When Should You Plant Tulip Bulbs

  • Use chicken wire to cover planting holes, a fence, repellant spray, or container gardening to keep animals away.

Is there anything happier than a large tulip field blooming in the spring? The profusion of vibrant blossoms is a sight for sore eyes after a protracted winter of cold and snow. You may build and enjoy a robust tulip show in your own yard with these tactics and pointers.

How to Choose Tulips

Hybrid tulips make up the majority of the tulips you see in landscape plantings, as well as those offered for sale at garden centers and home improvement shops. For the greatest impact, hybrid tulips normally need to be replaced every year. (We’ll cover how to persuade them to return below.) When given the proper growing circumstances, species tulips will return year after year in zones 4 to 7. These have smaller flowers and pointier petals than hybrid tulips, and they are shorter.

Individual tulips don’t flower for very long, especially the hybrids. However, there are types that bloom in the early, mid, and late seasons at various periods. When buying, choose a couple cultivars from each bloom time category for a long-lasting display.

Where to Plant Tulips

For the best show, tulips need full sun, which entails at least six hours every day of bright, direct sunlight. They are also great additions to rock gardens since they favor quick-draining soil.

When to Plant Tulips

Fall is the best time to plant tulip bulbs. Prior to planting, the soil must have cooled from the summer growing season, which could occur in September in cold regions (zones 3 to 5), October in transitional temperatures (zones 6 to 7), and November or December in warm areas (zones 8 to 9). Use a soil thermometer to measure the soil’s temperature, and plant when it reaches 60 degrees F at a depth of 6 inches.

For tulips to bloom, they need to be chilled. Buy pre-cooled bulbs and plant them in December if you intend to grow tulips where the soil temperature won’t fall below 60 degrees for at least 12 weeks.

How to Prepare the Soil for Planting Tulips

Use Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers to prepare the planting space for tulips by incorporating 3 inches of garden soil into the top 6 to 8 inches of native soil. Tulips will develop a strong root system in the fall thanks to the nutrients provided by the soil, which is necessary for a significant spring bloom. However, to get the best results from your tulips, you must combine the strength of excellent soil with just the appropriate plant food. For details on what and when to feed tulips, see “How to Feed Tulips” below.

How to Plant Tulips

Tulips should be planted in bunches of 10 or more for the best display. The pointed end should be facing up as you plant each bulb 8 inches deep (measure from the bottom of the bulb and add the depth of any mulch on top of the soil in your measurement). It is possible to place bulbs close to one another. Thoroughly water.

How to Grow Tulips in a Pot

In pots, tulips are simple to grow. The bulbs should be buried at least 8 inches deep, much like with in-ground plantings, so measure from the top of the container to a depth of about 9 inches, then fill the pot up to that point with Miracle-Gro Potting Mix. Put the pointy end of the bulbs in the pot (you can pack them tightly together). After thoroughly watering, cover with the potting mix. Before your area’s first frost, move the container to a cool, dry location that stays around 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. Bring the container outside to a sunny area when you notice tulips budding. Water the soil there. Once you notice green growth, start watering often.

How to Water Tulips

When you plant tulips, make sure to thoroughly water each planting space. After planting, give the plants one watering each week for the first month. Then, leave them alone until spring. When the leaves come out in the spring, start watering once more.

How to Feed Tulips

Apply Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Rose & Bloom Plant Food in accordance with the instructions on the package once the flowers have faded. In order for the bulb to conserve nutrients for the following growing season, this will aid in promoting leaf growth. Every year in the late fall, feed for the final time (around the same time as you would plant new bulbs).

How to Cut Tulips to Enjoy Indoors

When the buds are still tightly closed, cut tulips. You should be able to identify the hue of the blooms despite the petals’ possible greenish tint. Put inside a spotless vase with room temperature water. Once cut and brought indoors, tulips will continue to “grow” (the stems extend). Simply trim a few inches from the bottom of the stems every few days if they start to get unruly. If you mix Miracle-Gro for Fresh Cut Flowers into the water and replace the water every few days, cut tulips will stay longer (compared to water only).

