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Amsterdam’s tulips: an inspiration for other cities

In spring, when the trees are just beginning to turn green, is when tulips in the built environment pack a really big visual punch. The ultimate example of this is Amsterdam where hundreds of thousands of tulips brighten the streetscapes throughout the city. The capitol city of the Netherlands really does credit to its nickname of ‘the city of tulips’ and should serve as an inspiration for other cities.

Masses of colour

Tulips will thrive when planted in either soil or containers. Their fantastic ornamental benefits make a great contribution to the amenity value of public green spaces. In Amsterdam, they brighten up dozens of sites scattered throughout the city: shopping streets, bridges, squares, parks, and gardens adjoining museums and hotels. These enormous masses of colour have a beneficial effect on the well-being of people. Passers-by perk up at the sight of these streetscapes and take pictures of the tulips – selfies, too – that then get shared on social media. 

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A real trend

The use of tulip mixtures planted in either soil or containers is a real trend. Using a mix of colours is popular, and carefully considering the choice of early, middle and late-flowering tulips can even extend the flowering period so that tulips can be supplying public spaces with colour from March until the end of May. During the few years known as the tulip mania (1634-1637) just one tulip bulb was worth the value of an entire canalside house. Prices of tulips aren’t that extreme anymore, but these flower bulbs still have a great value for Amsterdam. Today, they provide an extra attraction: special walking and cycling routes are even organised to view them.

Advice for planting in soil 

  • All tulip varieties are suitable for this, but don’t plant tall varieties in windy locations. Tulips will perform well in any type of soil.
  • Poor soils, however, should be amended by having them contain 10% of organic matter/garden peat.
  • Tulip bulbs can be planted until late in the year; their planting period runs from September to Christmas. 
  • Plant the bulbs two to three times as deep as the height of the bulb. 

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Advice for planting in pots and containers

  • All medium and low-growing tulips are suitable for planting in pots and containers. 
  • The recommended planting density is 60 to 100 bulbs per m2. This number can be halved when planting along with other plants such as perennials. 
  • Different varieties can be planted in layers; this method is known as lasagne planting. Examples of this are available here.
  • Unlike when planting in soil, it’s important to provide tulips in pots with water during dry periods.

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