Tulips bloom early in the spring when the landscape is otherwise drab. They thrive in full or partial sun, depending on growing conditions. Select bulbs that are heavy and large, with dry skins and no signs of decay. Plant them in fall before the ground freezes, but after the weather has cooled. With proper care, they’ll return year after year.
Plant tulips in full sun in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 and 5. Full sun warms the soil and encourages tulips to grow vigorously. In zones 6 and 7, plant tulips in partial shade. In full sun in these regions, tulips become faded or sun-scorched. Some shade allows the tulips to grow tall stems and bright flowers.
Plant tulips in clusters of 15 to 20 bulbs in beds, borders or naturalized in a field where they’ll receive adequate light. Avoid planting tulips next to the house where the soil is cool. In addition to sunlight, tulips need well-drained soil to thrive. The bulbs rot in constantly wet soil.
When planting tulips, consider how the landscape will appear in the spring. Deciduous trees may shade the ground in the fall, but the leaves are absent in early spring when tulips emerge. A location that may seem too shady in the fall may receive plenty of spring sunlight.
Tulip varieties may vary in the amount of sunlight they need. Read package labels and choose bulbs that are hardy in your area and are adapted to the conditions in your garden. Exotic bulbs have interesting colors and patterns but are often short-lived. For best growth, choose species types or those labeled for naturalizing.