How To Plant Tulips For Beautiful Spring Blooms

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Tulips are a favorite in the garden and are known as harbingers of Spring (they’re one of the first of the season to produce blooms). Their beautiful flowers and vibrant colors are a refreshing change after a cold and dreary winter.

ExamplesThey are easy to plant and maintain although the digging required can be a bit overwhelming if you do dozens in the Fall–but so worthwhile and you’re sure to appreciate the effort come Spring.

Here are instructions and a few growing tips (even in pots!)…

  • Choose bulbs that are plump and firm, don’t use any that have soft spots or mold since they likely suffer from rot.
  • They flourish in well dug soil, prepare it by digging at least 12 inches deep so it’s loose and clump free.
  • How Deep: Instructions should have been included at time of purchase. If not a basic guideline is to bury them three times the bulb height in depth (so if it’s 2 inches high, make a hole 6 inches deep, leaving 4 inches of dirt above the top tip).
  • How Far Apart: About two times their width apart (they can be farther apart but closer together gives an impressive show).
  • Using a bulb planter or a trowel, dig a hole to the required depth needed (one hole for each). If you are arranging several together, create an area large enough to accommodate them all instead of just one hole at a time (big time saver!).
  • Position them with the pointy side up, the flat root side sitting at the bottom. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which end is which, in these cases a safe bet is to lay it on its side–the plant will figure things out and grow up. Fill the hole back with soil making sure there are no air pockets and pat the ground lightly as you fill.
  • Water thoroughly.

When: Sometime between September and December (depending on which zone you live in, usually about one month before the heavy Fall frost is a good time).

Where: Choose a location where they will receive at least six hours of sun, they need plenty of sun so they can store energy for next year’s show. Soil should be well draining to prevent rot.

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Yes tulips can be grown in containers! They’ll still need to be prepared in the Fall and Winter, here are a few tips:

  • Choose a container with drainage holes, fill the bottom with a layer of pea gravel or rocks for drainage.
  • Use a potting soil that isn’t heavy with peat, you want it to be well draining so they don’t rot. You can add a bit of sand to increase drainage if you like.
  • Fill bottom of pot with dirt deep enough so that the top tip will be 3 to 4 inches from soil surface. They can be positioned much closer to each other when grown in pots (about 1/4″ to 1/2″ apart).
  • Position them as noted above (pointy side up and flat bottom down) and cover them with dirt.
  • Cover the top of the dirt lightly with garden compost, a heavy layer of mulch for harsh winters (about 2″ deep).
  • Water.
  • Place in an area of the yard where they’ll have some protection from the sun and harsh weather (for example: near hedges). If you live in a harsh winter climate, place it somewhere where the bulbs won’t freeze solid (unheated garage for example). They will freeze easier in containers so you do need to take care where you place it if you have very cold winters.
  • When you notice the first shoots appearing in the Spring, take the container and place it in full sun then give them a good drink of water.

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  • After they bloom, let their leaves yellow for about 2 months before cutting back (at this point the leaves should be able to pull free easily), the foliage helps feed the bulbs.
  • Some varieties will multiply so if you planted 12 in the Fall and 16 appear–lucky you!
  • Once they fade, cut off the flower to make sure the plant’s energy will go to the bulb rather than to the bloom.
  • Mulching in harsh winter climates can help prevent them from freezing (add mulch after the ground has frozen).
  • About a month before they are expected to bloom, top the dirt lightly with a mix of bone meal and compost to give them an extra boost of nutrients.
  • If you bought them early and it’s too soon to get them in the ground, keep them cool as warm temperatures will affect the bloom size. Placing them in a paper bag (so they can breathe) then storing them in the refrigerator works great!
  • You can force them indoors to enjoy during the winter months, directions found here.

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Published: August 24, 2009
Updated: September 17, 2012

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2 Comments to “How To Plant Tulips For Beautiful Spring Blooms”
  1. Reina says:

    Some more tulip tips from a Dutch girl who has planted maaaany tulips :)

    – Plant them when it is around 8-10C outside during the day and it does not freeze yet at night.
    – Once the flower is dried and lost her leaves, cut it. Leave the rest of the leaves until they are dried. Then, just cut the grass and they will be gone. This avoids that the bulb looses energy making little seeds on the left over of the flowers.
    – If you plant them on a pot, you can get a nice effect if you plant them in layers with some soil in between. Those bulbs on the upper part will bloom earlier so you will have blooming pots for many weeks as the deeper the bulbs, the later they will bloom.
    – Tulip flower is really delicate and does not last many days at home. Some tips to make them last longer. When you take them inside, do leave them in cool place for a few hours. If you take them from the cold outside, to the warm home, they will be looking upside down in a few hours. You can also add a coin made of nickel in the water to make them last longer.
    – You can get really beautiful flower photos, if when they are blooming, you lay on the ground and make a photo with your camera at the same height or lower than the flowers.

    Enjoy them :)

  2. bernice says:

    my tulips grew but no flowers why


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