How to look after tulips

Updated March 23, 2017

The tulip, a member of the Liliaceae family, is a familiar perennial grown by planting bulbs. The tulip originates from Persia, but for centuries Holland has been the source of most tulip bulbs imported to the United States. More than 3,000 varieties of tulip are available. The proper care for your tulips depends on the climate in your geographical area and the type of tulip bulb you plant. After careful planting, your tulips will require little care.

Plant large, disease-free tulip bulbs in sandy soil with added aged manure or tulip bulb food, and make sure there is good drainage and springtime sun. October and November, before the ground freezes, are the best months for planting tulips.

Plant tulip bulbs about three times as deep as the length of the bulb, and avoid overcrowding. You can thin out an overcrowded garden by digging up the tulips after most of the foliage has died, and dividing and replanting smaller bulbs.

Water your tulip bulb immediately after planting and, if winters are dry, continue to water the bulbs occasionally throughout the winter.

Sprinkle the tulips with bulb food when the first-season plants emerge during spring.

Deadhead your tulips, or remove the old flowers, if you do not intend to cut them for display. After deadheading, allow the leaves to remain and die naturally.

Leave dying tulips in the ground to feed the soil until June or July, then remove the dead plants.

Cut tulips with gardening shears when the flowers have reached peak colour, but are not yet open, if you wish to use them in bouquets or displays.


Plant tulips in groups spaced about 6 inches apart for a nicer display in spring. You also can plant your tulip bulbs in a trench for a different display. If you plan to mix different types of flowers in one garden, plant tulip bulbs after you plant the other flowers to prevent damaging the bulbs with gardening tools.

Things You'll Need

  • Tulip bulbs
  • Aged manure
  • Tulip bulb food
  • Gardening trowel
  • Gardening shears
  • Floral preservative
  • Sugar
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About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.