7 Tips for Planting Tulip Bulbs
Inside every tulip bulb is a flower that’s already counting down the days to spring. Here’s how to give these fall-planted bulbs the best chance for success:
Good soil means better results
Tulips look their best when they are planted in loose, crumbly soil that is easy to work and very well drained. The well-drained part is critical because bulbs can rot in soil that’s too wet. Holland’s primary bulb-growing region is located in the western part of the country near the sea. The area’s sandy soils ensure bulbs are never in a soggy situation.
Plant like a pro
Garden designers know that tulips look their best when planted in groups of 50 or more bulbs. For an impressive display, plan on 12-20 bulbs per square foot. If you want to plant a lot of bulbs fast, use a shovel to remove about 6″ of soil from the planting area and pile the soil on a tarp. Space the bulbs 4 to 5” on center and then rake or pour the soil over the bulbs.
Stretch the season with different types of tulips
Some tulips open just after the crocuses and others flower right before the peonies. If you choose varieties with different bloom times, you can have tulips flowering for at least six weeks. To learn which types bloom when, read: Tulips by Bloom Time or check out our Bloom Time Chart.
A sunny planting location is best
If possible, plant tulip bulbs in full sun. This will help them attain their maximum height and flower size. If full sun isn’t an option, you’ll find that tulips also perform well in half-day sun and beneath deciduous trees. In warm climates, the flowers will last longer if they are shaded during the hottest part of the day.
Switch up the planting locations
Tulip bulbs are susceptible to a number of fungal diseases, especially when they are grown in heavy soil that retains water. If the growing conditions in your yard are less than ideal, you can minimize problems by planting fresh tulip bulbs every fall. After the flower fade in the spring, simply dig out the plants, making sure to remove the bulbs as well as the stem and foliage. If possible, rotate planting areas, giving the soil a 3-year rest in between.
Plant tulips later than most other fall bulbs
There are two good reasons to wait until November to plant your tulip bulbs. Cold temperatures suppress fungal growth, so your bulbs will be less susceptible to disease. If you have problems with squirrels and chipmunks stealing your bulbs, planting later is a good way to avoid the peak hoarding frenzy of early fall. In growing zones 4 and 5, consider prepping the planting areas in October while the weather is mild. This makes November planting easier and more pleasant.
Be realistic about second year flowers
Tulips always look their best the first spring after planting. This is why the tulips in public gardens and commercial plantings are usually replaced annually. They can’t risk a poor showing.
When soil and growing conditions are ideal, some types of tulips may bloom for more than one year. In the second year, the flowers are typically smaller and some of the bulbs may not produce any flowers at all. For best results, use a garden fork to remove the bulbs in the spring after they finish blooming.
To learn more, we suggest: What Makes Darwin Hybrid Tulips Special, Planting a Front Door Garden (video) All About Tulips and How to Plant Tulip Bulbs (video). Shop our complete selection of tulip bulbs HERE.