growing tulips

How to Grow and Care for Tulips

Sharing is caring!

Few flowers are as quintessentially spring as tulips. With their bright colors and cheery blooms, they’re the perfect way to add a touch of spring to your home, no matter what the weather is like outside. 

Tulips are a beloved springtime flower, and with good reason; they bloom in vibrant shades that bring hope to gardens after winter’s chill. Their cup-shaped petals are an iconic sight around the world.

Whether you admire them in your garden or cut them to bring inside, a bouquet of tulips is sure to brighten any room and make for stunning gifts.

But if you’ve never grown them before, you might be wondering where to start. 

These flowers are hardy plants that can grow in a wide range of climates, but they prefer cooler weather. In most areas of the country, the first thing in the spring is the best time to plant your flowers. You’ll want to wait until the ground has thawed and the risk of frost has passed before you start planting. 

These flowers also need full sun to thrive, so choose a spot in your garden that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. Once you’ve selected the perfect spot, it’s time to get started planting. 

Read on for our complete guide to successfully growing tulips in any kind of garden soil!

Tulip Plant Facts

Scientific nameTulipa
Common namesTulips
FamilyLiliaceae
Plant TypeHouseplant/Garden Plant
Height and Width12-16” tall, 6” wide
OriginAsia, Europe, Middle East
Flower colorsRed, yellow, pink, white, others
Foliage colorDark green
Sun ExposureSix hours of direct sunlight (does not have to be full sunlight all day) 
Soil Type & pHWell-drained, neutral soil
Special featuresLow Maintenance, Perennials, Somewhat Shade Tolerant

How to Grow Tulip Plants

In the early days of spring, there is nothing more welcoming than a bright, colorful tulip poking its head up through the snow. 

Growing tulips is not difficult, but there are a few things you need to know in order to get the best results. With a little care and attention, you can enjoy these springtime beauties year after year. 

These flowers are best planted in the fall, about six weeks before the ground freezes. This gives them time to develop strong roots before winter sets in. 

Replenishing your tulip garden with fall bulbs is a great way to ensure a beautiful, consistent display each and every year. Most of these flowers are perennial. Once planted they are likely to come up every single year for a repeat performance. 

However, because of continual hybridization, some varieties may not produce blooms for several growing seasons – making bulb replenishment essential. Planting in the fall will boost your chances of having a multi-colored garden full of bright and vibrant blooms each season!

If you live in an area where the ground doesn’t freeze, you can plant bulbs anytime between October and December. Just be sure to choose a variety that is appropriate for your climate. 

For best results, make sure you plant them 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart. If you would like an extra showy display, planting 10-12 bulbs per square foot will produce a brilliant tulips blooming result! 

Just make sure that you space the bulbs two to six inches apart and ensure the pointed tip of the bulb faces up right before burying it in the earth. With a little time and patience, your garden will soon be filled with beautiful tulips that will bring endless admiration!

Once planted, water them well and mulch over the top with straw or shredded leaves to protect them from winter weather. Come springtime, all your hard work will pay off as lovely tulips emerge from the ground! 

planting tulips

Propagation: How to Plant Tulips

Tulip propagation can be done in one of two ways: by seed or by bulb. Growing from seed is generally not recommended for beginners, as it is a slow and somewhat difficult process. It can take up to four years before a tulip plant grown from seed will bloom. The other method of propagation, growing tulips from bulbs, is much easier and faster. 

Growing Tulips from Seed

Growing from seed is a project that requires patience and dedication. If you want to give it a try, then the first step is to allow a few of your true species tulip flowers go to seed. Make sure that these are not hybrid plants, as they won’t produce seeds with the same genetic makeup as the original flower. 

After this, carefully collect the dried seeds from the seed pods and place them in your fridge for 12-14 weeks. 

When you’re ready to sow the seeds, fill a few small containers with moist potting mix, placing them on the top of the soil and covering them lightly with more potting mix. 

Find a bright sunny windowsill indoors for the initial germination period and then move them outdoors once the weather starts to warm up. Feed these seedlings with a weekly dosage of balanced fertilizer or flower food, diluted by 50% strength, in order to ensure that they develop healthy and strong tulip bulbs. 

To ensure that the tulip bulbs form properly, it’s important to bring them back into an indoor setting especially in late fall when temperatures start to drop drastically. Afterwards, store the tulip bulbs in the refrigerator over 12 to 14 weeks as they require cold temperatures in order to initiate bloom. 

Later in the winter or early on in the spring, place the pots back outdoors.

