How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (2024)

How to plant tulip bulbs? Find out which is the best time of the year to plant tulips, the optimal temperatures, soil requirements, and more from our tulip bulbs planting guide.

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Tulips are some of the most popular flowers in the world due to their beauty and the color diversity that bring freshness and liveliness to any garden. Although they are typically associated with the Netherlands, tulips originate from the Persian Empire.

Tulips can be propagated by both seeds and bulbs. However, the most commonly used method of propagating these flowers is through bulbs because when they are grown by seeds, they need between 4 to 7 years to produce flowers.

Bulbs are underground modified stems. They have a role in storing food during the winter dormancy period, bring the plant back to life in the next vegetative season, as well as to help the plant multiply.

Further, we will talk about how to grow tulips from bulbs, which is the best time of year for planting, and the best conditions for growing these plants.


  • How To Plant Tulip Bulbs
    • Bulb Selection Before Planting
    • Bulb Planting Position
    • When To Plant Tulip Bulbs?
    • How Deep To Plant Tulip Bulbs?
    • Should Tulip Bulbs Be Planted In The Sun?
    • What Is The Best Soil For Planting Tulips?
  • Final Word

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs

In order to give our tulips the best chances to produce their amazing flowers in the next season, it is essential to plant the bulbs in the most favorable conditions.

Bulb Selection Before Planting

When using the bulbs that you dug up in the previous year, before planting, it is recommended to make a bulb selection. This process involves removing damaged or dry bulbs, as well as those with scratches, cuts, or soft areas.

The next step is to sort the bulbs by size. Only the larger bulbs will produce plants that bloom in the coming spring. Pick the ones that have about 1 inch (2.5 cm) or more in diameter for the flower production. Plant the smaller ones separately as they need to grow before being able to deliver plants that flower. These will typically only produce flowers after 2 years.

Bulb Planting Position

If you have planted flower bulbs before, you already know the correct position in which you should plant the tulip bulb.

Tulip bulbs have a pointy side and a more rounded one. The pointed part should always be placed upwards, being the side where the plant will grow. The roots of the plant will develop on the rounded side.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (1)

Once you have the holes ready, place the bulbs gently inside, without pressing. This could damage their base and prevent the plant setting.

When To Plant Tulip Bulbs?

The best time to plant tulip bulbs is in the fall, typically between October and the start of December. However, in some climates, if the soil is not frozen and the temperatures are not yet extremely low, planting can be done even in December.

Tulip bulbs require a cold period of 3 to 4 months. During this time, they will stay dormant and begin to grow once the soil starts to become warmer during the spring.

Planting the tulip bulbs in August or early September, is risky as it may be followed by a sudden temperature change. An early frost followed by a warm period will cause the bulb to go prematurely into vegetation, and the establishment of actual winter will freeze the leaves, hence, killing the bulb.

If you didn’t get the chance to plant the tulip bulbs in the fall, you can also plant them in early spring. Yet, first, make sure that the soil is not already too hot for them. Establishing the bulbs too early or too late, in soils that are humid and warm will cause the bulbs to rot.

Some avoid planting tulips in the fall due to the fear that the bulbs may freeze during a very cold winter. However, the bulbs are cold-resistant and can withstand severe freezing temperatures when buried deep in the ground.

You can artificially give tulip bulbs a cold period by keeping them in a cool place during the winter or in a refrigerator, at a temperature of about 40° F (4° C).

While bulbs can withstand temperatures well below freezing when buried, they will freeze if exposed to extreme conditions when unburied. Hence, do not put them in freezers as the temperature is way lower than in refrigerators, approximately 0° F (-18° C).

Although tulips are plants that grow very well outside, they can also be planted in pots. Just as when you are planting them outside, the best time to plant the tulip bulbs in containers is in the fall.

How Deep To Plant Tulip Bulbs?

The best depth for planting a tulip bulb is between 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm). There is also a universal rule that says that a bulb should be planted at a depth that is at least twice its height.

If you have many bulbs to plant, a bulb planter may come in very handy for digging out the holes.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (2)

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A three-year study conducted by Dr. William B. Miller for the Flower Bulb Research Program (FBRP) of Cornell University pointed out that tulip bulbs can also grow on the ground surface when a layer of 2 to 4 inches of mulch is used to cover them.

Even though this technique enables you to plant the bulbs faster when you plant entire fields, planting the bulbs too close to the surface of the soil will make it easier for squirrels, rabbits, mice, chipmunks, and other animals to dig them up and they may also become more susceptible to frost.

Tulip bulbs are a delicacy for squirrels and other small rodents. So if you live in an area where you constantly have problems with pests, it is recommended to apply a repellent that masks the smell of the bulbs after planting.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (3)

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Choose deep, roomy pots when planting tulips in containers. In pots, tulips can be planted at slightly lower depths than in the garden.

Should Tulip Bulbs Be Planted In The Sun?

Tulips thrive in places that receive sunlight throughout the day. Hence, when planting them outside, you must first choose a place where they will receive plenty of sunshine.

In climates with very high temperatures during the summer, tulips also grow quite well in semi-shade, or when they receive only the morning sun. Although tulips are plants that enjoy being in the sun, extreme heat can also be detrimental to them.

