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Tulip Bulb Planting Guide

Gardeners have been smitten by the simple, elegant beauty of Tulips for hundreds of years, and with spectacular new varieties emerging all the time, there's no sign of them stopping! These brightly colored blooms illuminate in early spring and are perfect for both container and ground plantings. Not to mention, they add stunning sophistication and whimsy to cut arrangements. Read on for all of our tips and tricks on how to plant and care for Tulips.

Success Snapshot

PLANTING
DEPTH

6-7", 3x bulb height

WATER
QUANTITY

Moderate with growth

SUNLIGHT
QUANTITY

Full Sun

PLANTING
PROXIMITY

4-5" Apart

BLOOM
SEASON

Spring

HARDINESS
ZONES

Zones 3-8

Where to Plant Tulips

While Tulips are relatively easy to grow, plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil are what makes them happiest. If you notice puddles of water 5–6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site or amend the soil with organic material to raise the level 2–3 inches. Tulips fancy a place with full or partial sun, but in zones 7 or 8 avoid planting them someplace where they might get excessive heat, such as against a south-facing wall or fence. Choose a spot that allows for bulbs to be planted 4 to 6 inches apart and offers shelter from the wind for taller varieties.


When to Plant Tulips

Plant your bulbs in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected, to give them time to establish themselves. In colder climates it's best to plant in September or October, and in warmer regions bulbs can be planted in December or later. Foliage and flowers can be expected to appear in the spring.


How to Plant Tulips

  • For outdoor landscape planting, find a spot where the soil drains well, and your Tulips will receive full sun to light shade. Dig holes and plant the bulbs 5" apart and 6" to 7" deep at the base with the pointy end facing up.
  • For container planting, start with good quality, well-drained soil, and plant your Tulips 4" apart and 6" to 7" deep at the base with the pointy end facing up. Remember that shorter varieties usually perform better in all but the largest containers, and deeper planting depths are better in colder regions.
  • Water thoroughly, soaking the soil to settle it around the bulbs without air pockets.

How to Grow Tulips

  • Water as needed during active growth periods, supplying about 1" of moisture per week.
  • Leave the foliage in place after blooming has finished for the season. The leaves will gather sunlight to create food through photosynthesis, strengthening the bulb for the future.
  • Remove the dry foliage when the leaves turn yellow and die back around early summer to give your Tulips a clean slate before beginning the next growing cycle.
  • Allow the soil to dry out when the leaves are absent and the bulbs are dormant.

Tulip Tips & Tricks

  • Amend the soil with compost, ground bark, or composted manure to improve drainage and encourage a healthy start.
  • Expect roots to form in the fall, with foliage and flowers emerging in the spring.
  • Avoid letting the soil remain soggy, which can cause the bulbs to rot.
  • Allow Tulip bulbs to enjoy several weeks of winter chill, but in areas that experience freezing temperatures, move container-planted bulbs into a sheltered spot like an unheated garage until green shoots begin to emerge.
  • Snip a few of these vibrant flowers when in bloom for striking bouquets.