At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Tulip bulbs are easy to grow in the ground or containers, with fall or winter being the best time to plant, depending on the climate. In cool climates, gardeners should plan on planting tulips around mid-fall, while in warmer climates, it is a good idea to wait until the winter months. Tulips rely on a period of chilling to allow the bulbs to develop so they will come up in the spring. Gardeners can use this tactic to force tulips in pots if they want to grow them indoors.
First, gardeners should select bulbs appropriate for planting. Size is not important, as many varieties come in an assortment of sizes, but the tulip bulbs should be plump and firm to the touch, without spongy or wet spots. If the climate is very warm and the ground never chills in the winter, the bulbs should be stored in a refrigerator or cold closet for several weeks before planting to prepare them for the winter.
Tulips prefer loose, well-drained soil in sunny to partly shady spots. Gardeners can prepare the soil by digging a trench about twice as deep as the tulips are high, and they should loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench to facilitate rooting. It is also a good idea to add some bulb fertilizer to the soil to promote healthy growth. Once the trench is ready, the gardener can place the tulip bulbs, stem up, in the desired pattern. The bulbs can move around slightly as the ground settles, and it is important to leave space between bulbs.
After all the tulip bulbs are in place, the gardener can use a trowel to gently sift soil over them. It is important to avoid compacting the soil, as this can make it difficult for the bulbs to take root. Once the soil is in place, it is advisable to water the tulip bulbs with a gentle sprinkling from the hose. In cold climates, gardeners can add mulch after planting, or leave the soil exposed. The tulips should start to emerge in early spring.
Cutting tulip flowers back as they die off will help the bulbs store more energy for the following winter, and gardeners should also cut back the leaves after they start to wither, and plan on adding fertilizer in the fall to help the bulbs grow. As tulips mature, they will divide and produce new bulbs, making it necessary to dig them out and redistribute them every two to three years.