Caring for potted tulips

Of all the bulbs, tulips are probably the most varied in size and colour, ranging from dainty dwarf specimens to frilly, feathery forms and stand-up-straight majestic types.

They don’t need planting as early as narcissi or snowdrops. In fact, tulips shouldn’t be planted before the end of October, as early planting will result in soft growth which is susceptible to the fungal disease, tulip fire.

1. Best grown alone

If you’re growing them in pots, generally they are best grown alone because they don’t survive a typical summer without being lifted and dried off after flowering.

2. Stand-alone or combinations

If you want a stand-alone colour and type of bulb, consider sowing grass seed on the surface soil once you’ve planted the bulbs, which will create a swathe of green as the bulbs emerge, avoiding visible empty pockets of soil.

However, you can achieve some gorgeous combinations which could also help hide the unsightly appearance of the bulbs once they have finished flowering and are starting to look straggly.

Variegated dwarf ribbon grass, for example, is an excellent pairing with the deep burgundy Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’. The grass makes a terrific foil for the almost-black tulip flowers and will last long after the blooms have gone.

3. Planting in pots

If you are planting a single layer of bulbs, fill the pot to within four or five times the depth of the bulb from the top of the pot.

You can plant the bulbs closer together in a pot than you would in the ground, leaving them around 1cm apart if they are small tulips, but a bit more space for varieties with larger blooms.

Then fill the rest of the pot with compost, up to around 3cm from the top of the rim. Also, be aware that tall bulbs in shallow containers don’t generally succeed.

4. Make sure soil is well drained

When planting, the most important thing is that the soil is well drained.

Add a handful of grit to multi-purpose compost at planting time and place crocs, small stones or broken pieces of polystyrene plant trays in the base and ensure you have drainage holes in the container.

Stand the pot on feet to stop autumn and winter moisture seeping in upwards from the ground and rotting the bulbs.

5. Keep them out of the bad weather

In severe winter weather, move the pots closer to the house so they escape the worst of the excess wet and chilling wind.

But once the days become slightly warmer in early spring, move them out into the open and don’t let the pots dry out or you’ll be left with stunted foliage and poor flowers.

6. Water periodically

Once the bulbs are in full leaf growth, the pots should be watered periodically, when the compost feels dry.

7. Best tulips for pots

In deep pots you might go for tall varieties such as triumph whose stems grow up to 40cm, flowering in late spring. These include T. ‘Prinses Irene’, which has glowing orange blooms flamed with purple, and ‘Bing Crosby’, a scarlet variety.

Shorter single early tulips such as ‘Apricot Beauty’ also work well in pots, as do taller single late and Darwin tulips including ‘World’s Favourite’, a hot orange-red type, or the lily-flowered T. ‘Ballerina’, with its vibrant orange flowers which open fully on sunny days.

In fact, most tulips are perfect for pots – just avoid those with weak stems and very heavy flowers which are prone to flopping.

Many bulbs grown in pots can be left in the compost if they are kept completely dry during the dormant period in summer.

8. Frost-free greenhouse

A frost-free greenhouse or cold frame is ideal and many gardeners lay the pots on their sides.

9. They need a dry rest

Tulips must have a dry rest after flowering, so if you plant summer bedding on top of them which you are intending to regularly water all summer, don’t leave the bulbs in the container or they will just rot.

You’ll need to lift and dry them after they die down and store them safely until late autumn.

What are your tips for growing tulips? Let us know in the Comments section below.

Planting Bulbs in Containers

Tools and Materials

  • Containers
  • Potting soil

Choose a container. Anything that has drainage holes and is deep enough to accommodate a few inches of soil and the bulbs works as a container. You’ll need to allow a 1-inch space between the tip of the bulb and the rim of the pot. Examples:

For a 2-inch-tall daffodil bulb, use a 6-inch-deep pot (3 inches of soil, 2 inches for the bulb, 1-inch space at top).

For a 1-inch-tall crocus bulb, use a 5-inch-deep pot (3 inches of soil, 1 inch for the bulb, 1-inch space at top).

If you have containers that don’t fit these sizes exactly, you can experiment with different soil depths and spacing. But be sure the bulbs have at least 2 inches of soil beneath them.

Choose a potting mix. Use any bagged potting mix labeled for general houseplant use. The mix just has to drain freely and maintain moisture. Mix some fertilizer, such as a granular 5-10-10 or 9-9-6 bulb formulation, into the potting mix at the rate recommended on the product label.

