It’s tulip time in Missouri. These harbingers of spring are in full bloom, and there are a number of opportunities around the state to take in their beauty—and maybe pick a bouquet or two. But don’t wait. They won’t be here much longer.

Horticulture staff and volunteers at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis plant some 80,000 tulip bulbs in the fall to ensure a display like this in the spring.

By Caroline Dohack

Now’s the perfect time to tiptoe through the tulips—clogs optional. The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis is awash in spring’s favorite sorbet hues.

“Tulips are synonymous with spring and a signal that we’re finally moving out of the cold, gray winter into warmer weather full of beautiful blossoms,” says Daria McKelvey, supervisor of home gardening information and outreach at the Missouri Botanical Garden. “There are so many vibrant colors and types of tulips available, allowing you to create an alluring display in your home garden. In other words, candy for your eyes!”

To prepare for this seasonal display, the Garden’s horticulture staff teams up with a crew of volunteers to plant some 80,000 bulbs representing more than 100 varieties.

“It takes many hands and a lot of planting to design the annual bulb displays throughout the Garden,” McKelvy says. “In the fall when the bulbs come in, Horticulture staff work together to help plant all the bulbs seen at the Garden’s entrance, in front of the Climatron, in the Victorian Garden next to Tower Grove House, and in front of the Center for Home Gardening.”

When designing these displays, horticulturalists consider a number of factors. First is color. Are they going for a gradient monochrome look, or are they leaning into high-contrast complements?

Most tulips will consist of the classic single flower form, known as triumph tulips, but there’s also double, lily, parrot, and fringed tulips.

Next is texture. Most of the tulips will consist of the classic single flower form, also known as triumph tulips, but there’s also double, lily, parrot, and fringed tulips. Interspersed into plantings, these add depth and dimension.

The final consideration is timing. Certain varieties bloom at different points in the spring, and interspersing them throughout a design ensures there’s always color as the season progresses. 

But even though the Horticulture team plans for the long game, tulip season isn’t something you want to sleep on.

“This will probably be the last week/weekend that most of the tulips will still look decent,” McKelvey says. “Some of the later-blooming types may hold on for a little longer, but the earlier-blooming types are already starting to drop their petals. We’ll probably see more droppage next week as temperatures will be in the mid- to late-80s. Tulips do better in cooler spring weather.”

Tulips you can take home

At Gooseberry Bridge Farm in Rogersville, Missouri, visitors are invited to snap some shots for Instagram and pick a pretty bouquet. For the ultimate experience, be sure to book a Farm Baby Playdate so you can snuggle the lambs, piglets, and bunnies. 

In Kearney, Missouri, the Fun Farm offers up 12+ acres of tulip fields for the picking. Visitors can also enjoy more than thirty other attractions, including photo ops, jumbo jumpers, giant slides, trains, and concessions. 

All photos by Nathan Kwarta, courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

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