Tulip Bulbs Questions & Answers

Everything you need to know about tulip bulbs

What is the best month to plant tulip bulbs?
For the best results you need to plant your tulip bulbs in autumn. This is due to the soil needing to have cooled off from the summer season before you plant. Ideally you should plant your tulip bulbs in October or November. However if you are in a warm climate it is best to plant them in December.

When should you plant tulip bulbs in the UK?
In the UK, we recommend that you plant your tulip bulbs in October and November. However if you are unable to do so, you can get away with planting tulips bulbs as late as December, or even January and still have them bloom in spring.

Tulip Bulbs

Is it too late to plant tulips in January?
As mentioned above, the ideal planting time is October and November. But, planting tulip bulbs in January is not too late. Tulips are still comfortable with the temperature of the soil in January.

Can I plant bulbs in February?
For tulip bulbs to successfully grow and bloom they should be planted by autumn or at the latest in winter. Planting bulbs in February runs the risk of the display failing or at least lacking abundance.

Can You Plant Bulbs In Winter?
The best time to plant your bulbs is in the autumn, between October and November which is when we ship your order to you. This is usually about six weeks before the ground freezes. However, if you have missed this window, you can still plant spring flower bulbs as late as December or even January. Read more about planting your tulips in the winter.

What happens if you plant tulips late?
If you do plant your tulips bulbs late then this may results in smaller blooms.

Can you leave tulip bulbs in the ground all year?
There is no real reason to dig up tulips bulbs each year, or at all. Most gardeners leave their bulbs in the ground where they were originally planted, and, are left to rebloom. Sometimes gardeners will dig up tulip bulbs but only when the plants seem to have offered fewer flowers.

What do you do with tulip bulbs after they bloom?
Once you have allowed the foliage to die back naturally, you can then dig up the bulbs. Make sure to discard any damaged or diseased bulbs and let the remaining bulbs dry. Store these in trays or nets in a dark, dry place over the summer, a garage or basement is often recommended, and replant in them in autumn. You can find more information on what to do with tulips and daffodils after they have finished flowering here.

How long does it take for a tulip to grow from bulb?
Generally tulips need 8 to 16 weeks of artificial winter. After bringing the plants into temperatures resembling spring, the tulip will sprout along with leaves quickly emerging. A flowering plant will then appear within 15 to 30 days.

How many years do tulips last?
This question depends on the variety of tulip and the climate you are located in. Most contemporary tulip cultivars have been manufactured to bloom well for 3 to 5 years. However tulip bulbs lose their vigor quite quickly, so we recommend starting off with a fresh batch of tulips each year.

How do you keep tulips blooming every year?
In order to guarantee that your tulips will come back and bloom again next year, you need to dig up the bulbs after the foliage has withered, then let then dry out before storing them in a dark, cool location. You can then replant the bulbs in autumn. If you want more information you can read our helpful blog post: Do Tulips Return Every Year?

Why didn't my tulips come back?
This is quite possibly the most common question from gardeners and the overwhelmingly most common reason why tulips don't bloom is simply that the environment needed for tulips to be successful every year is very specific. Please note that tulip bulbs that have been planted in pots will rarely bloom again.

Do Tulips Multiply?
Species tulips will multiply and form clumps that grow bigger each year. This process is known as naturalising. Find out how tulips spread and multiply in our blog post.

How deep do you plant tulip bulbs?
We recommend planting tulip bulbs about 15 cm (6 inches) - 12 cm (8 inches) deep. If you are located in areas with severe frost, plant tulips 12cm (8 inches) deep. This will also help them from being eaten by animals. Species tulips, which aren't targeted by animals, can be planted in a more shallow bed of soil, usually about 10 cm (4 inches) to 12.5 cm (5 inches) deep.

How do you grow tulip bulbs?
Check out our tulip bulb growing guide!