Pot up the bulbs. Add 3 inches of potting mix to the container, and firm it gently. Place a bulb on the soil, and twist it a quarter-turn to give it some grip in the soil. Add the rest of the bulbs, spacing them no more than 1/2-inch apart.

Add more potting mix around the bulbs, firming it into place with your fingers. The tips of the bulbs should barely show through the soil surface.

Water well until some moisture leaks from the drainage holes. If channels or holes develop in the potting mix, fill them with moistened potting mix.

Time to chill. In order to flower, spring-blooming bulbs require a chilling period of 8 to 14 weeks at temperatures between 35? and 40? F. To simulate the effect of winter, place container in a cool, dark place such as an unheated, frost-free basement, garage, or porch. A spare refrigerator is an ideal spot, but keep bulbs away from fruits or vegetables; they give off ethylene gas, which can cause the bud inside a bulb to abort.

Check pots regularly. During the chilling phase, the bulbs are growing roots, so it’s important that the potting mix not dry out. Check regularly for moisture by sticking your finger into the potting mix. If it feels dry an inch deep, fill the pot to the rim with water, and allow it to drain. Be careful not to overwater-excess moisture can lead to rot.

Watch for emerging top growth. After six to eight weeks of chilling, green shoots should begin to emerge. If you live in a mild climate, this should coincide with the emergence of bulbs in outdoor beds. If you live in a cold-winter region, keep the containers in their cool place until you wish to encourage growth.

Place containers where they will receive light. Temperatures over 75? F push bulbs to grow too quickly, resulting in floppy, leggy top growth. A location in light shade should provide the right balance of light and moderate temperatures. To ensure that your bulbs stand erect, you can support top growth with flower rings or stakes and twine.

Maintain the show. As your bulbs grow larger and bloom, check soil moisture daily, and water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Post-bloom care. If you want to save these bulbs, water regularly after the blossoms fade. The leaves will eventually start to turn yellow and dry up. When the leaves have completely turned dry and brown, empty the pot onto your compost pile. Retrieve the bulbs and allow the soil that clings to them to dry. Remove dead foliage, brush off dry soil, and store the bulbs in a cool, dry place. In the fall, plant these bulbs-except tulips, which don’t rebloom well-in a garden bed and purchase new bulbs to pot up in containers.

Extend the bloom period by planting separate containers with varieties that have various bloom dates (early, mid-, and late season).

Face the flat side of tulip bulbs outward toward the wall of the pot. When the leaves and blossom stalks emerge, they’ll grow up and outward, instead of crowding toward the center.

As the bulbs start to bloom, you can move them to a prominent place for best viewing. When they cease to bloom, move the bulb container to an out-of-the-way place while it fades.

You can plant various bulbs in a single container-but be sure to select varieties that are timed to blossom simultaneously (for example, don’t pair late-season daffodils with early crocuses). Plant bulbs in layers in deeper containers, with large bulbs deeper and small bulbs closer to the surface. Space bulbs so they aren’t planted on top of one another.

Follow these easy steps, and you’ll have a display that brings spring to your doorstep.

Tips

Extend the bloom period by planting separate containers with varieties that have various bloom dates (early, mid-, and late season).

Face the flat side of tulip bulbs outward toward the wall of the pot. When the leaves and blossom stalks emerge, they’ll grow up and outward, instead of crowding toward the center.

As the bulbs start to bloom, you can move them to a prominent place for best viewing. When they cease to bloom, move the bulb container to an out-of-the-way place while it fades.

You can plant various bulbs in a single container-but be sure to select varieties that are timed to blossom simultaneously (for example, don’t pair late-season daffodils with early crocuses). Plant bulbs in layers in deeper containers, with large bulbs deeper and small bulbs closer to the surface. Space bulbs so they aren’t planted on top of one another.

Photography By Sabin Gratz/National Gardening Association.

Growing Tulips Indoors

How to Grow Tulips Indoors

Tulips are heralds of spring. They don’t have to be. Tulips growers know that tulips blooms based on the particular time of year they were planted. Many tulip lovers don’t want to wait for the traditional tulips from an outdoor garden. They grow them indoors and have their favorite flower for cuttings to fill all of the vases in their homes and business offices. There are a few basic steps to learn how to grow tulips indoors. Take the time to study tulips and their normal growth patterns for best results.

