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April Flower of the Month: Tulips + Easter Centerpieces with the Kids

Tulips, tulips, tulips--I love them.

They are one of those flowers that just make me smile.

Did you know there are 3,000 varieties of cultivated tulips? They vary in color, height and shape, and have bloom times ranging from early (March-April), mid (April-May), and late (May). The versatility of the tulip makes it a crowd favorite.

I really appreciate the tulip's personality--so cheerful and disobedient. They move throughout an arrangement with a curious grace, unruly and beautiful. It's no surprise that the tulip symbolizes imagination, dreaminess, and a declaration of love.

Planning a garden is an ever-evolving process, much of which takes forethought and preparation to last for seasons to come. In late fall, while the goldenrod, asters, and chrysanthemums are stealing the show, we mustn't forget to plant our tulip bulbs for their early spring debut.

Since April is a month of family moments surrounding Easter Sunday, I choose to use potted tulips as a way to bring the outdoors inside, and to enlist help from my son, Emmit!

This fun and simple activity is a great way to prepare your home for all your spring entertaining, or to just engage with the little humans! We used our potted tulips, fescue grass (and spring rye), and ferns to create little container gardens that can be personalized with the addition of assorted spring decorations: eggs, nests, mushrooms, cotton blossoms, even a duckling and a couple of chicks!!

How to Plant Tulips Bulbs

Things to think about when choosing your Tulip Bulbs:

  1. Size. The bigger the bulb the bigger the bloom. When picking out tulip bulbs be sure to select firm, dry bulbs.

  2. Variety. Doing an assortment of varieties ranging from early, mid to late will give you prolonged color. Also, choosing varieties that have "naturalizing" or "perennializing" habits will give you blooms for following years.

  3. Timing. Bulbs should go into the ground 6 weeks before the first hard frost. If planting in containers for indoor use be sure to place them outside throughout the winter or chill the bulbs. They need a chilling period before they will bloom.

  4. Depth. The planting depth needs to be 2 times the bulb, i.e., the larger the bulb, the deeper they go. If the bulb is 3 inches in diameter, it should be planted 6 inches beneath the surface of the soil.

  5. Before the bulb. After digging the hole and before inserting the bulb, bone meal should be placed in the bottom of the planting hole. Its phosphorus levels help the tulips to root for stronger bloom development.

  6. Access to sun. The tulip is not very picky about planting location.

How to Care for Your Tulip Bulbs

The tulip bulb prefers a well drained soil, but other than that, tulips are pretty easy to please. Pop those babies in the ground, or a container and enjoy!

Post Blooming

If you are treating your bulbs like a true perennial, let their foliage die back before removing it to ensure proper food storage in the bulb. The bulb will divide for the next generation and produce a "daughter" bulb, however, the secondary blooming season may not be as vigorous and reliable.

If planting them as an annual in a formal setting (where you need uniform emergence), completely dig and remove the bulbs after they bloom. These bulbs can be divided (leave the green foliage on while the bulbs dry for about 3 weeks). Then store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until fall. These bulbs can be replanted in a less formal setting or in containers if desired.

How to Arrange your Tulip Bulbs

Tulips are a fun stand alone flower. There isn't anything much better than a mass grouping of tulips. For these spring centerpieces I kept it simple, using greenery accents. Stage these potted plants throughout your home for a flowing "spring theme."

If incorporating grasses into the arrangement, remember: timing and planning are key! When starting grasses from seed, use a tight tulip (showing no color) for the planting because grass germination takes between 5-10 days.

I encourage you to inspire your littles (or your guests) to get messy and have fun with this mini container garden! Don't forget, any decor accents work!

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