Back to Blog

Tulips from bulb to bloom

field of pink tulips stretching forever.

A tulip grows from a bulb. You need to plant the bulb before the end of October (Norhtern hemisphere) so that it spend the winter underground and pop up as a plant in early spring. The plant has 1 flower which opens up and gives us so much viewing pleasure!

When tulips are planted in fields and give us the amazing spectacle of endless flowers, those tulips are being planted to harveset their bulbs. The flowers are a waste product as it happens. When the flowers are at their peak, they are chopped off the plant and discarded.

The plant stays in the ground and the leaves continue photosynthesising for about 6 more weeks. Farmers will even water the plants to keep them alive. All this energy is not being used by the flower, as that’s gone. The energy created goes into producing a beautiful strong bulb. Once the plant everntually dies, the bulbs are lifted.

Amazingly there’s not just 1 bulb, but the original bulb planted will have smaller bulbs growing off the sides of them. These are called offsets and can be separated from the mother bulb and stored and planted the next year. The big strong mother bulb is cleaned and sold to you and me to plant in our gardens.

One thing I find pretty interesting is that when you buy a bulb to plant, the flower is already inside it, in tiny minature form. If you slice the bulb in half, you can see the little yellow flower, they are always yellow at that stage. If you have bought diseased or a bad quality bulb however, there is a strong possibliity that the flower inside will be dead. If that is the case nothing will ever grow from that bulb. Below is an example of a good and bad bulb.

Thankfully, the Flower Market in Amstetrdam hasa recently been exposed as the conmen they are. 1% of bulbs from there actually bloomed. I suspect if you cut any of those bulbs in half the would look like the diseased one below.

You can buy good quality bulbs in Amsterdam front the Tulip Museum and they are also certified for taking into the US. Check out the Tulip Museum website here. You can find them near the Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht.

The main pic of this post is a field of tulips grown by my farmer friends in the Beemster Polder up North of Amsterdam. Every year they plant this type of tulip, amongst others. It’s called a Tompoes, after a Dutch dessert / custard slice that has pink icing and yellow custard. The same way this tulip has a pink top and yellow base. They re my favourite tulip and a field of them is spectacular. I visit this farm on my Kekenhof Tulip tour that runs in April, the above photo was the crop from 2019. If you want to know all about tulips from bulb to bloom then come along on a small group tulip tour, 8 people max and full of fun and info, not to mention pancakes as well!

More info about our Spring Tulip Tour