This process can take up to two years before producing bulbs, but is well worth it considering that you are growing a unique new batch of tulips!

Growing Perennial Tulips from Bulbs

Propagating from the bulbs is one of the most popular methods for replanting tulips in your garden. 

After lifting and dividing the bulbs, you will be able to find offsets or bulblets attached to the original tulip bulb that can easily be separated and planted individually. To do this, it’s best to wait until fall when your plants are at least three years old before digging them up with a gentle trowel or garden fork to avoid damaging them. 

Once you have freed the bulbs from their soil, brush off any excess mud before examining closely for any soft or deformed bulbs that should be discarded. An important caution when planting these young bulblets is they may not flower the first two years; however, they will produce green growth.

To grow these plants from bulbs, simply plant the bulbs in well-drained soil in the fall. Be sure to plant the bulbs deep enough so that only the very top is showing above ground. 

Once the bulbs are planted, water them well and then leave them alone until springtime. When the weather warms up and the days start getting longer, you should see new leaves emerging from the ground—and eventually, beautiful blooms! 

Growing Early Spring Tulips In Pots

If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your home in the early spring, consider growing these flowers in pots! The pots should be raised up off ground level and well-draining. Choose containers that are large enough to provide plenty of room for roots and well-drained soil. 

Planting these flowers in a pot means they can even be moved around fairly easily as the season progresses and allows for more control over the environment of your plants. For those who live in cooler climates, it is possible to force your flowers to bloom earlier by bringing them indoors several weeks before planting outdoors. This is an easy way to bring some early color into your home!

Chilled perennial bulbs are needed first – these should be placed in a cool spot, with temperatures no higher than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). 

Once they have been chilled for twelve to fourteen weeks, take the pre-chilled bulbs indoors and place them in a well-lit room, where temperatures should be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). In just three to five weeks, your new flora friends will have blossomed into beautiful flowers!

tulip plants

Soil

If you want to plant tulips in your garden, it is important to choose the right type of soil. These flowers require well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The ideal pH range for soil tulips prefer is 6.0 to 7.0. 

You can provide the nutrients that your plants need by adding compost or other organic matter to the soil before planting.

If you are growing tulip companion plants, make sure their growing conditions are similar to tulip’s.

Pruning

Are your flowers not blooming as much as you’d like? Do they seem to be getting smaller each year? If so, they may need a good pruning. 

Growing these flowers as perennials can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, but it is important to remember that these plants need special tulip care in order to last for several blooming seasons. 

Removing the spent flower stalks as soon as they have finished blooming is a necessary part of this routine. By doing so, you are preventing the formation of seed heads which would otherwise prevent photosynthesis from occurring and hinder the storage of excess nutrients in the bulbs. It is a good idea to deadhead tulips to help remove spent blooms as well.

Allowing your flower stalks to go to seed may give you a beautiful spring display once, but it will ultimately do more harm than good by shortening the lifespan of your fleurs de lis over time.

With that in mind, pruning your plants is a bit different than pruning other flowers. For starters, you’ll want to wait until the leaves have turned yellow and begun to die back before you start pruning. This usually happens in late summer or early fall. 

Once the leaves have died back, cut the stem down to about 6 inches above the ground. Then, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from winter weather. 

In early spring, new growth will begin to emerge from the ground. At this point, you can remove any dead leaves or flower heads that may still be clinging to the plant. 

Once the tulip blooms have faded, cut the tulip stems down to 2-3 inches above the ground. This will encourage the plant to put its energy into producing new growth and flowers for next season. With proper care and regular pruning, your flowers should continue blooming year after year.

Repotting and Transplanting

The first step in repotting your flowers is to choose the right type of pot. These flowers need a pot that is at least 12 inches deep and has drainage holes in the bottom. 

Once you have the right pot, fill it with a fresh potting mix. Be sure to pack the mix firmly around the roots of the plant. Water the plant well and allow it to drain completely before moving on to the next step.

Next, you’ll need to remove the plant from its current pot. To do this, place one hand on the rim of the pot and one hand on the base of the plant. Gently rock the plant back and forth until it loosens from the pot. If the plant is reluctant to come out, you can use a blunt knife or your fingers to loosen the roots before trying again.

Once you have removed the plant from its pot, take a close look at the roots. If they are dry or damaged, trim them away with a sharp knife before proceeding. Once you have trimmed away any damaged roots, place the plant in its new pot and fill in around it with fresh potting mix. 

Be sure to pack the mix firmly around the roots so that they are secure. Water well and allow it to drain completely. Place your newly potted tulip in a bright location out of direct sunlight until it has time to adjust to its new home. 

