Maryland is full of options for a floral pick-me-up come springtime, with no shortage of botanical gardens and booming tulip displays. Head out on a day trip to the garden nearest you, or better yet, plant your own! Maryland gardeners should consider themselves lucky come springtime, as tulips thrive in the various climates of the state. We’ll discuss five tulips that thrive in Maryland, including how and when to plant them and more!
Types of Tulips
Most Maryland gardeners are familiar with the classic, goblet-shaped tulip, but there are actually over 3,000 varieties of tulips with a wide range of hues and forms. They’re divided into 15 groups based on blooming period, flower type and heritage. The vast majority of tulips are hybridized and were bred with the intention of boosting the size and unique characteristics of their blooms. The Species, or Botanical Tulips are the one group that is unhybridized and retains the characteristics of the wild tulip species that are native to the steppes and mountainsides of central Asia.
Tulips to Grow in Maryland
Maryland falls between USDA planting zones 5 and 8. Most tulips are rated well for planting in zones 3-7, while some of them rate for zones 3-8. These are cold-hardy spring bulbs that not only appreciate cold winters, but require a cold period to thrive. When planting your Maryland garden, you should know that all tulips can thrive in any region of Maryland. Here are some choice varieties that are sure to succeed in this mid-Atlantic region:
1. Tulip ‘White Marvel’
A Single Early tulip variety, ‘White Marvel’ is a sturdy tulip with glistening ivory-white petals. A planting of these beauties is surely a marvel, but consider planting with another early blooming variety with darker blooms for a striking contrast. They reach an average of 14 inches in height and are perfect in beds, borders, and containers. They make a classic addition to any bouquet!
2. Tulip ‘Golden Prins Claus’
Triumph tulips were created by crossing early and late season bloomers to result in a hearty mid-season blooming group. Tulipa ‘Golden Prins Claus’ is a classic example of a Triumph tulip with its goblet form and lemon-yellow petals that shine in the spring sun. This tulip is sure to brighten any spring landscape. They grow to an average height of 22 inches.
3. Tulip ‘Apricot Beauty’
Another Triumph tulip, ‘Apricot Beauty’ is one of the most popular tulips of all time for good reason. It delights the senses with apricot hues and a delicate scent. The petals of this tulip vary in intensity with changing degrees of sunlight and throughout the duration of its blooming period. This variety reaches an average of 18 inches in height and blooms in April or May.
4. Tulip ‘Vendee Globe’
‘Vendee Globe’ is a striking example of a Lily-flowering tulip with flared and gently pointed tips to its petals. This variety was named after a round-the-world sailing race. Its bold yellow petals are flamed with red-orange to varying degrees. ‘Vendee Globes’ are late-season bloomers that reach an average of 18 inches.
5. Tulip ‘Black Diamond’
A Single Late variety, ‘Black Diamond’ erupts late in the season with deep, dark burgundy blooms that start out almost fully black when they bud. They grow on incredibly strong stems and make for excellent cut flowers. Plant in mass for a dramatic effect, or punctuate a multi-colored flower bed with their stunning blooms.
Are Tulips Annuals or Perennials?
Tulips are native to central Asia where they grew as wildflowers along the mountainsides. Species, or Botanical Group tulips, are still grown as perennial flowers, but all other groups are most often treated as annuals in the garden. These other groups have been hybridized and selected over time for their wildly expressive blooms. Many can come back year after year if allowed to, but will often show diminished display.
When to Plant Tulips in Maryland
Around late summer, you’ll probably want to start your research into which tulip bulbs you’d like to plant. Browse bulb catalogs and see what your local nursery carries. You’ll want to get your bulbs planted 6-8 weeks before the first predicted freeze in your area arrives. The soil temperature will be between about 40 and 50 degrees by this time. The best time for zone 5 will likely be in September, October for zones 6-7 and zone 8 planting regions will likely be ready for tulip planting in November or December.
How to Plant and Care for Tulips in Maryland
Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil. Choose tulip bulbs that have been stored properly, are well formed and free of discoloration. Dig holes for your bulbs that are 2-3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. Tulips look best when planted in clusters rather than strict rows. Space the bulbs out 3-8 inches apart depending on bulb size and on how dense or spacious you’d like them to look. Place a single bulb in each hole pointed end up and cover with soil.
A layer of mulch over the top will help to protect the bulbs from temperature extremes and maintain the proper level of moisture in the soil. Spring bulbs like tulips are approachable for green thumbs and novices alike! Simply give them a good watering at planting time and then leave them alone to do their thing. They’ll emerge in all their glory once spring rolls around.
When do Tulips Bloom in Maryland?
Tulips are one of the floral hallmarks of spring. Their iconic blooms burst forth sometime between April and June, depending on the variety. While geography has some effect on blooming times, the most reliable predictor will be the type of tulip you plant. Single Early, like the ‘White Marvel’ come up first in the season along with Double Early varieties. Triumphs like ‘Apricot Beauty’ and ‘Golden Prins Claus’ come up mid-season along with the Darwin-Hybrids. Lily-flowered and Viridiflora tulips as well as Single and Double Late varieties all bloom latest in the season.
Plant a mix of early, mid and late season tulip varieties to ensure that you have a dazzling display that lasts all of spring. Once your blooms have put on their show you’ll have to decide whether to treat them as annuals or perennials. If you’re growing as annuals, dig them up and compost them to get ready for the following season. If you’d like to try your hand at a perennial tulip bed, clip the wilted flower heads off the stalks and let them continue to grow until the plant is fully yellowed and wilted, then cut the foliage back too.
Where to View Tulip Gardens in Maryland
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own garden or just want to see some impressive tulip plantings, there are plenty of places in Maryland to spot the springtime beauties in bloom. Brookside Gardens in Wheaton has a wonderful display that usually reaches its peak during the month of April. The areas near the Conservatory and the Children’s Garden are usually host to the most tulip blooms. Admission is free, and you can feast your eyes on flowers from sunrise to sunset.
An option in Baltimore is to catch the annual spring flower display at the Rawlings Conservatory. There are thousands of tulips on display! Sherwood Gardens is another place in Baltimore to find tulips galore. The small, 6-acre park packs a punch with over 80,000 tulip bulbs planted every year.
Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton shows off their lovely tulip gardens from April to May, along with secret gardens, fountains, a koi pond, and more.
For a you-pick tulip experience, check out Old Line Lavender Co. Their first year offering pick-your-own tulips was in 2022, when they opened to the picking public in mid-April and had tulips in prime condition for about two weeks. Reserve a timeslot and pay online to participate!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sergey V Kalyakin/Shutterstock.com
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