Planting Tulip Bulbs – When & How?

tulip flowers

Nothing says spring better than a magnificent display of blooms that have grown from bulbs, especially when that display is tastefully integrated into your home’s landscape. Tulip bulbs, for instance, are one of the best choice for a beautiful spring garden.

Plant bulbs where you and passersby can most enjoy them. Along with growing in the lawn, these spring charmers do well around a base of trees near the house, or in small clumps at the front door. Squeeze them into the corner of a rock garden or use them as a border in front of a foundation planting.

For continuous and ever-changing color, select different types of flowers with complementary heights, colors, and time of blooming.

You get what you pay for when you buy bulbs. For superior flowers, choose top quality bulbs. Look for large, firm bulbs with no visible dents, scars, or bruises. If you skimp by selecting small bulbs, you may be disappointed with poor performance and small flowers.

Some info about Tulips:

  1. Botanical name: Tulipa
  2. Plant type: Flower
  3. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  4. Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  5. Bloom time: Spring
  6. Flower Colors: Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Purple, White, Multicolor
  7. Perennial: Continues each year
  8. Soil type: Sandy

When to Plant Tulip Bulbs?

Plant tulip bulbs in the fall, before frost hardens the ground. If you cannot plant the bulbs immediately, store them in a dark, dry, cool—but not freezing—place to keep them from sprouting or shriveling. To spread out the work, plant the smaller, earlier flowering bulbs first and do the larger bulbs last. Bulbs can be planted with a special bulb planter or a narrow trowel.

Bulbs can be planted in the spring as well. Plant them after any frost danger has passed and the soil is warm.

Tulips perform best where the summers are dry and the winters are cold.

Plant the tulip bulbs 6 to 8 weeks in the fall before a hard frost. The soil can still be worked better just below 60 degrees F. in zone 4 and later in the autumn in warmer zones.

How to Plant Tulip Bulbs?

how to plant tulip bulbs

Planting tulip bulbs is easy. Good soil preparation is key to a successful garden. Bulb roots reach deep. Dig your bed to a depth of 12-inches, spade, and turn the soil until crumbly. The soft soil will permit the 8-inch depth for bulbs to be an easy task planting. Use a garden rake to even out the surface.

Plant tulips where they will receive full or afternoon sun. Choose a more shady site for zones 7 or 8 or having morning sun only.

Tulips do not like to have their feet wet. The soil must be well-drained, dry, or sandy soil, neutral to slightly acid and fertile. Tulips like phosphorus-rich bone meal, so add a handful at the bottom of the hole when planting.

Sprinkler systems, rainy weather, and wet soil can kill tulips. The wet conditions lead to fungus and disease that rot the bulbs. Include chipped bark or sand to alleviate any drainage problems.

Plant the bulbs in odd numbers to achieve a natural look. Straight lines of tulips are boring. Plant 8-inches deep 3- to 5-inches apart.

For the most spectacular display, mass at least 20 bulbs of the same variety and color. In a mixed border, space bulbs (at least 5 to a group) among perennials that will bloom later. The perennials will hide the ripening bulb foliage.

For a solid color effect, space tulips and other big bulbs 5- or 6-inches apart; smaller bulbs can be placed closer together. Plant large bulbs—such as tulip and daffodil—8-inches deep and smaller ones—such as crocus—only 4-inches deep. A good rule of thumb is that the planting depth should equal three times the diameter of the bulb.

To protect your bulbs from chipmunks, squirrels, and other varmints, mix into the soil and sprinkle dried blood meal to the soil after planting. Squirrels will dig out the bulbs and eat them all. Its odor repels those little critters. It supplies a much-needed dose of nitrogen that makes the bulbs very happy next year.

Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up. The stems and bloom come from here. Make sure that the bottom of the bulb is in firm contact with the bottom of its planting hole. If not, then there will be an air pocket between the two, which will not let the bulb root properly, and cause it to rot. Cover the bulbs with soil and press firmly. Water the bulbs; it helps to trigger the bulb’s growth. Planting tulips has been a fun experience, don’t you think?

Bulb Care

Do not water tulips unless it is very dry and then only in the fall. When you do water, water deep. Sprinkling does them more harm than good. Feed them in the fall, since they have used all their energy for this year’s blooms. Your plant nursery has packages of tulip food and don’t forget the bone meal.

Cut tulips on the diagonal if you plan to put them in a vase in the house.

After tulips have bloomed, cut off the flower heads only. Do not cut the green foliage; it is gathering sun for its bulbs for next year’s flowers. When the foliage turns a dry yellow or brown, gently remove and put in the trash. Do not leave on the ground because that can harbor disease and insects. Spiders are okay; they eat the bad bugs.

Every 2 to 3 years, you might want to dig all the bulbs up and plant somewhere else. Do not plant tulips where tulips have been. The soil nutrients are used up. Many people do not dig and replant since that is so labor-intensive. The mother bulb will have daughter bulbs and in a year, the daughters are under the soil, not the mother.


  • Snails and slugs
  • Mold—gray and green
  • Aphids—white
  • Nematodes
  • Bulb rot

Shopping for Tulips

shopping for tulips

Tulips are like little girls’ dresses. They can be ruffled, fringed, double, single, and lily-shaped depending on the variety.

Go to the garden center or order catalogs online for the different blooming seasons for tulips, colors, varieties, and all of your tulip dreams.

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