How to grow Tulipa 'Ballerina'

Val Bourne

Late tulips lift the garden visually. But this lily-flowered, rich-orange tulip has more than good looks, it's highly fragrant as well.



Tulipa 'Ballerina' is one of the best tulips to containerise close to a doorway or path - somewhere where you can enjoy the scent on a spring afternoon.

The outwardly-splayed petals open in a refined way so the flowers retain their shape well and the colour is also special. It’s not a flat, dull orange. The petals are shaded in Capsicum red and, like blood oranges, they display a rich mixture of warm colours tinged with purple-red. So when the sun strikes, ‘Ballerina’ dances.

When to plant

Tulips are planted much later than any other bulb and they don’t go into the soil until late October at the earliest. You can still plant them in late December or early January and they will still flower by May.

Tulips are easy to grow as long as the bulbs are healthy. So buy them in early September and store them in a cool, frost-free dark shed, preferably in thick paper bags or sacks. Protect them from mice as they will consume whole bulbs.

Where to plant

If using a container, try to find one which mimics the splayed out shape of the lily-flowered tulip. Plant at least fifty in a good sized pot in layers starting half way up. Then the deeper flowers will follow the ones planted nearer the surface giving you 3 - 4 weeks of flower.

In the ground tulips can be planted in any situation and they will perform for one year. If you want to keep them for longer choose a well-drained position in some sun .

How to plant

Plant Tulipa 'Ballerina' from late October onwards in frost-free conditions at twice the depth of the bulb. The best planting method is to sprinkle in groups of five, seven or nine, creating drifts of colour. For this reason it's much better to plant 50 or 100 bulbs of the same variety - thus avoiding the hundreds and thousands trifle look. Peter Nyssen (0161 747 4000 - www.peternyssen.com) sell in hundreds and the average price per hundred is £12 - £14.

After flowering

Once the tulips have flowered you have a choice. If you want to keep them, in the hopes that they will flower again, cut them back to one leaf and allow them to wither. If they do flower again, the flowers will be smaller and the stem shorter. But if they are in loamy soil in a sunny situation some varieties will perform again for another two or three years. I have found certain varieties are truly perennial as well, including ‘Apeldoorn’ and ‘Spring Green’.

Plant with

Late tulips are very good planted among late herbaceous plants and grasses because the foliage is still low enough to allow the tulips to shine above. The green sward of foliage provided by varieties of Miscanthus sinensis is an excellent foil for bright tulips of any colour.

But orange tulips look best of all planted with swirling brown carexes and there are several to choose from. Carex comans Bronze Form, C. testacea, C. buchananii and C. flagellifera are all excellent. You could also use purple bulbs and flowers with this orange tulip because the darker shading on the petals is purple-toned.

Tulipa 'Ballerina' also look goods with other tulips and if you choose Triumph tulips as partners they will flower slightly earlier so you can broaden the flowering time. Triumphs come in almost very colour and they add extra vibrance.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.