Part 5: Tulips Today
Today, Holland is the world's largest producer of commercial Tulips, generating roughly 60% of the annual growth of Tulip bulbs worldwide. In fact, more than 50% of the country's surface is used for agriculture and horticulture.
Originating in Central Asia, Tulips are a rather fussy flower - growing best with lots of light and with soil that is both well-drained and not too 'heavy'. Fortunately, the Dutch land and climate is a perfect fit!
While the tools for growing have been modernized over time, the basic process has remained the same. Please enjoy the below video on this annual, family-run process:
- Spring: Rising temperatures trigger the Tulip bulbs to sprout and bloom following the winter dormancy period. For several weeks, the Dutch countryside is covered in a spectacular array of vivid colors. Following the blooming period, the Tulips will have their heads removed in order to save energy for bulb growth, a process that requires several years to reach full maturity. Also during this time, breeders will mix different varieties in the hopes of creating new, beautiful strains of the storied flower.
- Summer: In the summer months, the bulbs are harvested from the ground. They are separated by size and maturity, then cleaned, graded, peeled, checked, and inspected! Fully mature bulbs are packaged and exported all over the world, while those requiring more growth are stored in massive refrigeration units for the coming months.
- Fall: The bulbs are planted again using modern farming techniques and equipment. Millions will be used to grow cut Tulips, but most will continue the cycle of bulb development and growth.
- Winter: Bulbs grow underground, building out a strong root system and requiring an extended 'dormancy' period to convert energy stores into sugar that will later be used for growth in the Spring. For cut flowers, To allow for a more year-round supply of cut flowers, Tulips are also grown in temperature controlled greenhouses. This also provides an opportunity for breeders to exhibit their new flowers, allowing farmers to determine what to grow in the coming years. Then in the Spring, the cycle begins again.