7 Tips for Growing Tulips in Your Garden - Backyard Boss
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7 Tips for Growing Tulips in Your Garden

Tulips, or Tulipa spp., are cheerful spring-blooming flowers that grow in zones 3 to 8. They come in an array of whimsical colors, including red, yellow, pink, purple, and white. After short winter days, their bright, enchanting hues are welcome in any garden!

With so many types of tulips to choose from, you’re bound to find one that matches your garden’s aesthetic. Learn seven top tips for growing tulips to add a delightful splash of joy to your spring garden!

Consider Cultivars

Tulip garden
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Picking out a type of tulip is a great way to kick off your spring garden plans! If you love planting a cutting garden, these tulips will also add a unique flourish to floral arrangements:

  • ‘Halcro,’ a vibrant tulip with ruby petals, can grow between 22 and 28 inches tall. 
  • ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ is a golden yellow hybrid with sturdy stems and large blooms.
  • ‘Olympic Flame’ features a brilliant combination of yellow and red streaks.
  • ‘Marilyn’ is a lily-flowered cultivar with arching petals in soft pink and white blooms.

Plant Bulbs in Autumn

Collection of tulip bulbs for planting
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Plan your garden early when growing tulips. Plant bulbs in the autumn, when temperatures are between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to plant them a few weeks before the ground freezes or reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

To decide how deep to plant your bulbs, a general rule of thumb is to determine the width of the bulb. Plant three to four times as deep, measuring from the bottom of the bulb. Usually, this is either 3 to 4 inches for small bulbs or 6 to 8 inches for larger tulip bulbs. If you plant multiple bulbs in one spot, leave at least an inch of space between them so they can grow. Cover your bulbs with 2 to 3 inches of wood, leaf, or straw mulch. Then water.

Pro Tip: When shopping for tulip bulbs, look for papery skin and a firm bulb. Avoid bulbs that are soft, moldy, or have any cuts.

Grow in Clusters

Grouping of tulips
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Tulips look amazing when you plant them in clusters or groups around your garden. For a cheerful look, plant them in color groups. Alternate the groups, so you have an array of colors to uplift your entire garden bed. Remember to give each bulb enough space to grow; small bulbs will need 1 to 2 inches, and larger bulbs will need 3 to 6 inches.

Refrigerate Bulbs in Warm Climates

Tulip bulbs
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Do you have mild winters that don’t reach freezing? Then you will need to chill your bulbs in the refrigerator at 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 weeks before you plant them. There’s no need to wrap them up; you can put them in the crisper bare. However, keep them away from ripening vegetables that could force the shoots early. Then, plant your bulbs in late autumn, around November or December.

Cut Them Back 

Field of tulips
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Tulip bulbs are hardy, meaning they are technically perennial flowers, and will sometimes return with new blooms each year. However, hybridizing tulip bulbs over the past few hundred years has changed their resilience. So, many gardeners approach tulips as annuals and dig the bulbs up after they stop flowering.

Flowers will first show up about 90 days after your first plant them. How long the flowers last depends on the type. Blooms will usually look vibrant for a few days. When the petals fade, cut the flower off at the top of the stem to help the plant store nutrients in the bulb.

If you’d like to give your flowers a shot at flowering the following year, wait another six weeks (or until the foliage browns) before cutting the plants back to the ground. Doing so gives your bulb time to gather energy for next spring.

Provide Enough Water and Sun

Watering can by tulips
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Water and sunlight are essential to successfully cultivating tulips. To satisfy light requirements, plant your tulips in full or partial sun. If you live in zones 7 or 8, grow your tulips in an area that gets full sun in the morning and is shady in the afternoon, so they don’t get too hot. Then, water your bulbs as soon as you plant them in the autumn and then weekly in spring and summer.

Note: If you are getting weekly rainfall, you can skip watering your tulips. If you have already cut the foliage to the ground, don’t continue to water your bulb bed. Doing so can rot your bulbs and kill them off.

Enjoy Tulips Indoors

Indoor Tulip Bulbs
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Do you miss the brilliant hues of tulips in your garden after they finish blooming? You can force bulbs indoors for a bright pop of color inside! To do this, choose a container 6 inches deep and wide, then plant five tulip bulbs in potting mix with peat moss. Water the bulbs and keep their temperature around 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five weeks. To mimic winter for the plants, pop them in your refrigerator at 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit for a total chilling period of 12 to 16 weeks. 

When shoots are 1 to 2 inches, force the bloom by moving the pot out of the fridge; place it in a sunny area with a temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You should see some joyful blooms in three to four weeks after you take them out of the fridge.

Note: You can’t force blooms in every variety of tulips. Always check the bulb package to see if forcing is possible. ‘Triumph,’ ‘Single Early,’ and ‘Double Early’ are examples of types you can.

Trendy Tulips

Give your garden a burst of color this year with a bright array of tulips! Planning and planting your tulips in autumn gives your garden a head start for spring. Later, cutting back flowers and foliage after the blooms fade to help your plant store nutrients for next year. You can even enjoy tulips indoors by forcing new bulbs in the refrigerator to create an indoor garden oasis!

What are your best tips for growing tulips in the garden? Share them in the comments below to help fellow gardeners cultivate tulips successfully!