When transplanting your plants, it’s important to choose an area that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. You’ll also need to be sure that you are transplanting your flowers at least 8 weeks before your region’s first frost date so that they have time to establish themselves in their new location before winter sets in. 

To begin, dig a hole that is twice as wide as your plant’s root ball but no deeper than 10 inches. Gently loosen the soil around the edges of the hole with a garden fork or trowel so that your plant will be able to spread its roots easily when you transplant it. Next, remove your plant from its pot and gently loosen any roots that are circling around inside of it. 

Once you have loosened all of the roots, place your plant in its new hole making sure that the top of its root ball is even with or slightly above ground level. After planting, water thoroughly and mulch around the base of your plant to help protect it from extreme temperatures and conserve moisture.

pink tulip flowers

How to Care for Tulip Flowers

Though they are often associated with spring, these flowers are actually quite versatile and can be planted in the fall, winter, or spring. That said, proper care must be taken in order for them to thrive no matter when they are planted. With a little bit of effort, you can enjoy these beautiful flowers all year round. 

Once you have planted your bulbs, they require very little maintenance – a feeding of plant food in the spring when they start sprouting is all that’s needed. It is important to remember however, to ensure your soil is well-drained so that the bulbs can get the proper nutrients and air flow, and to remove the spent flowers as soon as they are finished blooming. 

The most important tulip care tip, though, is that these flowers need a chill period of 12-14 weeks during the winter if you want them to produce flowers in spring. So make sure your bulbs get their chill time in order to enjoy their blooms come springtime!

Here are some other tips on how to care for your plants..

Water

These flowers need about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or from irrigation. They should be watered deeply but not too frequently; shallow, frequent watering encourages shallow root growth, which makes the flowers less resistant to drought and more susceptible to diseases. 

The best time to water your flowers is in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. This helps prevent diseases such as powdery mildew and botrytis from taking hold. 

If you can’t water your flower in the morning, the next best time is in the evening. However, if you water your flowers in the evening, make sure not to get the leaves wet, as this can encourage fungal diseases like botrytis to take hold. Also, avoid getting water on the bloom itself, as this can cause it to rot. 

Sunlight

These flowers need at least six hours of sunlight per day in order to bloom. However, they will often do best with eight or more hours of sunlight. If you live in an area with particularly hot summers, you may need to provide some afternoon shade in order to prevent your flowers from getting too much sun. 

If your flowers don’t get enough sunlight, they may not bloom at all. Additionally, the leaves may turn yellow or brown and the tulips stems may become spindly. If your flowers are not getting enough sun, try moving them to a sunnier location. 

While it is possible for these flowers to get too much sun, this is less common than not getting enough sun. However, if they do get too much sun, the leaves may develop scorch marks or start to turn brown around the edges. If this happens, try moving your plants to an area with more shade. 

Temperature and Humidity

These flowers prefer cool weather and need a period of chilling in order to bloom. They will not flower if the temperature is too warm. For this reason, it’s best to plant your flowers in an area that receives full sun in the spring but partial shade in the summer. In terms of temperature, plant tulips when the soil is between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The plants also need moderate humidity in order to bloom. If the air is too dry, the tulip bulbs will not form properly. However, if the air is too humid, the bulbs may rot. 

For this reason, it’s important to plant your plants in an area with good air circulation. Good air circulation will help to keep the humidity at a moderate level. 

tulip garden

Fertilizer

Although tulips are a relatively low-maintenance flower, they still need the right amount of nutrients and care in order to bloom beautifully. Fertilizing your flowers regularly is one of the best ways to promote their growth and keep them healthy. 

There are a few things you should keep in mind when fertilizing your flowers. First, it’s important to use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Nitrogen can actually encourage leaf growth at the expense of flowers, so you want to avoid using a fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen. 

Second, you should fertilize your plants on a regular basis, about once every two weeks. And finally, be sure to water the flowers after fertilizing them so that the nutrients can really sink in and do their job! 

So what kind of fertilizer is best for tulips? One option is to use a granular fertilizer that you can mix into the soil around the plant. Another option is to use a liquid fertilizer; this is generally considered the easiest method because you can just add it to your watering can and apply it directly to the plant. 

Once you’ve chosen a fertilizer and mixed it accordingly, it’s time to start fertilizing your plants! If you’re using a granular fertilizer, apply it around the base of the plant making sure not to get any on the leaves or flowers. 