Can tulip bulbs be planted too deep?
Yes, if you plant your bulbs too deep it can cause the bulb to rot, delaying springtime growth. The general rule for planting tulips bulbs is to plant bulbs a depth 2-3 times their vertical diameter.

What happens if you don't plant bulbs deep enough?
If you plant flower bulbs too shallow it can expose them to damaging temperature spiking which stunt their growth.

Is planting depth to the top or bottom of the bulb?
Planting depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb to the surface of the soil.

What happens if you plant a tulip bulb upside down?
If you have planted your tulip bulbs upside down, do not worry. You will not need to dig them up as bulbs know which way they should be facing and will turn themselves around.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Should I soak tulip bulbs before planting?
Soaking tulip bulbs can be very damaging and cause the bulbs to decay and die. It is best to avoid watering the bulbs unless it's extremely dry outside.

Do tulips need a lot of water?
Tulips can survive and actually thrive on very little water. You will need to water them well once when planting, then you can forget about them until spring. They will only need about 17mm of water per week, especially in late winter to early spring, to help the plant prepare to flower.

How many tulip bulbs should I plant in a hole?
Tulip bulbs do not like to be overcrowded so we suggest keeping one bulb per hole. It is also best to space the bulbs between 10 cm to 15 cm apart.

How many tulip bulbs should I plant together?
It all depends on what type of display you like. However, experienced gardeners tend to group 50 or more bulbs together. Plan to place 9 to 12 bulbs per square foot. Allow 75-100 per sq. metre. For the larger varieties allow around 50-75 per sq. metre. For a full look, put 5-7 cm of space between the bulbs. Using a 10 cm spacing will stretch the bulbs, but not look quite as full.

Where do tulips grow best?
Tulips thrive when they are hit with full or afternoon sun. In hot climates, choose a more shaded site or one with morning sun only, as tulips don't like a lot of heat.

How long do bulbs last unplanted?
Flower bulbs should be planted as soon as possible (October to November) as most bulbs do not last more than 8-12 months out of the ground. Even then, they need to be stored properly. Flower bulbs rot if you don't get them in the ground soon enough so it is best not to risk it.

Do squirrels eat tulip bulbs?
Yes, squirrels can be a nuisance and are highly attracted to tulip bulbs. A good way to protect your new bulbs from being eaten is to cover the area with chicken wire or plastic garden netting as this will prevent the squirrels from digging in the area.

How long do tulips in the garden last?
This depends on the climate. During a cool spring, with temperatures between 7 Celsius - 12 Celsius, tulips will bloom for 1-2.5 weeks. But if the weather is warmer, they tend to last less, maximum a week.

Do rats eat tulip bulbs?
Yes, much like squirrels, tulip bulbs will provide a tasty food source for rats and mice.

How do I keep tulips from drooping?
There can be numerous reasons why your tulips might be drooping. These include watering, light and warmth, nutrition and pests along with fungus. Read more about why tulips droop and how to stop it.

How long do potted tulips last?
If you have planted your tulips in pots you can expect them to last for a minimum of several weeks and a maximum of several months. This includes from the time of planting. Potted tulips take between 8 to 16 weeks to bloom Once they bloom, they usually last15 to 30 days.

How do you winterize tulip bulbs?
After your tulip bulbs have bloomed, allow the foliage to die back, then dig the tulip bulbs up. Clean the bulbs by removing the soil and then let the bulbs dry out. Discard any damaged ones and store the bulbs in nets or paper bags. Keep in a cool dark place before replanting them in autumn.

What is the best fertiliser for tulips?
Tulips do not need fertilisation at their time of planting. The best kind of tulip bulb fertiliser will have a nutrient ratio of 9-9-6. You should also use a slow release fertiliser to ensure that the nutrients continually reach the bulbs.

What is the best soil for tulips?
Tulips will thrive when they are grown in loose, crumbly soil that is easy to work and has excellent drainage. The well-drained part is critical. Bulbs can rot in soil that's too wet. Here in Holland at DutchGrown, tulips are grown in sand, which guarantees they're never in a soggy situation.

