How to Grow and Care for Tulips - Backyard Boss
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How to Grow and Care for Tulips

There are more than 150 species of tulips. Known as a sign of spring, these flowers bloom in vivid colors like yellow, purple, and pink and come with different petal types, like fringed, double rows, or ruffled petals. Some varieties grow only up to 6 inches in height, while others can grow as high as 2 feet. 

If you haven’t yet included tulips in your plant collection, now’s the time! Explore all about planting, growing, and caring for tulips in your home garden. 

Materials Needed 

Tulip bulbs -- grow tulips
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Here’s what you will need to grow tulips at home. 

  • Tulip bulbs 
  • Well-draining potting mix 
  • Watering can 
  • Container 
  • Chicken wire
  • Hand Trowel
  • Pruning Shears

Growing Tulips in a Garden 

Tulips in backyard
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The ideal time to plant tulip bulbs in the ground is in the fall when the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are at least six to eight weeks before a hard frost. 

Planting Steps

Start preparing the garden bed by loosening the soil 12 to 15 inches deep. Then, add a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost to the bed. Add peat or compost if you have sandy soil, or peat or vermiculite if you have clay soil.

You can now dig individual holes which are two to three times deeper than the size of a tulip bulb or an entire area for a bulb cluster. Place the bulbs at least 4 to 6 inches apart and set them into the soil with their pointy ends facing upwards. Add more soil on the top and press it firmly over the bulbs. 

Finally, water the bulbs thoroughly to provide adequate moisture. You may water the plant repeatedly if the environmental conditions are dry to replenish the moisture of the soil. 

Protection from Frost

To protect your tulip bulbs from frost, mulch the bed with leaves, peat moss, or straw up to 3 inches. Remove this mulch in spring. You may also use wire mesh or chicken wire around the tulip bed to protect the bulbs from squirrels, rabbits, and other animals.

Now, enjoy your beautiful tulips in the spring!  

Note: In-ground tulips bloom for about one to two weeks if the temperature remains cold, otherwise, they may only last for just a few days. 

Forcing Tulips in Pots 

Tulips in pots
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If you do not have the space to grow tulips in the ground, grow them in containers!

Generally, all tulip varieties can grow in containers, but compact varieties like ‘Stresa’ or ‘Red Riding Hood’ are a better option. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep with a diameter between 8 to 10 inches. It should also have drainage holes at the bottom so that water does not stay in the pot. 

Planting Steps

To grow tulips in pots, you need a well-draining, commercial potting mix. Partially fill the container with potting mix, and then place the tulip bulbs on the soil surface with their flat sides facing the edge of the container. Then, add some more potting mix over the bulbs, up to 1.5 inches below the rim of the container. 

You need to plant bulbs closely, about half an inch apart, or the flowering will be weak. Then, water the newly planted bulbs immediately until water flows out of the drainage holes. The key is to keep the soil evenly moist and to give the tulips their space to grow. 


Now, you need to move the potted bulbs to a chilling area which could be any dark, moist place, like an unheated garage, basement, or even a refrigerator. The temperature needs to be between 35 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit; The goal is to create a dormant period for your bulbs.

Depending on the variety of tulips planted, the bulbs will take around eight to 16 weeks to root. Once the cooling period is over, check from the side of the drainage holes if the roots have developed. Also, some yellow shoots should appear from the bulbs. 

If both are visible, move the containers to a warmer location that receives low to medium light and has a temperature between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Pro Tip: Do not keep the bulbs near fruits in the refrigerator as fruit emits ethylene gas that will hurt the flowering process. 


Once the shoots become 2 inches tall, keep the pots in a brightly lit location with a temperature around 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also known as forcing, as the environmental conditions are changed from winter to spring, thereby forcing the bulbs to flower.

Once the buds start to color, place the plants in indirect light once again in a temperature range between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit so that the blossoms can last long. 

Note: Potted tulips bloom for eight to 10 weeks, but if the temperature remains cool, they might bloom for a little longer.  

Tulips Care Requirements 

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Watering Rulips 

Tulips prefer moist soil, so water them once a week with about 2/3 to 1 inch of water. If the weather conditions are dry, you might need to water them more than once a week. Take special care of the watering needs of the tulips during the last days of winter and the beginning of spring as they are about to bloom. When the tulips bloom, water the soil whenever the top ½ inch feels dry to the touch. 

Light Requirements 

Tulips prefer full sun or at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. However, high heat can damage them, so avoid keeping them in full sun during the hottest part of the day. Provide them some shade at that time to keep them cool. 

Pruning Tulips 

Once the tulip flowers die, cut them down immediately so the plant does not waste its energy in seed development. Only cut the stem and not the leaves and the leaves will feed the bulbs. Cut the leaves once they turn yellow. 

Replanting Tulips

Once the leaves of the tulip plant also turn yellow, you can dig up the bulbs. Make sure to do this before summer and be very careful, do not damage the bulbs. First, loosen the soil and dig the plant out. Then, clean the bulbs, dry them, and wrap them in a paper bag. 

Keep this bag in a cool, dry place until fall, and then you can replant them. Some bulbs also produce smaller bulbs, also called bulblets or offsets. You can plant the offsets and raise a new generation of tulips in your home garden. 

Note: Forced tulips might not flower again, but you can still try planting them outdoors. Follow the same process by removing the flower head once the petals fade, dry the bulbs, store them in a cool, dry place, and then plant them in the fall again. 

Plant Tulips This Year! 

Brighten your springs with these beautiful flowers and let your home garden glow. These flowers are worth every effort. Remember not to overwater tulips and protect them from extreme heat. 

Want to add more tips on how to take care of tulips? Share in the comments below.