The Best Method for Planting Tulip Bulbs
How to Plant Tulip Bulbs
Planting tulips is a great way to add some color to your garden. If you've never planted tulip bulbs before, don't worry, it's simple! The trick is waiting until the right time of year so your tulips grow and bloom during the spring.
Getting Ready to Plant
Prepare to plant the bulbs in the fall.After the summer weather has faded into fall, and the nights have gotten colder, it's time to plant your bulbs and start dreaming of spring again. You want to plant the bulbs before the first deep frost, which hardens the grounds and makes it much more difficult to dig holes for the bulbs. The bulbs should be planted when the soil is still at least 60 °F (16 °C).
- Plan to plant the bulbs within a week after buying them. They shouldn't stay above the ground for too long.
- Don't plant the bulbs too early, or they might come up before the weather gets cold and die as soon as the frosts come. They should lie dormant in the ground all winter and come up in the spring.
- If you forget to plant your bulbs in the fall, then you can also plant them in early spring. However, do not plant bulbs any sooner than mid-April since the weather will likely be too cold at this time.
Choose tulip bulbs to plant.You can get them from a nursery, a home and garden store, or buy them online. Tulips are hardy flowers that will grow in most climates. Depending on what variety you buy, each bulb will produce one 1-4 stems and blossoms.
- Opt for perennial bulbs since these will bloom over several seasons.However, keep in mind that you will still need to replant your bulbs after a few years.
- Choose bulbs that are firm to the touch with a light brown papery skin, almost like an onion skin.
- Keep in mind that you can still try planting soft or shriveled bulbs. However, these bulbs may be rotten or dead, and may not sprout.
Decide where to plant the bulbs.Many people plant tulips along fences, walkways, or buildings to add little bursts of color. They're often planted in rows, since it's easy to control where they come up. Figure out where you want to plant your tulips as you get ready to plant them.
- Tulips grow best in areas that are sunny or lightly shaded, and not excessively wet.
- Tulips come in many colors, so it's easy to plant them in interesting patterns and shapes. You could alternate colors or plant a whole bed of multicolored tulips, for example. Design a tulip pattern that makes sense for your yard.
Planting the Bulbs
Assess the planting site.Tulips grow in most soils, and there's not much you need to do to get it ready for planting. However, if the soil where you live is very dry or hard, you can wait to plant the tulips until a day after it has rained. Remove any weeds or stones and use a trowel or garden fork to loosen and aerate the soil.
Dig holes for the bulbs.Tulip bulbs should be buried about 6 inches (15.2 cm) to 8 inches (20.3 cm) deep to prevent squirrels and other creatures from finding them and eating them.Space the holes 4 to 6 inches (10.2 to 15.2 cm) apart, and dig them about 8 inches (20.3 cm) from the base of the bulb. So if you have a 1-inch bulb, you'll need a 9-inch hole. The larger the bulb, the deeper the hole must be.
- As you dig, clear away roots, rocks and other debris that could impede the growth of your tulips.
- You can sprinkle kitty litter, gravel, holly leaves, or thorny bush branches into the hole to deter mice and other rodents from occupying the hole.
- If you are planting lots of tulip bulbs, then you can also use the trench method. To do this, dig a long trench to place the bulbs into instead of digging multiple small holes. Just make sure that you remember where you have already planted.
Plant the tulip bulbs.Place them in the holes pointy-side up (otherwise they'll try to sprout downward). Sprinkle the soil back into the holes and pack it down with your hands, taking care not to tilt the bulbs in another direction.
- Keep in mind that the more tulips you plant, the more impressive your garden will be when they bloom in the spring. Plant at least 50 bulbs throughout your yard for a bright garden full of tulips.
- Tulip bulbs are naturally perennials, meaning they can come back more than once. In most climates, though, the soil isn't conducive to more than one year of growth, and the bulb only contains enough nutrients for it to bloom once. If you want the tulips to come back after the first year, place some plant food in the holes before closing them back up.
