How to dry tulip bulbs

Written by brenda ingram-christian
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How to dry tulip bulbs
Tulip bulbs are stored dry to maintain the health of the dormant bulb. (amstertulip2 image by Jaume Felipe from

Tulip bulbs are often purchased dry from retail stores or nurseries where they have been stored in warehouses for future sales or they can be dug up and stored over the summer months for fall or midwinter planting without damaging the bulb. Your dry tulip bulb may look dead, but it is actually dormant and waiting for the perfect garden spot.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Shovel
  • Spading fork
  • Drying trays
  • Paper bags
  • Knife
  • Vermiculite

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  1. 1

    Dig up tulip bulbs after the leaves have turned yellow using a shovel or a spading fork. Yellow leaves are a signal that they are no longer producing nutrients that are stored in the bulb for the next blooming cycle. Yellowing usually occurs in the late spring or early summer, depending on your location.

  2. 2

    Rinse all the dirt off of the bulbs and remove any dead leaves. Be thorough with your washing to be sure no insects, fungus, rot or any type of diseased plant material is left on the bulb. Use a small paring knife to cut away any damaged or unhealthy small bulbs that may be growing on the side of the main bulb's roots. Trim away damaged roots and throw away any bulbs that are partly rotted -- do not allow them to be mixed with the good bulbs.

  3. 3

    Spread the bulbs out on a tray in a shady area, leaving plenty of room between bulbs for good air circulation. Turn the bulbs at least once a day for three days or more to make sure all outer plant material is dry.

  4. 4

    Store dried bulbs on trays or hanging in paper bags in a location away from sunlight where temperatures maintain a constant range between 10.0 and 21.1 degrees C. Dry bulbs should not be stacked, as they can produce their own heat and will begin to rot. If you choose to use trays, cover the bulbs with a light coating of sand, peat moss, perlite or vermiculite.

Tips and warnings

  • Separate bulbs by colour and mature height while digging so that they can easily be identified for the next planting season.
  • The best time to plant bulbs is in the fall. Fall rains will help spur root growth and your tulip will be better prepared for the return of spring.
  • Never store bulbs of any type near fruit as the ethylene gas produced by fruit will cause them to rot.
  • Bulbs can become overcrowded as new bulbs are created near them and should dug and split up when symptoms of overcrowding are evident.

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