What to Do After Tulips Bloom

The best tulip flower display will typically occur in gardens in the spring that immediately follows the fall when the bulbs are planted. Once the petals have faded, trim the flower stalk back to the plant’s base to encourage species tulips to return year after year. After the bulbs have gone dormant, cease feeding them as previously mentioned, stop watering them, and trim back the foliage once it has completely turned brown. Simply pluck up the bulbs from hybrid varieties (which are not perennial) and compost them.

How to Protect Tulips from Deer and Other Pests

Preventing deer from eating tulip blooms is the biggest obstacle in tulip gardening, closely followed by preventing chipmunks and squirrels from digging up the bulbs. Planting holes or trenches should have chicken wire surrounding them on all sides to prevent bulbs from being dug up. (If you’re planting large sweeps of bulbs, which is how to get the best show from tulips, this is most useful.)

Deer are another matter. Installing a long (8 feet or more) fence is the greatest approach to keep deer out of the garden, but most people cannot afford to do this. Daffodil and Crown Imperial bulbs are not consumed by deer, so interplanting tulips with these varieties may help deter them. Alternatively, you may try misting a deer repellent on bulb foliage. In light of this, it is preferable to grow tulips in pots on a screened-in porch if deer are a significant issue where you live. This way, the deer can’t access to the flowers.

Ready to start tulip gardening? To learn more about a product, to buy it online, or to locate a retailer near you, click on any of the product links above.

How late can tulip bulbs be planted?

The best time to plant tulips was a question we posed to Ruth Hayes, the gardening editor of Amateur Gardening. Ruth has a plethora of knowledge thanks to her Royal Horticultural Society certification and many years of gardening experience.

She explains that the best months to grow tulips are in late fall and early winter, specifically November and December. It is too late for them to perform at their peak this year, but they should flower the following spring, so if you have any leftover from last year, you may still plant them in the soil now.

It’s not necessary too late to plant spring bulbs in January, according to Evie Lane, a gardening expert at Primrose (opens in new tab), but she emphasizes that time is of the essence. Tulips can tolerate a January planting with ease, although they will bloom later than usual, she claims.

Evie explains that tulip bulbs should generally be safely placed in the ground as least six weeks before there is a chance of a freeze. But most plants show a great tolerance for being planted in the late season. There is a strong probability that your bulbs will produce passable flowers in the late spring as long as the earth can be dug and is not soggy.

Ruth adds there are still many of chances in the upcoming months to add color to our garden later this year if you’d prefer not take a chance. Consider which plants you’d like to add to your garden, and if you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the newest garden trends for 2022.

If you’re lacking motivation, try to complete a handful of January gardening tasks each week. It’s less intimidating to walk outside and clean up the garden once you know what you’re going to be doing.

Can I grow tulips in the springtime?

Tulip bulbs can still be planted in the early spring as soon as the ground is usable if they have survived the winter, have some weight to them, aren’t dry and crumbly, or aren’t soft and mushy. To avoid wasting your money, it is worth a shot to try nonetheless! However, there is a warning! They are far more likely to have weak blooms or possibly not bloom at all if they don’t have the opportunity to grow robust roots in the cooler temps.

Vernalization, a period of cooling that encourages a bulb to grow and bloom, is required for spring-planted tulip bulbs for at least 14 weeks. Therefore, you could not see flowers until the following year at the earliest, if at all, unless the temperature is still holding below 50F when you are planning to plant. For people in Zones 5 and lower, who frequently still have enough chill to survive if they get them in the ground quickly enough, this could be good news. However, in warmer climates, pushing them indoors or purchasing pre-chilled bulbs may be your best option.

