Tips for planting tulips

Recommended planting time

It is best to monitor the temperature of the soil to determine when it is the best time to plant tulip bulbs. Planting is a good idea when the soil’s temperature is below 50ºF, as the bulbs need to start making roots before the start of the winter. Only in the cold winter they can prepare for their flowering. 

But if you live somewhere where your winters aren't cold enough for a long enough time, you can also put the bulbs in the refrigerator for at least six to eight weeks prior to planting (then plant the bulbs in late December or early January).

Soil conditions

No particular soil is required for planting flower bulbs, as long it is well-drained. Like sandy soil that drains rain water well. Also a clay-like, well drained, airy soil will do well for tulips. If necessary, peat can be helpful for the soil’s composition. Heavy clay soil benefits from the addition of sand, because this improves drainage. Tulips do not tolerate stagnant water. The best soil for planting in pots is potting soil. This soil is richer, cleaner, more insect- and disease free, and less stable than the soil in the garden. It retains water for a long time, which prevents the bulbs from drying out.


Planting - depth and distance

For best results, loosen the soil around 10” deep before planting. Add some mulch if the structure needs loosening. The spacing of the bulbs depends on the visual effect you are looking for. If you mix varieties that have sequential bloom times, plant the bulbs very close to each other (minimum distance is half-inch). This prolongs the flowering period.

If you want to let the tulips grow wild (keep them for a number of years), planting deeper (up to 12“) is certainly an option. Smaller bulbs can be scattered, but plant larger bulbs in an upright position with the tip/point facing upwards. Although the tulip will also grow the other way around, with the tip upwards you have the best result. If necessary, add one tablespoon of bone meal per bulb. After the bulbs are planted, water the tulip bed thoroughly until the soil is well moistened. This is to stimulate root formation. Cover the ground with a 1” layer of mulch to protect the soil and retain moisture. They automatically come up when it is spring. You can then fertilize them, but don’t overdo it.



Many bulbs are perennial and can be left in the soil to return for years. Under the right circumstances the bulbs will soon multiply and come back in following years, like they have always been a part of the landscape. It is vitally important that the foliage is allowed to die down. The look of browning foliage is all part of the process. Make sure to add a slow-acting fertilizer when the bulbs emerge from the soil as well as after flowering.

When the first leaves begin to fall, cut off the tulip stems and remove the petals from the bed. The tulip will no longer waste energy on the flower when you remove it. You can even take the flower bulb out of the ground, get rid of unnecessary pieces (outer skirt, small balls, stem) and replant in the autumn. Or leave them in the ground for 2-3 years and let them continue to produce flowers (although the tulips will be smaller every year).