wilt. Depending on the variety, daffodils may bloom earlier than tulips, so removing the old daffodils prevents them from detracting from the tulips’ beauty. Cut back the foliage after it dies back naturally, usually about six weeks after flowering.
Most tulip and daffodil bulbs require no further maintenance after they go dormant in summer as long as winters drop below 45°F (7°C) for at least 8 weeks. If a cold-enough winter isn’t expected, dig up the bulbs after the foliage dies and store them between 40 and 45 °F (4.5 and 7 °C) to provide this cold treatment. Replant the bulbs in late winter for spring flowering.
You can apply a 2- to 3-inch (5 to 7.5 cm) layer of mulch to prevent weeds from invading the dormant bulb bed, if desired.
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