Everything You Need to Know About Growing Tulips

Starting your bulbs

Tulips MUST have consistent soil temperatures (10 C / 50 F) for at least 6 weeks and 12-16 weeks in complete darkness to produce a spring bloom.

All spring-flowering bulbs must be planted in fall.

Most tulips are good for horticultural zones 3 through 7. The optimal planting time is when night-time temperatures are 4-10 C (40-50 F), and soil temperatures are 13 C (55 F) or below.

In warmer climates, chill bulbs in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) in darkness for 10-14 weeks before planting, starting mid-October. In horticultural zone 7, you can even pre-chill your bulbs for 8-10 weeks in case of mild winter.
Flower bulbs require consistent temperatures during the pre-chilling period.

*Do not pre-chill bulbs with apples or pears, which release ethylene gas and cause bulbs to rot.

Planting your bulbs

  • Sunlight: Select an area with dappled sunlight to protect the flowers and foliage from excessive sun. Avoid planting in containers or raised beds: Soil temperatures change quicker, causing inconsistent freezing and thawing.
  • Water: Never plant in areas with poor drainage or excessive water. Moisture causes bulbs to rot.
  • Soil: Bulbs require neutral pH soil (7) in order to grow roots.
  • The best type of soil for flower bulbs is a sandy loam: a balanced mixture of clay, sand, silt and a modicum of organic matter. Acidic or alkaline soil prevents bulb root growth. Flower bulb planting sites (woodlands, display gardens or lawns) should be amended to neutralize pH.
  • Depth and spacing: Plant tulips around 10-15 cm deep, and 50-60 per square meter (or four bulbs per square foot, spaced about 6" apart, and 6" to 8" deep).

Bulbs require well-draining, neutral pH soil, disease-free, and at least six hours of daily sunlight.



When you are ready to plant, remove bulbs from the fridge and plant immediately. Then apply a very light layer of mulch (straw, hay) after the surface of the ground freezes, which will help trap the cold in the soil and protect the bulbs from temperature spikes.

Water the flower bulb beds occasionally if rainfall is insufficient. Avoid overhead watering as it promotes disease. Water early in the day so the plants have enough time to dry.

Never use horse manure, bone meal, chicken droppings, or garden compost, as they are normally not a neutral pH.

Aftercare and storage

If grown as annuals, bulbs can be lifted and discarded immediately after the flowers fade. 

If you want to grow your tulips again next year, top-dress tulip plantings with a 4-10-6 organic granular fertilizer three times a year (fall, spring when the sprouts emerge, and late spring when the flowers start to die back. After the flowers die, dead-head them an inch or two under the flower, if possible.

Allow the stem and foliage to die back naturally for 6-8 weeks. Do not cut or mow too early. Once the foliage has yellowed- or browned-out, it is dead. Then, it can be dug up and stored.

Store the bulbs in a cool, dry spot with good air circulation and low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight.

If any bulbs have arrived with a blue-gray "transportation" mold, remove it gently with a paper towel. They are still good to be planted!


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