Fall tulip bulb planting begins in Pella

PELLA — Fall planting of tulip bulbs has begun in Pella.

This fall, the City of Pella Parks Department will be planting 128,850 tulip bulbs for bloom in spring 2021. This year, they will be planting 90 different varieties of tulips in over 240 flower beds in city parks and along the streets. Some of their more frequently asked questions are answered below.

Bulbs arrive the last week in September or the first week of October. It takes roughly five to seven working days to inspect and sort the bulbs. Typically, they begin to plant tulip bulbs around mid-October, and the process takes around four to five weeks. The preferred ground temperature for tulip bulb planting is 50 degrees. If there is a light freeze to the soil surface or a light crust of frost, they can still be planted. Starting by Oct. 15th in a typical year allows for the department to plant all of their bulbs before the hard frost sets in.

There are many different methods for planting and spacing bulbs. While the department plants bulbs 6 inches deep consistently, they do vary spacing depending on the size of the bulb. In general, they space bulbs roughly 2-3 inches apart. For example, smaller bulbs, like bouquet or multi-bloom style tulips, are planted closer together. For the best effect of a mass planting, they tend to plant anywhere from 9-12 bulbs per square foot depending on the size of the bulb.

The department enjoys trying new and different varieties each year. Some new tulips this year include Amber Glow, Double Surprise, Eyelash, Flames Mystery, Paradise City and Purple Crystal. This year, they will also have the quilt bed in the large bed just north of the information windmill in Central Park. There will be 56 blocks measuring 3 feet by 3 feet.

There will be five different colored blocks that will be repeated throughout the pattern. Each block will consist of a variety of different tulips in each of these five colors: red, pink, white, purple and yellow. A sampling of all 90 varieties will be included in Central Park’s “Tulip Avenue.” Tulip Avenue is comprised of two long beds on either side of the walkway between the sun dial and fountain.

Each year, the department plants new bulbs in order to guarantee a strong bloom performance. They also like to switch out the varieties in the park beds from year to year to create a different visual experience and photo opportunities. Once the tulips are done blooming, they are removed, and the beds are planted with annual flowers for display during the summer months, which is another great time to visit Pella.

The department welcomes the help of volunteer groups. If you have a group that is interested in planting, please contact Parks Manager Chandler Nunnikhoven for more information.

The department is often asked when the best time is to visit Pella in the spring to see the tulips. Temperatures play a big part in when the tulips will start to bloom. Depending on the variety of tulip, they can bloom early, mid-season or late season. The department generally plants more midseason and late varieties, which provide color from late April through early May.

Tulip bloom updates are shared on the Community Services Facebook Page on a regular basis once they start to see color in the spring. The department looks forward to seeing everyone in 2021.

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