How to Care for Tulips

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Planting bulbs in the fall is an easy way for any gardener, even a novice, to enjoy color in the spring. Tulips are among the simplest plants to care for. Tulips don’t care for much water or even rich soil, so all you really need to do is dig a hole and plop the bulb in. Of course, there are a few steps to getting the prettiest bloom.

Moderately Easy


    1. Start with loamy, well-drained soil. Tulips are forgiving plants, but hate standing in water. For better drainage, add 2 lbs. of Canadian peat moss; if you are planting in clay, you need to add sand.
    2. Plant your bulbs about two weeks before the first frost. If you plant too early, your tulips might start to grow and then die when it gets too cold.
    3. Dig a hole for each bulb that is 2 to 3 times larger than the diameter of the bulb. Usually, this will be about 6 to 8 inches deep. Fertilize with a sprinkling of bone meal. It doesn’t matter what side of the bulb goes in first, it’ll come up straight when the time is right.
    4. Lay down some mulch over your newly planted tulip bulbs. This helps with drainage and keeps weeds away. If you think your bulbs will be dug up by squirrels, lay some chicken wire down over the flower bed. The plants will find their way through as they grow.
    5. Cut the stem at the base when you see the petals fall off the bloom. Cutting the stem prevents the plant from manufacturing seeds, and thereby wasting energy.
    6. Prune back the leaves, but only once they are brown and shriveled down to the base. Leaves make energy for next year’s bloom, so you should let them do their work while they live. A little tug should pull a dead leaf right off.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant in clumps of at least seven bulbs, depending on the size of the variety.

  • Plant bulbs that bloom at different times throughout the spring in the same clump, for continuous color and variety.

  • If you would like to keep your tulips blooms big and beautiful, dig up the plant and remove the new, little bulbs that grew during the year. Tug the smaller bulbs off of the main clump, then gently place the larger bulb back in the earth.

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