Planting Times for Tulips

Traditionally, tulips are planted outdoors in late fall or early spring to produce blooms. When planted in late fall, tulip bulbs are hardy enough to withstand cold winter climates. However, for extreme cold, it may be best to plant tulip bulbs in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Bulbs need to be planted four to six inches deep in rich loam soil to create healthy roots and deep colors of blooms. Generally, tulips are in bloom in Zones 1 and 2 from the last week of March through the end of April. In the other four zones, tulips bloom faster due to warmer temperatures. Also, be aware that zone maps vary. Some maps feature only six zones. Others include eight. This is a reflection of the extremes in climate and temperature ranges. In most cases, the packaging and label will provide the most accurate information on your particular zone. These are important to determine how hardy tulips will be under varying zone temperatures.

When Do You Plant Tulips Indoors

It’s possible to plant tulips indoors any time of the year. It’s important to inspect the bulbs before planting them indoors in pots. Select larger bulbs for indoor plantings as they don’t need time to mature to bloom as smaller bulbs do.

Tulips don’t require very deep pots. In fact, they do best in wide clay dishes. They make wonderful decorations for any room in the house. It’s possible to have an indoor tulip garden by arranging pots decoratively and according to varieties of tulip colors. Tulips like rich soil best. For indoor tulips, choose a good medium at the base of the pot like sphagnum moss. Then fill the pot with rich, dark potting soil to about one-half inch from the top. Place tulip bulbs in potting soil and cover with more soil allowing only the tips of the bulbs to show.

Tulips Need a Little Cold to Sprout Roots

After planting tulip bulbs, store in a cool place where the temperature is less than 65 degrees, preferably about 60 degrees. Once roots have sprouted, tulips can be moved to a warmer, sunny room. Make certain the soil doesn’t dry out. Once tulips have been moved to a sunny spot, water more frequently, or as needed. Planting tulips indoors is a wonderful way to teach children how to grow flowers. It’s also a great way to learn about the different types of tulips that do well indoors. Many tulip lovers prefer forcing tulips to grow rather than plant outdoors or through the usual indoor planting process. However, the most common tulip varieties are the easiest to force. If they are planted in the fall, they will most surely bloom by mid December. There are several things you’ll need to do this:

  • Tulip bulbs of a common variety
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic or clay pots (preferably clay which naturally promotes growth)
  • A watering can

Tulip Varieties and Colors

Common varieties of tulip bulbs are hardiest. Variegated species of tulips are not as hardy and prefer more natural growing environments. This is the reason for choosing common varieties for indoor growing. Don’t forget to coordinate the colors of the tulip bulbs you select for indoors. It can make all the difference to the color scheme of a room. For example, lighter tulips do well with darker colored rooms. Add darker colored tulips where more drama is needed. Tulips are available in a wide range of colors. Red, white, yellow, deep purple, coral, apricot, fuchsia, green, pale to deep pink, orange and variegated colors that mix yellows with reds, oranges and are often striated with tinges of green. There is also a difference in tulip sizes.

Tulips grow from about six inches in height to more than twelve inches, depending on the species. With the cross pollination processes used today, tulip sizes and colors can vary. For indoor growing, such variety is a great opportunity to create the most attractive indoor tulip garden that can surprise family and guests. Businesses also like to add tulip gardens to their offices. Tulips require minimal maintenance compared to other indoor plants. The profusion of colors makes any dull office brighter.

Hardy Tulips Indoors and Out

One of the basic reasons gardeners love to plant tulips is that they can resist damage even when a late spring snow storm occurs. These flowering plants are quite accustomed to cold weather. Blooms of tulips rarely last more than two weeks indoors or out. This is one reason indoor gardeners should consider varying their planting times so they can enjoy the blooms the year round. Plant tulip bulbs indoors about two months apart in separate pots. Tulips do best if they are not crowded in pots. The way to know how many bulbs to plant in a pot is to measure the overall diameter. For example, a pot that’s six inches in diameter will allow for six tulip bulbs to bloom and grow comfortably.

Tulip Creativity

To create more interest for indoor tulip gardens, choose pots of varying sizes. Then, plant red tulip bulbs in two or three pots and white tulips bulbs in one or two pots. When they bloom the red and white colors will catch attention quickest. Another color scheme is more subdued. Plant pink tulip bulbs in two pots and surround these with a profusion of dark red tulips in four pots. Indoor potted tulip plants are like having a florist shop right in your own home or office with you as the designing florist.