Do tulip bulbs divide?
You can divide tulips bulbs in a fairly simple process.They multiply by growing miniature bulbs from their root systems. As the bulbs or bulblets, as they are also known by, mature and become larger, they grow up next to the original bulb.

Dividing tulip bulbs
Miniature tulip bulbs, bulblets from the root system.

How many flowers are in a tulip bulb?
Usually there will only be one flower. Some species ('Multi-Flowering Tulips') may have more than one flower bud in the bulb, or over the years multiple, but usually there will be one flower per tulip bulb. Genetically, the tulip bulbs tend to form a single stem unlike daffodils which often have side bulbs.

What is a good size tulip bulb?
For the best quality flowers, your tulip bulbs should be 12cm or more. This is top size, and the size we ship. Some vendors will offer 11-12cm instead or even as small as 10-11cm but beware if the bulb size is not even described. Read more about flower bulb sizes in this blog post.

How many times does a tulip bloom in a year?
Tulip bulbs will only produce a single flower per bulb per season. The flowering period varies from early to late spring depending on the variety.

When should I cut down my tulips?
The best time to prune tulips is after they bloom. Let the flower completely fall and wait until the seed pod has turned brown. Once the foliage has started to die back and have turned brown then it's okay to prune.

Which tulips are naturalising?
Although tulip bulbs are technically considered a perennial, most of the time tulips act more like annuals due to the climate people now grow them in. This means gardeners will not get repeat blooms season after season. Botanical (miniature) tulips, greigii tulips, fosteriana tulips, Darwin tulips and kaufmaniana tulips are most likely to naturalise out of all the varieties.

Should I freeze my tulip bulbs?
The cold will kill tulips bulbs so you should avoid placing them in a freezer.

What do tulips smell like?
Many tulips smell rather grassy, people often refer to them as smelling like a particular green scent similar to an apple-like aroma.

Which tulips are the tallest?
Darwin Hybrids are the tallest tulips with the largest heads.

Which tulips are the shortest?
Species tulips or “dwarf tulips" as they are often known, "botanical tulips" or "miniature tulips". Greigii tulips are also short in stature but taller than the other varieties listed.

Species Tulips
"Species Tulips"

Why do the Dutch grow so many tulips?
Due to its long spring season with cool nights makes, The Netherlands is a perfect country with ideal climate for tulip growing. The soil is continuously drained, creating perfect growing conditions for tulip bulbs, which love well drained while still moist soil.

What does a tulip symbolize?
Tulips are known for perfect love. Like many flowers, different coloured tulips will also carry their own significance. Red tulips are most strongly associated with true love, while purple often symbolises royalty.

Are tulips perennials?
Botanically speaking, the tulip is a perennial plant, having successfully adapted in extreme climates found in its native Central Asia. However over several centuries of hybrid breeding, tulip's natural ability to perennialise has been weakened. Most gardeners will treat tulips as annuals by re-planting bulbs each year.

What can I plant on top of bulbs in pots?
You can layer a few winter flowering pansies or violas so that you have lasting colour in your garden. They will bloom until the first tulip bulb starts to bloom in late January and will continue to bloom with the bulbs too.

Can I get seeds from tulips?
When the tulip flower plant dies, you can extract the seeds from the pod to plant in autumn. Tulips that have grown from bulbs will bloom the following spring after planting, but the ones that have grown from seeds may take two or more years. This is why most gardeners choose to grow tulips from bulbs.

Why do tulips sometimes not bloom?
Tulips may not bloom due to factors like incorrect planting depth, poor soil quality (number one reason), disease, or pests.

What is the rarest colour of tulips?
Tulips can be grown in nearly every colour, from snowy white to purples so deep they are almost black. However, the only colour tulips aren't available in is blue. Blue is one of the rarest colours in flowers, and despite breeders' best efforts, 'blue' tulips tend to be more purple or lilac.

Updated 2nd May 2024