Tulips have long captured the hearts of Ontario gardeners with their stunning colours, diverse varieties, and remarkable resilience to our region’s early spring weather. They serve as both a beacon of resilience, and a promise of warmer days ahead!


This spring, Rockway Gardens showcased a captivating array of tulip varieties, ranging from delicate species tulips to extravagant parrots. As we eagerly await the Plant and Bulb Sale on May 25th, where many GardenKitchener members will have the opportunity to take home some of their favourites, we’re sharing some timely tulip tips to ensure everyone’s 2025 spring gardens thrive!


Alanna Groen-Brunsting, from Green Corners, Ottawa’s renowned “U-Pick” flower farm, recently led a GardenKitchener seminar on forcing tulips for winter arrangements. She’s kindly shared a number of her invaluable insights with us, below. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener seeking inspiration or a beginner just starting out on your bulb gardening journey, read on for some expert advice and elevate your tulip experience!


Q1: Do you have any tips for planting tulips, and keeping them safe from wildlife?

Alanna Groen-Brunsting (A): You can plant your bulbs in the fall or the spring. Generally waiting until the fall is best to plant your bulbs so that the risk of disease is lower than planting now. However, sometimes it is hard to remember where all your bulbs are and so planting in the spring means you can see where you are planting in relation to your other bulbs. For spring planting: If your bulbs still have greenery attached that isn’t dried out, plant the bulbs with the greenery. If the greenery on the bulb is dried, you can pull it off before planting or storing the bulbs. For fall planting: store your bulbs in a cool spot over the summer, like a garage or basement, in a paper bag so they have adequate air flow. Ideally wait until after a few frosts to plant, which usually isn’t until after Thanksgiving.

As for protecting your bulbs from squirrels, there are two things you can do to keep your bulbs from being dug up. First defence: plant your tulips as late as possible in the fall, like November, so that the squirrels think twice about using their stored energy to work hard digging up the bulbs. Tulips can be planted into December – even with snow on the ground – as long as you can dig a deep enough hole in the ground. Second defence: plant the tulip bulbs deeply, at eight inches, so that the squirrels think twice about digging down that far. Squirrels usually only try digging them up when the bulbs are newly planted, so if you can get them to survive the first year, then you are more likely to have them come back year after year.

Q2: How many bulbs should I plant, to get the best visual impact?

(A): The best display of tulips is hundreds of thousands of tulips in one location! But that isn’t feasible for the home gardener, unfortunately. In landscaping, odd numbers are most visually appealing. We generally suggest clusters of a minimum of 15 tulips to get the best display. 15 also means that if you lose a few to the squirrels or bunnies biting off the flower at bloom time, you are more likely to still get a few blooms to enjoy in the garden!

Q3: Is there anything I should consider when choosing a tulip bulb to plant, beyond their colour?

(A): Some varieties of tulips are better at coming back year after year. Darwin varieties are the most reliable, but they only come in singles, meaning no fancy double, parrot, or frilly varieties. Triumph varieties are also reliable. Double, parrot, and frilly varieties are the princesses of the tulip world and do not always come back as big and beautiful in following years. Regardless of what variety you plant, take a look at the tulips when they are blooming. Are they only growing greenery? Are the flowers quite small? Are the tulips growing super closely together? These are indications that the bulbs are not storing enough energy year after year to bloom well. Dig up the tulips after they have died back and either replace them with fresh bulbs in the fall, or separate the bulbs that have divided and plant them at proper spacing. You can also try moving them to a sunnier location, if they are not already in full sun.


Q4: What diseases are tulips susceptible to?

(A): Tulip fire, or botrytis tulipae, is the most severe disease to look out for. It is a fairly common fungal disease, but some years are worse than others for how badly it affects tulips. You can get tulip fire from any bulb from any source. If the bulb is infected, the initial greenery when the tulips are growing will come up very strangely and are usually red coloured. If you can catch it at this stage that is best since you can remove the affected tulips before it spreads the spores. If allowed to keep growing, you will start to see grey patches on the leaves and blooms which make the tulips unsuitable for cut flowers. The tulips are quite imperfect. At this stage, it can spread like a fire in your garden because the grey patches have the spores that will spread it around to neighbouring tulips. It spreads throughout your garden quickly at this stage. If you think you have tulip fire, pull out the tulip including the bulb and dispose of it in the garbage, not the compost, so that the fungus doesn’t spread. If you had a large infestation, tulips should not be planted in that area again for 3-5 years while the fungus dies back, so it is best to switch to daffodils or another spring bulb.


This disease affected our u-pick tulip field in 2024. We had just the right weather conditions for it to spread around in our field and we did not catch the initial symptoms until it had progressed further than we could save. We destroyed the tulips by tilling under our entire crop of 500,000 tulips since that is the best practice in large infestations like ours. Thankfully, tulip fire only affects tulips which means our sunflower and summer flower season will be fine! Since we shouldn’t be planting tulips on our property for 3-5 years, we are going to be moving our tulip field to a different location for the next few years.

Q5: Can I plant other flowers (for example, summer annuals) over top of tulip bulbs?

(A): Planting over top of tulips is a great way for your garden to do double-duty. We like planting annuals over them as you can often hide the tulips’ dying foliage with new plants. Cosmos, sunflowers, and other direct seeded flowers are a good choice because they are still small while the tulips are blooming, but take over the space by the time the tulips are looking pathetic with their dying foliage.

Q6: My tulips have finished blooming – when should I cut them back?

(A): Once your tulips have finished blooming, dead head the seed pod so that the plant does not waste energy trying to put out seeds. Leave the leaves to die back naturally so that the leaves can photosynthesize as much energy as possible to store in the bulb until the tulip blooms again, next spring. Once the leaves are brown and dried, they can be pulled off. The bulbs do not need to be dug up every year unless you see something that warrants digging them up, like crowding or poor performance.

Q7: If I cut my tulips for an arrangement, will they come back next year?

(A): Plant new bulbs each fall if you are planning to cut your tulips for arrangements. If you cut a tulip for an arrangement, you will most likely not get a bloom the following year. Once you’ve taken off the greenery and the stem, there is no way for the bulb to get energy from photosynthesis. The bulbs need the leaves to gather energy from the sun to store energy back in the bulb to bloom the following year. If the bulb does not have enough energy to bloom, it will put out greenery each spring until it stores enough energy to bloom. If you are planning to cut your tulips for arrangements, plan on planting new bulbs each fall to replace the ones you’ve cut.

Q8: Tell us about Green Corners farm! When should we visit / when do bulbs go on sale?

(A): Green Corners Farm is Ottawa’s largest u-pick flower farm! We (usually) have 500,000 tulips blooming each May, then have annuals and perennials to pick from July until the first frost in September or October, including 30-40,000 specialty sunflowers blooming each week. U-pick is our primary business, but we also do subscriptions, events, and bouquets for pick up.

Q9: Anything else we should know?

(A): If you can’t make it out to our farm to see the tulips in bloom (I get it, Ottawa’s 6 hours from Kitchener-Waterloo), I highly suggest going to JP Niagara Tulip Experience! We have met the owners and they are just lovely people who care about their employees and staff. If you do make it out to our farm either during tulip season or the summer flower season, introduce yourself! We love meeting new people! And I could talk all day about how I miss the St. Jacobs Farmers Market!