Where to Purchase the Best Tulip Bulbs

Finding the best quality tulip bulbs today is easy. A local garden center will have several top quality varieties that are ideal for indoor planting. Shopping for tulip bulbs is fun. The garden center will also supply pots, potting soil and watering cans for indoor gardeners. Tulip bulbs are also sold online here and here. Check out those sold directly from Holland and those sold in the USA. These will mostly be shipped at the appointed growing time according to the tulip suppliers’ schedule. However, if you desire to purchase tulip bulbs for indoor gardens, be sure to check the online site for the best choices of tulip varieties for this purpose.

How Much Light Do Tulips Need?

It may be surprising that darker colored tulip bulbs need less sunlight to maintain those deep, rich colors. Lighter colored tulips need slightly more sunlight. The local garden center or online site can advised on the how much light the particular tulip species needs. If you grow tulips indoors you might want to check out LED grow lights here. For example:

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun
  • Full shade
  • Partial shade

Protecting Tulips from Damage

Growing tulips indoors requires less protection than those grown outdoors. Indoors, ordinary dust affects the moisture retention of tulip bulbs. Keep bulbs in a relatively dust free area. Before planting tulip bulbs, check for signs of black rot. Discard any bulbs that appear to have this type of damage.

Tulips with Flair

Growing tulips indoors has allowed gardeners a much wider selection of the texture of tulips. The most common tulips are glossy and have sturdy stems. The petals tend to be well shaped. Other species of tulips have fringed edges to give them added appeal. Still other tulips have longer petals that separate into lily-like shapes.

Don’t forget tulips can also be paired with grape hyacinth, bells of the snow, aromatic hyacinth, daffodil and jonquils in indoor gardens. These flowering bulbs, unlike perennial indoor tulips, have short-lived blooms and will only produce once annually. They add a refreshing change to an indoor tulip garden.

Propagating Tulips

The method for propagating tulips is relatively simple. Tulip roots tend to create offshoots. When tulip bulbs are dug up after the first blooms die off, the tulip gardener will discover smaller bulbs clinging to the roots. These can be removed and replanted to create more tulip plants. Also, certain tulips species cross pollinate when they are growing very close in proximity to each other. This cross pollination often creates a different color or species of the original tulip plants. Indoor tulip gardeners can encourage propagation by planting bulbs closer in pots.

Planting & Growing Flower Bulbs : How to Grow Tulips in Containers

Be Proud of Your Indoor Tulip Garden

All the joy of an indoor tulip garden is seeing all of the work and effort produce glorious colored plants. Since these will grown indoors the year round, consider entering your most prized tulips in the local state or municipal fair.

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Tulips forced into bloom can be transplanted to the ground is spring. Photo courtesy www.bulb.com

A reader received a pot of five tulips for Valentine’s Day and “now I would like to know if I can plant these bulbs outside,” writes A.D. of Indianapolis.

You can and here are some tips:

  • Allow the foliage of the bulbs to ripen in the pot. The leaves are ripe when they turn yellow and fall flat. Water sparingly during this period.
  • Once the foliage has ripened, remove the soil and bulbs from the pot.
  • Separate the bulbs and snip off the ripened foliage.
  • Plant in full sun and well-drained soil as soon as you can work the soil. Plant three or four times deeper than the bulb is tall. If the bulb is two inches tall, plant it six to eight inches deep.

Separate and plant bulbs after foliage has ripened. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

  • Water well.
  • Next spring, the bulbs should sprout foliage, but they may not flower until the following year. When the bulbs’ leaves break ground in spring, apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer or a dusting of compost.
  • This method also works for other hardy, forced bulbs, including daffodils, hyacinths, iris reticulata and crocus.

Spring freezes

Most Hoosiers know that spring temperatures can take a sudden dip into the 20s or below, which may threaten the flowers of our bulbs, perennials, trees and shrubs.

If you feel you must cover your spring plants to protect them from a hard freeze, use cloth or paper. Protect plants only at night, removing the covering during the day.

If you use plastic, make sure it does not touch the plants. Rather, elevate the plastic like a tent above them. Moisture stays under the plastic and can freeze where it touches the plant, damaging the flowers or leaves you are trying to protect.

What To Do With Your Easter Plants

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Easter plants produce some of the most beautiful blossoms, but they are often neglected.

Many people overlook their Easter blooms when preparing their summer gardens.

