How to Grow Tulips

blooming tulip flowers

by Jennifer Poindexter

Do you have a certain flower that triggers a memory of someone or something? Tulips do this for me.

Every time I see a tulip I think of my sister. She loves them and has as long as I can remember. I have memories of us riding down the interstate as children, looking out the windows, and seeing the beautiful landscape of tulips as part of a nature conservation program by our state.

My sister would be in awe of the beauty. If you’d like to create this same gorgeous scenery around your home, you should consider planting tulips.

They’re easy-to-grow and if you purchase the right variety, they may even return each year for a glorious show of color.

Here’s all you must know to grow a beautiful arrangement of this flower in your garden:

Growing Conditions for Tulips

Tulips have a few criteria for a grow space. By providing their basic needs, you could have a beautiful display of flowers in the foreseeable future.

The first thing tulips need for a quality grow space is to be planted in well-draining soil. They can’t handle sitting in consistent moisture.

Therefore, dry or sandy soils are ideal because they drain moisture quickly away from the plant.

The next specification tulips have is to be planted in full sun. These flowers need a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day.

If you can provide a well-lit grow space where the tulips won’t hang out in water, they should be happy. It is important to note that tulips can be either an annual or a perennial.

Therefore, you should take note of what kind you’re planting to ensure a perennial variety will be planted where the flowers will be undisturbed, and you’ll be happy with their placement for years to come.

Genuine species of tulips are the perennial varieties. Many times, what you see at some stores, are hybrid tulips. These are annuals and should be treated as such.

If you do plant a perennial variety of tulip, know that they’re hardy in planting zones four through seven. Be sure to understand what type of tulip you’re planting and make sure the plant’s two needs are provided where you plant it.

tulip bulbs coming up

How to Plant Tulips

The first step in planting tulips is to pick your variety. Tulip varieties determine their bloom schedule. By choosing different varieties, your garden will have blooming tulips for a longer period of time.

Once you have your plant varieties picked out, you should plant them in the fall. When the soil is consistently 60-degrees Fahrenheit, it’s cool enough to begin planting tulips.

This is important because tulips need a “cooling off” period before they bloom. When planted in cold soil and left to cool for approximately 12 weeks, they’ll be ready to show off come spring.

If you live where these temperatures could cause an issue for you, read the packaging on the bulbs you’re purchasing. Some have been pre-cooled.

You can also pop your tulips in the refrigerator for 12 weeks ahead of planting to ensure they’ve been thoroughly cooled. You should still plant pre-cooled tulips in the fall.

When planting tulips, ensure the holes are at least eight inches deep with the pointed end of the bulb facing up. Tulips can be planted close together. They only need approximately six inches between each plant.

It’s actually a great idea to plant ten or more tulip plants together because this is when their colors really begin to stand out.

By planting at the right time, depth, and with the proper spacing, your tulips should have an excellent chance at producing a colorful show in the spring.

Caring for Tulips

There are three basic things you must do to care for tulips: water, fertilize, and prune. By doing these three things at the proper times, your flowers should flourish.

It’s important to water tulips when they’re planted and when they’re starting to produce. Water the bulbs one time per week for the first month after planting.

Water the bulbs again, one time per week, when the plant starts to produce foliage in the spring. Use the deep watering method during these times.

This is when you water the plants for a prolonged period of time to ensure the water reaches the roots. The plants shouldn’t appear as though they’re swimming, but the soil surrounding the plant should be adequately moist.

It’s important to stop watering when the plant has gone dormant.

The next step in caring for tulips is to fertilize. You should begin fertilizing when the blooms begin to fade.

This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s not. Fertilizing when there’s mainly foliage is a good thing. Tulips store their nutrients for the next year’s blooms in their leaves.

If you fertilize when the plant is mainly foliage, you’re giving the plant quite a stockpile of food to feed to the next year’s beautiful production. Stop fertilizing at the end of fall.

The final step in caring for tulips adequately is proper pruning. Tulips make gorgeous additions to flower arrangements.

You can harvest the tulips when the blooms haven’t fully opened, but you should be able to start seeing their color submerging.

While the flowers are in bloom, you can deadhead them to encourage more growth and to attempt to keep the color production going for a longer period.

Once the flowers begin to fade, cut the foliage and stem back to the base of the plant. Wait until the leaves turn completely brown before you cut the tulip all the way back to ground level for overwintering perennial varieties.

If you planted annual varieties, once the leaves turn brown, pull them up. By providing basic care your tulips should brighten up your home or garden area easily.

Garden Pests and Diseases for Tulips

Tulips aren’t only a favorite among humans. Animals love them, too. Though, they don’t love them for their beautiful colors. They love the way they taste.

Therefore, you must be on high alert when growing tulips. Deer find tulips delicious. You can try to keep them out of your garden bed by putting up a fence.

If this isn’t realistic for you, try planting tulips with other plants that deer don’t love. Daffodils are a colorful option that would look great alongside tulips, but the deer hate them.

Chipmunks and squirrels are also threats to your tulips. They like to dig the bulbs up before they bloom. To deter this from happening, consider planting the bulbs in holes which are lined with chicken wire.

That way, when the pests dig, they’ll hurt their paws and learn to stop digging up your tulips. Mice and voles are potential threats to tulips for the same reasons. You can use the same methods to keep them at bay.

Slugs and snails like to enjoy tulips after they’ve bloomed. You can wait around until dusk to hand pick them from the plants, or you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of the tulips which will form a deadly terrain for slugs or snails to climb over.

Aphids are another common pest problem for tulips. If you see them on your plants, spray them forcefully with a water hose to dislodge them. Insecticidal soap also helps in treating an aphid infestation.

There are two diseases which commonly cause issues for tulips. The first is bulb rot which is caused by a fungus in the soil and frequents areas where the soil doesn’t drain properly.

You can avoid this by planting where the soil is well-draining, and the bulbs won’t be sitting in consistent moisture.

Gray mold is another disease which can cause issues with tulips. It will show up as actual gray mold on the foliage of your tulip plants.

You can treat or avoid this disease by increasing airflow around the plants. This can mean better spacing between the tulip plants or decluttering the soil beneath the plants.

If gray mold has started to form on your tulips be sure to remove any impacted foliage and treat your tulips with a fungicide to kill any remaining spores.

Tulips aren’t a complicated flower to grow. They provide a gorgeous splash of color to your landscape, and with certain varieties, will return year after year.

By understanding how to properly plant, care, and protect them, you should have a positive grow experience with tulips.  

pink tulips with text overlay how to grow tulips

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