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When to Plant Tulip Bulbs

Updated February 21, 2017

When thinking of flower gardens, tulips are often one of the first plants to come to mind. Tulips have vibrant colours and bloom in early spring. Tulips originated in Holland and they prefer cold weather. However, warmer climates still benefit from tulips in the garden--it is just a matter of when to plant them.

Temperatures

Refer to the hardiness zone (see USDA link in Resources below) for specific areas, as it is important that tulips be in the ground according to appropriate temperatures.

Plant tulips in the fall after soil temperatures drop below 15.6 degrees C. In warmer climates, this would be in late fall or early winter.

Alternatively, tulip bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six weeks as a substitute to planting in the fall. The cold air of the refrigerator tricks the bulbs into producing.

Planting

Plant the bulbs from the refrigerator in January or early February. A sunny location with well-drained soil is the ideal location. Plant the tulip bulbs at least 6 inches deep. Add a small amount of sand and nestle the bulb in the sand. The pointed end of the bulb needs to be pointing up. Backfill the hole with dirt and pack it firmly around the bulb.

Use a fertiliser rich in nitrogen and potassium at planting time. Do not fertilise the tulips while blooming.

Water the tulip bulbs once a month in the winter and once a week in early spring to encourage growth.

Planted in individual containers, tulips are a colourful addition to the patio or deck. Place the container in a sunny location on the patio or deck.

Tips

Tulips will grow up to 28 inches tall. Tulips bloom in early spring until mid- to late spring. A gardener's guide for tulip blooming is "by Easter." This means that the tulips are finished blooming by Easter. Once the blooming time is over, allow the foliage to die off naturally. The bulb will return to dormancy stage and have a greater chance of returning the following year.

Do not dig tulip bulbs up and store for the winter. Due to their preference for cold weather, they will do well in the ground throughout winter. Add a layer of mulch over the ground where the bulbs are for added protection in the winter, if desired.

Do not panic if growth is not noticeable the first year. Tulips sometimes wait until the second year after planting to grow. Once started, however, they will multiply.

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About the Author

Cathy Conrad has more than five years of newsprint experience as an assistant editor and is a professional writer. She has worked as a virtual assistant and email support specialist, and has more than 20 years of experience working in the medical field. Conrad is currently licensed as a Texas insurance representative and has many years in home improvement and gardening.