Lilies, daffodils, tulips, azaleas and hyacinths are common varieties of Easter plants.

Each of these flowers can be planted outdoors and will thrive summer to summer. The key is knowing when to plant them.

Caring for Your Potted Plants

Easter plants are forced to blossom in the spring but may flower a second time during the summer. In order to get the plants to bloom again, provide the same care they received previously.

Keeping your flowers healthy will ensure they are strong enough for replanting. This means providing an environment that is as close to the outdoors as possible.

Place your pots in an area where they can soak up plenty of sunshine.

If your Easter plants do not have adequate drainage, their growth can be stunted. Be sure to allow any excess water to drain properly. Many Easter flowers come in pots that have been lined with foil.

If this is the case, make a hole in the bottom of the foil so extra water doesn’t collect there. Your plants will also need to be watered regularly. The soil should feel moist every day, but it shouldn’t be flooded.

Replanting Preparations

Once the blooms on your plants fade, cut them from the stalk. The leaves on the stalk will eventually turn yellow. When this occurs, slowly decrease the amount of water you give the plant.

You should be barely getting the soil moist every week or so. Watering the plant lightly will prevent the bulb from becoming too dry.

Keep the plant in the pot, and place it in a cool place that receives a moderate amount of light. After there is no more risk of frost, you can plant the flower outside.

You can also prepare your bulbs for reproduction by keeping them indoors for the summer. While the blooms are present, lightly fertilize your plant, and keep it in partial sunlight.

After the leaves turn yellow, cut them off, and remove the bulbs from the soil. Place the bulbs in a netlike bag, and hang the bag in a cool, dry place.

You can replant the bulbs in the fall. Because lilies can be temperamental, this method may not work for this plant.

Time to Plant

When planting your Easter flowers outside, choose a location that receives plenty of sun. The ideal spot should provide shade for the roots but sunlight for the blossoms.

Choose soil that is rich and drains well. You can create your own model soil by combining equal parts of perlite, peat moss and organic soil. Some planting mixes also work well.

Once you prepare your soil, you can plant the bulbs directly or set the pot into the earth.

If you plant the bulbs, place them approximately one foot apart. They should be set at least three inches below the surface of the soil. You will need to layer another three inches of dirt on top.

To plant the entire pot, place it in the ground until the leaves die completely. Once this occurs, remove the plant from the pot, and gently separate any clumped roots.

Place the plant in the ground slightly deeper than how it was in the pot. Completely cover the roots and bulbs with soil.

After planting the flowers, follow these steps:

1. Cut back the stems of each plant to the ground.
2. Thoroughly water the soil surrounding the plants.
3. Cover the soil with mulch to protect the plants from winter winds.
4. Nourish the soil monthly with a fertilizer containing 10 percent of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
5. Avoid spraying weed killer near the plants.

Warm Climate Tips

The bulbs of Easter plants need cold weather to reproduce properly. Growing your plant in a pot will allow the foliage to get energy to the bulb.

Once the leaves die, remove and clean the bulbs, and store them in a dry, ventilated area. Five months before you want the flowers to bloom, put the bulbs in a pot of soil, and water it well.

One month later, place the pot in a cooler. Remove the plant from the cooler about a month before you want to see blooms. Provide light and water, and leaves should sprout within several days.

Easter plants typically blossom in the middle of the summer season. To allow shoots to sprout, remove the mulch in the springtime.

Feed the soil with a fertilizer consisting of 5 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 5 percent potassium.

Taking care of your Easter plants now means enjoying them for years to come. For more helpful tips on gardening, contact Install It Direct, or join our mailing list today.

How to plant and grow tulips

Planting tulip bulbs in autumn for a beautiful display next spring is a wonderful thing to do. Whether you are just planning to plant tulips in a pot or if you have a garden to fill, you can get the whole family involved and you’ll have buckets of cut flowers come the spring.

Planting

Tulips don’t need to be planted until October/November. They only start putting roots down then and the cold temperatures help to wipe out viral and fungal diseases that lurk in the soil and which may infect the bulbs. Planting late is a traditional means of disease protection.

Dig a trench/hole 20cm deep and, if you garden on heavy soil, cover the base with 5cm of washed sharp sand, horticultural grit, or spent compost. Add a handful of bonemeal to encourage formation of next year’s flowers and mix it into the soil/grit at the base of the hole.

