Tulips are the show ponies of the bulb world, and there are so many species and varieties that it’s possible to have tulips in bloom for much of spring, but their peak flowering is in October. These boldly coloured bulbs are mass-planted for amazing floral displays in cold and mountain climates. The largest annual tulip display is at Floriade in Canberra, but massed tulips can be found in parks and gardens in many towns across southern Australia during October.
While tulips can be grown in any well-drained garden bed that gets plenty of winter and spring sunshine, they also make an impact in pots.
Try mass planting long-stemmed, single-colour forms in a large pot to achieve a designer look.
Tulips come in a rainbow of colours, including red, purple, pink, yellow, orange and white. There are also bicolour and variegated forms that can be single or double. Some have feathered edges to their petals. You can find them sold by variety name or as mixed colours. For reliable flowering, especially in warm zones, chill bulbs in the crisper section of the fridge for six weeks before planting in late autumn.
Hippeastrums (Hippeastrum Hybrid Cultivars) are big, brassy bulbs that flower before their foliage appears.
They strut their stuff in late spring with an eruption of large trumpet flowers on thick, green stems up to 60cm tall. They grow well in subtropical and warm temperate areas, forming large clumps that can be left undisturbed for years.
Hippeastrums are available in red, pink, apricot, white or variegated white and pink, with single or double flowers.
If you would like something a little different, look for butterfly hippeastrum (H. papilio), which has narrow greenish flowers shaped like butterfly wings.
These large bulbs are planted in late autumn or winter, with the neck and shoulders of the bulb above the soil. Keep the bulbs dry and frost-free while they are dormant, but begin to water once the buds appear. In cold climates, they can be grown in a protected spot during cold spells.