How and When to Plant Tulip Bulbs for Spring Flowers
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Tulips bring joy to spring gardens. Use expert-approved tips to know exactly how and when to plant tulip bulbs in your backyard.
When to Plant Tulip Bulbs
Tulip bulbs should be planted in fall. But timing it exactly right can be tricky, because there’s no set date for when to start planting tulip bulbs.
Instead, watch the weather. Wait to plant until nighttime temps are consistently 40 or 50 degrees. In the North, that usually means sometime in late September or October. Southern gardeners may need to wait until late winter or artificially chill their bulbs.
Your local university extension office may be able to help you time tulip bulb planting correctly for your plant zone.
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How to Plant Tulip Bulbs in 4 Easy Steps
Once the temps drop but are still above freezing, it’s time to plant your tulips. Follow these easy steps for spring success.
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1. Pick the Right Spot for Tulips
After you buy your tulip bulbs online or at the garden center, find an area with full sun. That means the spot should get more than six hours of direct sunlight a day. Some afternoon shade is preferable in hot climates, but it is not necessary.
2. Prep the Soil for Bulbs
Loosen about a foot of soil. This helps the soil to drain better and helps prevent bulb rot. If your soil is not well-draining, consider adding compost or other amendments to improve the flow of water.
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3. How Deep Should You Plant Tulip Bulbs?
Plant each bulb (pointy side up!) in a hole that’s three times as deep as the bulb is tall, or about 6 to 8 inches. Leave 4 to 5 inches between each tulip bulb for a dense but not overcrowded planting. Here’s how to plant allium bulbs for gorgeous spring flowers.
4. Top Bulbs With Soil
Once everything is settled, lightly pack down the soil to cover the bulbs. Water well to kick-start the bulb’s growth. If next spring is very dry, saturate the soil to give the bulbs a boost. Wait until next fall to water again.
Planting Tulip Bulbs in Containers
Tulips look fantastic in containers—plus, you can move the bright blooms wherever you’d like.
If you decide to plant in a pot, follow the same instructions as planting tulip bulbs in the ground. Gardeners in Zones 3 to 7 may need to bring pots into an unheated basement or garage for protection against frost in winter.
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Select a Variety of Tulips for Continuous Blooms
Extending the bloom time of you tulips can also be colorful! Just mix different species and cultivars. Many types have different flowering times.
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Keep Animals Away From Tulip Bulbs
Once you plant them, keeping squirrels from digging up bulbs is tricky. Tulip bulbs and shoots are also a tasty treat for voles, chipmunks and more in winter.
To protect them, surround the bulbs with a 1/2-inch wire mesh cage or bulb basket. Most rodents won’t be able to access your treasures, and the spring sprouts should emerge from the mesh just fine.
Next, learn how and when to plant tulip bulbs for spring flowers.