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Growing parrots in the garden

SubmittedPhoto Parrot tulips are fancy and flashy! Shown starting at top left and going clockwise, 'Flaming Parrot', Black Parrot', 'Orange Favorite' and 'Estella Rijnveld'.

Parrot tulips are stunning in the garden and dazzling in floral bouquets!

When it gets frosty outside, it’s time to plant tulips! Nothing can match the bright colors of tulips in springtime.

Our garden centers and online stores offer lots of different tulips. Emperor tulips bloom early — great when paired with daffodils. Darwin Hybrids have big flowers and sturdy stems. Botanical tulips have charming blossoms that look like water lilies.

This year, I invite you to try the tulips with the most dramatic blooms: the parrots.

Parrot tulips are absolutely fascinating. Their blooms are giant and feathery. The ruffled petals may be streaked with bright flames, stripes and splashes of color. Parrot tulips are stunning in the garden and dazzling in floral bouquets.

The biggest bulbs will give you the most vigorous plants. For tulips, the biggest bulbs will be 12+ cm in diameter (look on the package for size). The 11/12-cm tulips are fine. Avoid the small 10/11 cm in size; these bargain bulbs produce weak plants that fade out after one year.

To maximize impact, plant six or more bulbs of each cultivar. Plant bulbs in clumps or drifts, not in rows.

Now is the best time to plant tulips. You can plant until the ground freezes, but earlier planting leads to stronger roots and healthier growth.

Tulips demand a well-drained soil. Add and mix an inch of organic matter (peat moss or compost) to the bed before planting. Sprinkle a bulb fertilizer containing timed-release nitrogen over the soil surface and work it in. A garden fertilizer such as 5-10-10 can be used as a substitute. Bone meal is not recommended since it is not a complete fertilizer and attracts varmints that dig up the bulbs. Water the bulbs thoroughly to start them growing.

Parrot tulips grow best in sunny spots sheltered from high winds — their big blossoms may flop over in a windy area. A sunny spot will help the bulbs to regenerate themselves and come back the following spring. Parrot bulbs are short-lived; only about two or three years.

Parrot tulips may be planted in containers. Pot them up, keeping the tips of the bulbs near the soil surface. Space the bulbs closely, only about an inch apart. Water them and set the pots in an unheated garage. They will begin sprouting after 12-14 weeks. Bring them in the house and watch their beauty unfurl before your eyes!

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