Therefore, it is best to choose the spot where you plant the tulip bulbs based on the climate of the area where you live.

What Is The Best Soil For Planting Tulips?

Tulips are not very demanding when it comes to soil conditions. However, better results are obtained in clay-sandy soil, which is rich in humus and allows good water drainage. If your garden soil is very bad, you can add a bit of compost.

If you choose to plant the tulip bulbs in a pot, make sure that it has enough drainage holes at the bottom. You can even add a layer of stones on the bottom of the pot to prevent the dirt from filling up the drainage holes and to ensure that the excess water does not remain in the container.

Tulip bulbs do not need fertilization at planting.

Initially, bulbs use the food reserves accumulated in the previous season to develop the plant. Thus, they do not require too many external nutrients from the soil.

The best time to provide fertilizer to tulips is during spring and after the flowering period.

Final Word

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (4)

Tulips are some of the most beautiful spring flowers. They are available in a wide variety of colors and give life to any place.

Now that you know how to plant tulip bulbs, nothing should stop you from growing these beautiful flowers in your garden or in pots.

Tulips are truly charming flowers and because they don’t have any special requirements, anyone can grow them.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide) (2024)


How To Plant Tulip Bulbs (Beginners Guide)? ›

Only Put the Bulb in the Planting Hole. To avoid even the slightest possibility of root burn, never put anything in the bottom of each planting hole under the basal plate of the bulb. In sharp contrast to the horticultural practice of years gone by, fertilizer should never be mixed into planting holes.

What do you put in the hole when planting tulips? ›

Only Put the Bulb in the Planting Hole. To avoid even the slightest possibility of root burn, never put anything in the bottom of each planting hole under the basal plate of the bulb. In sharp contrast to the horticultural practice of years gone by, fertilizer should never be mixed into planting holes.

What is the best month to plant tulip bulbs? ›

When to Plant Tulips. Tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall. The soil needs to have cooled off from the summer growing season before you plant, which could mean September in cold climates (zones 3 to 5), October in transitional climates (zones 6 to 7), and November or December in warm climates (zones 8 to 9).

How many tulip bulbs should I plant together? ›

Garden designers know that tulips look best when they are planted in groups of 50 or more bulbs. Plan on 9 to 12 bulbs per square foot. For a full look, put 2" to 3" of space between the bulbs. Using a 4" spacing will stretch the bulbs, but not look quite as full.

Do tulips bloom the first year after planting? ›

Tulips, and most bulbs, prefer to be grown in full sun, that is an area of your outdoor space receiving at least 6–8 hours of sun per day. They will likely bloom the first year even if the planting conditions are not ideal but for them to naturalize (multiply), it's best to give them enough sun.

Do you peel tulip bulbs before planting? ›

Remove the roots and the main outer shell, do not remove the inner shell that is protecting the bulb. There are several smaller bulbs wrapped inside the main shell.

How many tulip bulbs do you plant in one hole? ›

And following the design principle known as the Rule of Threes, odd numbers of objects in a grouping look more pleasing than even, so we suggest planting at least three to five tulip bulbs per hole. It's also beautiful to plant an entire area—say, a few feet wide and long—for maximum aesthetic impact.

Are coffee grounds good for tulips? ›

spring flowers like tulips and dazzles love coffee grounds. coffee grounds help with adding extra nitrogen and nutrients.

How many bulbs should you plant in one hole? ›

Bulbs never look right when lined up like little perfect soldiers. I always think they look best when planted at least a few to a hole, and depending on your preference and the type of flower and foliage, I think you can plant as many as 10 or 12 in a single clump.

How late is too late to plant bulbs? ›

But as long as the ground is workable, you can plant bulbs! This means that you can plant bulbs as late as January – if you can dig a hole deep enough to plant. Plant tulips and daffodils as late as the end of January! This way, they'll develop roots through the spring, and bloom later than usual.

Can you leave tulip bulbs in the ground all year? ›

While you do not need to dig and divide your tulips every year; they should be dug up at least 3-4 years if planted in the ground. If you are not digging them up yearly, make sure they are not in an area of the yard where they will be watered all summer. Too much water over the summer will rot/kill your bulbs.

How long do bulbs last unplanted? ›

Most bulbs can be stored for up to a year, but tend to perform best when planted within six months of lifting. For tender bulbs, be sure to plant in the spring following the fall in which they were lifted-they will likely not have enough energy to survive past the warm season and into the following year.

Should I soak tulip bulbs in water before planting? ›

Do you soak tulip bulbs before planting? No but they must be planted in ground that is free draining so if your soil is heavy out a little gravel just below the when you plant. Depth 2 times height of the bulb blunt end down pointed end upwards.

Which side of tulip bulb is up? ›

Set the bulb in the hole with the pointy side up and the roots down. It's easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip, and tougher with a crocus. If you can't figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side. In most cases, even if you don't get it right, the flower will still find its way topside.

How long should you soak tulip bulbs before planting? ›

Answer: Many of the product Á labels and other recommendations suggest up to a 1-hour soak.

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