When To Plant Tulip Bulbs To Make A Colourful Garden

Who doesn’t love the brightly coloured jewels that we call tulips? As the earth awakens from its winter sleep, the blue-green leaves brighten our days and enchant us with their beauty. Want to learn when to sow tulip bulbs to make a beautiful garden? 

Hands with pink tulips in the garden

This is what we are here for! In this article, we will give you tips on how to sow tulips and how to take care of them later. Without further ado, let’s get started!

About tulips

Tulips, particularly wild tulips, are native plants of the arid regions of Central Asia. The original have a limited range of colours and are usually yellow or red. Also, they have smaller flowers as compared to modern cultivars and hybrids.

The tulips of today come in strong bright colours and give you a wide palette to enliven your garden with. They usually start to emerge from the ground in early spring, or in late winter. From small tulips in naturalized woodlands to large ones that are present in garden beds, there is a tulip for every setting. The height of tulips ranges from 15 to 60 cm. On each stem, there are 2 to 6 broad leaves. 

Tulips, like daffodils and hyacinths, are perennial by nature. However, after centuries of hybridizing, their ability to come back year after year has become weak. Therefore, gardeners treat them as annuals and plant new bulbs every autumn.

Sometimes, mild winter weather causes premature growth, but tulips can easily brave these cold temperatures as they are quite tolerant. Before the ground freezes in late autumn, you have to plant the bulbs.

If you plant different varieties of tulips with varying bloom times, you can have yours blooming from early to late spring at varying times. Usually, they are cup-shaped and have three petals and sepals. 

Tulip bulbs in pots

When to plant tulip bulbs

You should plant spring-flowering bulbs in the fall, almost like poppy seeds. Before you plant, the soil needs to have cooled off from the summer season. In cold climates, this means September, and in transitional climates, this means October. In warmer climates, this means November or December

Take a soil thermometer and check the temperature. When the temperature is 16 degrees Celsius at a depth of 15 cm, you can plant the bulbs. 

In order to bloom, the tulips need a chilling period. If you live in areas where the temperature of the soil doesn’t drop below 16 degrees for at least 12 weeks, you should buy pre-cooled bulbs and plant them in December.

If you miss the optimal time for planting bulbs, don’t wait for next fall to plant them. They are not like seeds and won’t keep. Plant them, even in January or February, and take your chances.

Choosing and preparing the planting site

How to Choose Tulips

Most of the tulips that are planted in the landscape and are available for sale at home improvement stores and garden centres are hybrids. You have to plant them next year. There are some species of tulips that are perennial and keep coming back year after year but in the right growing conditions.

Individual tulips don’t flower for a very long time. Like we mentioned above, new tulips have varying blooming times and you can choose a few varieties from each planting time for a long-lasting display. Make sure that the bulbs are fat and firm. Don’t choose bulbs that are mouldy, flabby, or soft. 

How to Prepare the Planting Site

Tulips need full sun to grow. This means they need a sunny spot with almost 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. Plus, they grow well in fast-draining soil and thus, are great additions to rock gardens. 

The soil should be neutral to slightly acidic. It should be fertile and dry or sandy. Tulips don’t like excessive moisture. You have to shelter the tall varieties from strong winds. Keep the spacing between the bulbs almost 10 to 15 cm apart. Use a tiller or garden fork to loosen the soil when you are preparing the garden bed to a depth of almost 15 to 22 cm. Mix in a 6 to 8cm layer of compost.

Hands planting tulip bulbs

Planting tulip bulbs step-by-step

You have to plant the spring bulbs fairly deep, around 15 to 20 cm or almost three times the height of the bulb. Dig a hole that is deeper than that to loosen the soil that will help with good drainage.

If you are planting the bulbs in clay soils, then place them 7 to 15 cm deep. Set the bulb firmly in the ground, keeping the pointy end up using a bulb planter. Cover it with soil and press it firmly. 

Water the bulbs right after you plant them. The bulbs can’t bear wet feet, but they do need water to trigger growth. If you are raising perennial tulips, feed them a balanced, nutritious fertiliser when you plant them. 

The bulbs have a complete storage system where they store all the nutrients they will need for the first year. You can use compost, organic material, or a portion of time-release, balanced bulb food

To deter moles and mice, put holly or some other thorny leaves in the planting holes. Some people use kitty litter as well as crushed gravel. If pests are a real problem in your garden, you may have to take stronger measures and plant the bulbs in buried wire cages.

How to grow tulips and their proper care

Little boy watering tulips with watering can

1. Watering 

When you plant the bulbs, water them. After that, it is very unlikely that you will have to water them again as it is bound to rain. If it rains once every week, don’t water the bulbs. However, if you live in a dry place, or if there is a prolonged dry spell, you’ll have to take care of their needs. Wet soil leads to disease, fungus, etc. and can rot the bulbs. Add sand, shredded pine bark, etc., to help with swift drainage.

2. Fertiliser

Mulch the bulbs with organic matter. You can mix slow-release fertiliser along with the mulch. Don’t place the fertiliser directly into the planting hole. Don’t use liquid fertiliser as the nutrients will be leached away when it rains. In spring, add fertiliser again when the first shoots emerge. After the tulips flower, don’t take the leaves off since the plants won’t be able to photosynthesize if there are no leaves.

3. Staking 

You don’t have to stake them. If you plant them deep enough in the ground, they will be deeply anchored and won’t be disturbed by the wind. However, if you live in a very windy area, you will need some sort of protection against these elements.

4. Deadheading

To deadhead the tulips, cut the stem off right above the leaves. Deadheading tulips is important as it will encourage the plant to put its energy into creating bulbs for the next season, instead of seedheads. Leave the brown foliage on the tulips until every leaf dies down in early summer. This will allow the bulb to store more food for producing flowers the following year

Pink tulips

Tulips are beautiful, alluring, and breathtaking plants that are very easy to grow. There are various types of tulips and you can choose the variety you think is right for your garden. From Darwin Hybrid tulips and viridiflora tulips to Crocus Tulipa and Triumph Tulips, the choice is yours.Follow the easy and simple steps that we have explained above and you will have yours blooming in your yard in no time!

Happy gardening, folks! 

Scroll to Top
Send this to a friend