Water the bulbs lightly.Right after planting, give the bulbs some water. This helps them begin the process of growing. Don't give them a soaking, though; bulbs will decay and die if they get too wet.
- Don't water the bulbs again unless it's extremely dry outside. Unless the ground is very dry, there is no need to water the bulbs. Newly planted bulbs may rot if the soil becomes sodden and waterlogged. There should be enough rain through the autumn and winter to provide your bulbs with enough moisture.
Watch for the tulips to sprout in the spring.By March or April in the northern hemisphere and September or October in the southern hemisphere, your bulbs should have transformed into beautiful spring tulips.
QuestionHow long can I store tulip bulbs before planting them outside?Community AnswerYou should be able to store them at least 6-12 months. If stored correctly, most flower bulbs can last for over 12 months. See this wikiHow article to learn more about storing tulips specifically.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I preserve my tulips against the cold?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerLayer mulch over your soil. This provides an additional layer of insulation for your tulips.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the best way to dig the hole?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA trowel works best. If you have very loamy soil, you can use a bulb digger.Thanks!
QuestionCan I plant tulips in the spring?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerUnless you live in a particularly cold climate, always plant tulip bulbs in fall.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I keep a tulip bulb that is faded with extensive roots alive when it was grown in water?Kelli JonesCommunity AnswerTulips generally do not like to grow in overly waterlogged soil, so growing one in water is an amazing feat. Plant it in well-drained sandy soil. Plant the bulb pointy side up in the fall.Thanks!
QuestionHow many bulbs should I plant in each hole?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends not the size of your hole. Approximately 9 tulip bulbs can fit in a hole that's 12 inches wide and long.Thanks!
QuestionWill my bulbs do okay in an 8" wide, 8" deep window box planter? I live in a town in zone 4 and pack my planters in straw/hay for the winter, as if to almost mimic being in the ground. Is this okay?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure you add flower food to your box. Otherwise, this sounds fine to me.Thanks!
QuestionCan I plant bulbs from an indoor plant?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but it's a difficult process. You have to refrigerate them in a container like a vase with pebbles and water or in a plastic pot. For 12-16 weeks, the temperature should be 45-55 F. Then pull them out of the fridge. Keep them in darkness for the first week, then for the next two weeks in sunny, indirect light. After flowering, you can plant the bulbs outside. These bulbs can never be forced again. This process can be started between September and December or between February and May if you live in the South.Thanks!
QuestionCan I plant tulip bulbs in spring?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, this would be too early. You should plant tulips in the fall. If you'd like to plant some bulbs in the spring, try some annuals, such as: begonias, cannas, dahlias, and gladiolus.Thanks!
QuestionI have tulip bulbs planted in a vase. Can I replant the bulbs in the fall?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, just keep them refrigerated until fall. They should do just fine once you replant them.Thanks!
When should I take out tulips I planted and store them if I am in zone 6?
How do I preserve the bulbs of potted tulips?
Tulip plants are being sold in a variety of stores this time of year. Can these be planted in garden? I live in Charlotte NC
Will my tulip bulbs be okay to store if they got wet and I had to dry them in the sun?
How can I prevent squirrels from digging up the bulbs/? Thanks.
- If you do need to water your bulbs, make sure to use a watering can, as the water flow is much softer than hose pressure.
- You can put green golf tees in the ground around the bulbs so that you know where they are and you will avoid cutting them with a shovel. The green tees blend in but are easy to see when you are on the ground.
- Tulips need cold weather to root. This means leaving the planting until the end of autumn in cooler areas and the beginning of winter in warmer areas. If you live in a very mild climate, you may need to chill the bulbs before planting–keep them refrigerated for 8-12 weeks before planting.
Things You'll Need
Trowel and/or a shovel
Sources and Citations
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Video: Tulip Planting Tips and Techniques
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