For liquid fertilizer, simply add it to your watering can and water the tulips as usual. Remember: be sure to water them thoroughly after fertilizing so that the nutrients can really sink in and do their job! 

Pest and diseases

Tulips are a beautiful spring flower, but they are susceptible to several pests and diseases. Here are the top pests and diseases of these small bulbs and how to deal with them.

Aphids 

Aphids are small, wingless insects that feed on the sap of tulip plants. They can cause stunted growth, distorted leaves, and yellowing of the plant. Aphids can also transmit viruses from one plant to another. To control aphids, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can also encourage natural predators like ladybugs or lacewings into your garden.

Thrips 

Dealing with pests such as thrips is an all too common problem when growing these flowers. Thrips are pesky insects that can cause damage to both the new green foliage and emerging tulips bloom heads, which makes them particularly destructive to your plants. 

Luckily, there’s a simple solution. By hanging sticky traps in the garden and then hosing off any remaining pests from the plants, you can help to ensure that your plants thrive and flourish despite these unwelcome visitors.

Botrytis 

Botrytis is a fungal disease that affects plants during cool, wet weather. The fungus causes the plants to develop gray or brown spots on the leaves, and the flowers to become discolored. 

Eventually, the affected parts of the plant will die. To control botrytis, remove affected parts of the plant and dispose of them. Avoid wetting the leaves when you water the plants, and make sure they have good air circulation around them. You can also use a fungicide labeled for botrytis control.

Bulb Mites 

Bulb mites are tiny spider-like creatures that live in the soil around tulip bulbs. They feed on the bulbs, causing them to rot. Bulb mites can also spread viruses from one plant to another. To control bulb mites, keep your garden clean and free of debris where they can hide. You can also treat the soil with an insecticide labeled for bulb mite control.

Fungal diseases 

Fungal diseases are an all too common problem for tulip bulb growers, but don’t worry – there is a way to manage them. Basal rot is one issue, while fire fungus can cause significant damage to your bulbs, leading to deformed bulbs or can even kill your plant.

To fight these fungal foes, it is essential that you get rid of any affected bulbs, by discarding and replacing them with new ones. 

Additionally, they can be preemptively treated with a treatment like a fungicide before planting to increase the chance of preventing any damage from occurring if conditions become favorable for fungal growth. Taking these measures before planting tulip bulbs can help ensure healthy blooms in your garden!

Crown Rot 

Crown rot is a fungal disease that affects tulip plants at the base of the stem (the “crown”). The fungus causing crown rot thrives in wet conditions, so it is often seen in gardens that have poor drainage or that stay wet for long periods of time after rain or irrigation. 

To control crown rot, improve drainage in your garden and avoid overwatering. You can also remove affected parts of the plant and dispose of them. You can also use a fungicide labeled for crown rot control.

Deer 

Deer love to eat tulips (and just about anything else in your garden!). They can cause severe damage to a tulip patch in a short amount of time if not controlled properly with fencing or other deterrents such as deer repellent spray or granules made specifically for deterring deer from gardens.

Shouting at them works too sometimes! If you live in an area with deer populations, you will likely need to take active measures to protect your plants from being eaten by these gentle giants!

Uses for Tulips

Did you know that tulip flowers are edible? That’s right – tulip flowers can be eaten and were commonly consumed during World War II due to their abundance and cost-effectiveness. People developing creative culinary solutions made bread with the flowers and even used them as an onion replacement! 

Though the bulbs of the tulip plants are somewhat toxic, enjoying their bright and fragrant blooms today is a much better idea – why not take a moment to appreciate all the beauty they bring when spring arrives?

Naturally, tulips tend to be an obvious choice for cut flowers as well. They have an impressive vase life, especially if you place your vase in a bit of morning sun and give it fresh water every day. 

See more: What do tulips symbolize?

Common Types of Tulips to Grow

From the bright and eye-catching parrots to the diminutive species tulips, there are plenty of tulip varieties for you to consider.

You can buy tulips just about anywhere, but the key to successfully growing tulips is to find bulbs that fit your climate and growing style (for example, tulips suited to warmer climates or cooler climates and such). 

The possibilities are practically endless for growers who wish to explore every single division of this magnificent flower!

Single Early Tulips 

The single early tulip is characterized by its fragrant, cup-shaped flowers that can be found in shades of yellow, pink, red, purple and white. These flowers are ideal for gardens because they are hardy and easy to grow. Plus, they usually bloom in mid-spring which means you can enjoy them for longer! 

Double Early Tulips 

The double early tulip is a variation on the single early variety but it has two layers of petals instead of one. 