It’s crucial to remember that while forced bulbs enhance indoor aesthetics, the energy reserves sometimes become depleted during the process of blooming indoors. It can take a few years before you see flowers, if any, if you try to put them outside for future flowering.

Your potted tulips won’t be ready to go into the ground after forcing; they must first be acclimated. Do this by exposing children to nature gradually. Start by leaving them outside in the shade for a short period of time each day. Then, gradually move them out into the sun while leaving them out for an increasing amount of time. When they are finally ready to spend an entire day in the sun, they can join the rest of your plants in the beds.

When ought I to purchase and plant tulips?

Tulips and other spring bulbs already contain an embryonic blossom. Just waiting for this embryo to start growing. Make sure the tulip bulbs you choose are sturdy and plump. Avoid any bulbs that are flimsy, moldy, squishy, or losing their papery cover.

You should wait until mid-autumn to plant your tulip bulbs, which you should buy in late August or early September (late summer/early fall). If you reside in a region with moderate winters, sometimes even early winter (December) works the best.

Tulips are so anxious to expand that they will immediately send their leaves up if you plant them too soon. Only in the cold will this cause them to freeze. Tulip bulbs should be kept in a cool environment and stored in paper bags rather than plastic while you wait to plant them.

Care of Tulips During Storage

Tulips must be handled carefully and stored correctly before being planted. Tulip bulbs should be kept in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator if you have the space.

Keep them separate from apples and other fruit. Apples and bananas release ethylene gas, which speeds up fruit ripening but destroys any bulbs’ bloom buds. Tulip bulbs shouldn’t be placed in the freezer if you don’t have room in the fridge; doing so will destroy them. The tulip bulbs should be kept dry and in a cold, well-ventilated space, such as an unheated garage.

Tulip bulbs can be left in the ground all year.

In the hardy U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, tulip bulbs can be left in the ground to grow as perennials. They only reproduce when permitted to go through a full leaf cycle and spend the entire year underground. Although they may not fare well in summer in hotter locations, planting them approximately 12 inches deep will protect them from the heat. However, they might spread more slowly at that depth.

What occurs if tulips are planted too late?

If you can dig a hole deep enough to plant, you can plant bulbs as late as January. Till the end of January, plant tulips and daffodils! They will grow roots this way throughout the spring and bloom later than usual. Remember that late January-planted bulbs could produce flowers with reduced size.

How can tell if flower bulbs are still good?

Do they feel solid and dry? Looking good? Free of injuries, mushy places, or mold? Good! If not, pick someone else.

If you ordered bulbs by mail and they arrived sick, get in touch with the business to arrange an exchange or return.

Some individuals inquire about the paper-like skins that flake off. That’s okay. Although they are a natural protective coating, they will eventually fall off. Simply don’t push them.

Best Soil Temperature for Bulb Planting

Bulb planting is best done in the fall when the soil temperature is 60F (16C) or below but before the first frost.

Use a kitchen thermometer to measure the soil temperature at planting depth if you want to. Get the average by measuring over several days at various times of the day. Here is more information about measuring soil temperature.

You may look out your usual first frost date here if you don’t want to take the soil temperature. If you do, make sure to plant them at least two weeks before that date.

Best Timing

For many bulbs to blossom in the spring or summer after they are planted, they require 16 to 18 weeks of freezing conditions. One of the many possible causes of our bulbs failing to blossom is missing this dormant phase.

Bulb growth is possible in containers as well as in the ground. To learn more, see tip 4.

Depth and Location

The location in your garden and the depth at which you put the bulbs both matter, just like with other plants.

I stated how many gardeners carelessly bury bulbs in the ground and call it a day. While this is fantastic if the conditions are ideal, it won’t work out so well if your bulbs are planted too deeply, receive insufficient spring sunlight, or are submerged in a bog.

To prevent rot, all bulbs require well-draining soil. Some bulbs, like tulips, prefer full sun, but other bulbs can tolerate half sun. This simple test can be used to determine how well your soil drains.