Place the tulip bulbs, pointy end up, about 8cm apart and cover with soil. Again, if you garden on heavy soil you can mix grit at approximately one-third volume with the infill soil. If you’re short of space, cover the bulbs with soil and then add a second layer of bulbs before filling in the hole. There is still enough soil above the bulbs to allow you to over plant without damaging them.

To help you plant your tulips quicker and more easily, you can use a traditional bulb planter, or bulb planting trays (make sure to look at the how-to videos on each of these products).

Tips on planting depth

Most gardening books recommend planting tulips at twice the depth of the bulb – at about 8cm in the case of most tulips – but I prefer planting tulip bulbs much deeper. At Perch Hill, they go in about 8cm apart and about 20cm deep. To counteract the poor drainage of my heavy soil at Perch Hill and help prevent the bulbs rotting, I plant them on a grit bed 2in deep, using the finest-gauge gravel from my local builder’s suppliers.

I’ve found planting much deeper has lots of advantages:

  • Tulips flower more reliably year after year. In the bulb fields of Holland, tulips are planted near the soil surface to encourage them to reproduce. The higher soil encourages reproduction of the bulb, with the mother bulb developing satellites, or bulbils, around her base. Once this has happened, most of her energy goes into these offspring, so the mother bulb will almost certainly not flower the following year, but the bulbils will not be large enough to flower for two or three years after that, resulting in a blind bulb.

    If planted deeply, tulips are less likely to try to reproduce and are more likely to flower for year after year. This applies on my heavy clay soil, but is even truer of freely drained sandy soils that warm up to a greater depth in the summer.

    (The same goes for growing tulips in pots – this is why you never get a good show from tulips left in containers year after year. If planting in pots, remove the bulbs and plant into the ground as soon as they finish flowering and before the summer. Leave the foliage intact, but remove any deadheads so the tulip doesn’t waste energy trying to make seed.)

  • Staking isn’t necessary with deep planting. Even huge bulbs, such as Tulip ‘Ivory Floradale’, which can grow to nearly a metre with large, heavy flowers, won’t need any support. The bulb is anchored so deeply in the ground and almost never gets blown over.

Planting in pots

To get dense and flowery spring pot displays, you have to try layering bulbs in what the Dutch call a bulb lasagne, layering them up one on top of another. The largest and latest flowering bulbs go in deepest, moving to the smallest and earliest in the top layer. The emergent shoots of the lower layer bulbs just bend round anything they hit sitting over their heads and keep on growing. Done like this, you need to plant the bulbs slightly further apart than you would in a pot with a single layer, so 2-3cm (1-1½in) apart is about right. The first layer can go as deep as 28-30cm (11-12in), then cover them over with 5cm (2in) of potting compost, before you place the next layer of bulbs. For more info see my video: How to make a bulb lasagne.

Aftercare

It is important to leave the browning foliage on your tulips until every leaf has died right down, usually by early summer. This allows the bulb to store more food and produce flowers the following year. This rule applies across the board with bulbs.

I have found no benefits from digging up tulip bulbs after flowering each year, so as a result I leave them in place. In mid June I rake up all the dead foliage, mulch with 5-8cm of compost or well-rotted manure and over plant with half-hardy flowers or vegetables like courgettes or pumpkins.

For more information, please download and browse our Bulb Planting Guide.

You may also like:

  • Top tips for growing tulips
  • How to plant tulips using a traditional bulb planter
  • Protecting tulips from pests
  • A guide through the tulip trial beds at Perch Hill

How to Care for Tulips

OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

The start of spring means the abundance of beautiful blooms, especially colorful tulips that appear everywhere from gardens and parks, to florist shops and grocery stores. If you’re looking to take advantage of peak tulip season or want to get ahead for next year’s crop, take note of these guidelines, which include tips for caring for tulips in a vase, in a pot, and in the ground.