Double tulips look fuller and more vibrant than their single-petal counterparts. Flowers fade only at the end of the season, making them perfect as cut flowers. 

These flowers, also referred to as peony tulips, come in both solid colors or variegated patterns and can reach heights up to 10 inches tall. These flowers also bloom earlier than other varieties so if you want a burst of color in your garden earlier in the season then this is definitely the type for you! 

Triumph Tulips 

The Triumph tulip is a hybrid variety that has become increasingly popular over recent years due to its large size and long flowering period. The petals are usually cup-shaped but they can sometimes be pointed at the edges too.

Their vibrant colors range from shades of blue, pink and purple as well as more traditional hues like yellow or red. They typically reach heights up to10 inches tall so they make great focal points for any flower bed! 

Darwin Hybrid Tulips 

Darwin Hybrid Tulips are another hybrid variety that was created by crossing two different types of tulip together – the Single Late and Double Late varieties. These plants are some of the most gorgeous blooms around. 

It has larger petals than other varieties with an overall size ranging from 6 to 12 inches tall making it an ideal choice for larger gardens or landscapes. Its color palette includes deep purples, oranges, pinks, yellows and even black!  

Lily-Flowered Tulips

The Lily-Flowered Tulip is a gordon variety of garden tulips that has petals that are curved backward and resemble lily petals. They come in shades of red, yellow, orange and white and can reach up to 16 inches tall. 

Fringed Tulips

The Fringed Tulip has ruffled edges on its petals that make it stand out from other varieties. It comes in shades of pink, white and purple, is between 8 and 12 inches tall, and blooms earlier than other varieties. 

Viridiflora Tulips

The Viridiflora Tulip adds an interesting accent to your garden thanks to its unique two-tone colors – typically green or yellow with red or purple stripes. This variety grows between 8-14 inches tall and blooms quite early in the season. 

Rembrandts

We can’t talk about tulips without mentioning Rembrandt tulips – a showy variety with a streak or swirl pattern as well as distinct colors like pink, orange or red. These beauties reach heights between 10-18 inches tall. 

Parrot Tulips

Parrot Tulips are a stunning variety that have frilled edges with various color combinations such as yellow & red or pink & purple. These exotic flowers grow between 8-20 inches tall and bloom midseason. 

Kaufmanniana Tulips

Kaufmannianas are another favorite due to their small size (reaching only 6 inches) as well as their distinctive markings which include streaks & spots on the petals giving them an antique look. Plus they come in almost every color imaginable! 

Fosteriana Tulips

Fosteriana tulips also known as Emperor tulips have large flowers that bloom midseason with colors including yellow/orange/red combinations reaching heights between 10-16 inches tall. 

Greigii Tulips

Greigii tulips have a unique shape compared to other types due to their star shaped petals which range in shades from dark purple/red/pink/yellow etc., reaching heights between 6-10 inches tall.

Single Late Tulip 

The single late tulip is one of the most common types found in gardens. This variety has a long bloom time and produces tall flowers that come in a variety of colors like pink, red, yellow, and purple. 

Single late tulips are also known for their large cup-shaped blooms that look great when planted in groups or containers. This classic flower is a must-have if you want to add a pop of color to your garden this spring! 

Double Late Tulip 

The double late tulip has two layers of petals instead of one like the single late variety. These flowers come in beautiful shades of pink, purple, yellow, white and orange and are usually smaller than single late varieties. 

The double late tulip is perfect for adding texture and color to your garden beds since they have more petals and create an interesting visual effect when planted together. When planting double late tulips, make sure they get plenty of sun exposure so they can thrive!  

Wild Tulips/Species Tulips

Finally, we can’t forget about wild or species tulips which are native species found naturally growing in Europe’s grasslands adding incredible beauty & texture to any garden!  These naturalized plants require very little care to produce hardy perennial bulbs and cut tulips that are perfect for vases. 

Final Thoughts

These flowers never fail to bring beauty and color when spring arrives. A favorite among gardeners, perennial tulips come in a wide variety of colors and they’re relatively easy to grow. 

With proper care, they can produce a mesmerizing array of blossoms that look stunning when planted in mass. 

They thrive best with regular watering and fresh soil, especially prior to the winter months which unlock their full potential the following spring. Plant your flowers in the fall for a spectacle you won’t forget each time their blooms arrive – an unmistakable sign of spring time.

Ready to plant bulbs? Now that you know everything that goes into tulip care, it’s time to start getting your bulbs ready for peak tulip season!

Scroll to Top