October has bright blue skies and cool but comfortable weather, perfect for planting many trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and spring flowering bulbs.
Some spring bulbs like daffodils and hyacinth thrive on the Eastern Shore, but tulips often succumb to soft rot diseases in the heat of summer and die.
Also, tulips are very tasty treats to many animals including voles, squirrels, chipmunks and mice.
Despite those problems, it is hard not to purchase tulips each fall for their spectacular colors, shapes and sizes that are available!
When purchasing tulips, choose large, firm bulbs with little to no blemishes.
Choose colors that complement or contrast with each other, or just choose one lovely color.
Early spring tulips include Kaufmanniana or Water Lilly tulips, which are short with wide open flowers and Fosteriana, or Emperor tulips with tradition tulip shapes.
Mid-season tulips include Darwin tulips with large strong flowers, Greigii with green and variegated foliage and two to four flowers on each stem.
Mid-season also has Triumph tulips, many with two-tone colors and Viridiflora which comes in many colors and all have green streaks on each petal.
Late-season tulips include Parrot tulips, full flowers with ruffles and many colors, and Lily flower tulips that have a vase shaped flower.
Fringed tulips have thin fringes on the top edges giving color and texture to the flowers.
The double late variety looks like silky peony flowers while the single late tulips or French Cottage tulips are the most heat-tolerant of all tulips.
Each of the season tulips will bloom for at least two weeks, so plan on planting at least three pots, one for each season.
When planting tulips in a container, choose one that will fit loosely into a decorative container.
Line the decorative container with flexible insulation foam, then slide the early spring container into it.
Once it has finished blooming, replace it with the mid-season container and last the late-season container.
Planting the containers is easier than planting in the ground.
Fill the container with clean, well drained potting soil to about 4 inches from the top of the pot.
Place the tulip bulbs with the pointed end up, flat end down, flat side towards the outside of the pot and the bulging side into the pot.
Space the bulbs close together, leaving a half inch of space In case one bulb rots, the rest of the healthy bulbs will not.
When the pot is full, plant tiny Johnny Jump- ups beside the edge of the pot and add enough potting soil to fill the pot up to within a half-inch of the top.
Water the pot and place it where it can be enjoyed.
The mid and late season containers can be watered and stored in an unheated shed or garage until they start to show tiny green shoots.
Bring them outside to a sheltered spot until they begin to bloom, then place them into the decorative container and enjoy.
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)