In-Vase Tulips

  1. Choose the Right Vase
    “A good rule of thumb is to choose a vase that covers at least half the height of the tulip stems,” says Callie Bladow, production director at BloomThat. “Tulips love to stretch out and will typically grow upwards of two inches in height during their vase life—so it’s best to let them stretch out in the vase and don’t clump them on top of each other, which will reduce petal loss.”
  2. Cut Stems
    Be mindful that tulips grow after they’re in the vase when you’re cutting the stems. Bladow suggests holding the bouquet to the side of the vase first before cutting to make sure the blooms are the exact length you prefer. “Cut them on a bias (a 45-degree angle)—this creates a ‘straw-like effect’ and allows the stems to soak up the fresh water,” she says.
  3. Provide Plenty of Water
    “Tulips love water,” says Bladow. “Cold, fresh water is best. When you bring your tulips home and pick out your favorite vase, fill the vase up about three-quarters of the way, as tulips will drink a lot of water. We suggest changing the water every other day and giving the stems a fresh cut.” To keep your blooms happy, you can also add flower food, throw a penny at the bottom of the vase, or add lemon juice or half a teaspoon of regular cane sugar.
  4. Avoid Overexposure
    Since tulips are “photosensitive,” meaning they grow and open based on sunlight, you should avoid placing the vase in direct sunlight or heat, as they’ll wilt faster once the blooms open up. “In order to achieve maximum vase life, you want to receive tulips at an ‘early’ cut stage or ‘closed’ stage,” says Bladow. “The tulips will have a limited vase life once they reach the ‘open’ stage.” A little bending at the stems is natural for tulips as they “stretch” towards the sunlight, but if the stem looks “floppy,” that’s not a good sign.
  5. Choose Other Flowers to Add Carefully
    If you want to include other flowers in your arrangement, you should be mindful that tulips are very sensitive to other flowers. “Some common flowers that affect the tulip life cycle are daffodils or narcissus—they emit a substance that will make tulips wilt faster,” she says. “We include tulips in almost all of our floral arrangements with roses, kale, hydrangea, and never have issues.”

In-Ground Tulips

  1. Know When to Plant Them
    “The best time for planting tulips depends mostly on where you live,” says Carmen Johnston, a garden lifestyle expert. “If you live up north you can begin planting as early as late September, but if you live down south it is better to wait until December. Just make sure to check your planting zone prior to planting—the general rule is to plant six to eight weeks before the ground freezes.”
  2. Know How to Plant Them
    Johnston recommends using a drill with a bulb pit for easy planting. Dig a hole about three times the size of the tulip bulbs and plant them (pointed side up) six to eight inches deep and four to six inches apart. For the soil, make sure you place them in sandy, well-drained soil. And as for sun exposure, “If you have an area that gets a dose of morning sun with lots of afternoon shade, that is where your tulips will flourish,” Johnston says.
  3. Take Care of Them During the Off-Season
    Johnston recommends two major tasks: covering your bulbs with one to two inches of mulch and fertilizing your perennial bulbs in the fall with a slow release bulb fertilizer. “The tulip is a pretty independent flower and its bulb takes care of most of its maintenance itself,” she says. “However, if you want to give your bulb an extra boost, try giving it a shot of liquid fertilizer three to four weeks after planting and then once again at the beginning of spring.”
  4. Go Light on Watering
    And because tulips are low-maintenance, they rarely need water. Johnston suggests watering them once after planting (a good soaking) and then again when they first start to sprout green leaves.
  5. Clean Up When They Bloom
    This is the exciting part: once they bloom, you can use them to create beautiful arrangements. “You want to cut at the base of the stem, leaving as much of the foliage on the plant,” Johnston says. “Then you want to immediately place it in water so that it can start hydrating.” If your tulips are annuals (and most of them are), meaning they only bloom once, throw out the bulbs when they’re dead. If you have perennial tulips, Johnston recommends cutting and disposing of the foliage once the plant has yellowed and leaving the bulb in the ground for the next year.

Potted Tulips

  1. Choose the Right Pot
    “As far as planters or containers go, make sure yours has proper drainage,” Johnston says. “If your bulbs have to sit in water, they are more likely to rot. Avoid this by using bark to create extra drainage.” Place the bark at the bottom of the container, which will allow air to flow under the soil and prevent rotting.
  2. Plant and Give Them TLC
    Since a grouping of tulips in a pot is more eye-catching than just a single flower, plant the bulbs as close to each other as you can—that’s at least an inch apart. “You can also incorporate a different type of bulb, such as a daffodil or a crocus, between your tulips as well,” she says For care, the method is the same as in-ground tulips: don’t overwater them, add a bit of fertilizer, and make sure they have the same amount of sun exposure. After they bloom, follow the same guidelines for cleanup of the bulbs and foliage.
  3. Be Mindful of Indoor Tulips
    Johnston has two recommendations for indoor tulips: be careful not to overwater and keep them next to a sunny window.

For tulip arrangement ideas, check out these expertly-crafted bouquets.

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