Red and yellow tulips growing in a garden

It's time to plant tulips for a colourful start to spring

Nothing signals the end of winter like a colourful display of tulips. Tulip bulbs should be planted at the start of the cool season - in late autumn or early winter, so it's time to start planting.

April 22, 2021
Red and yellow tulips growing in a garden

Tulips make a stunning display when mass planted in garden beds and are also well suited to pots as they can be moved around to add colour where needed.

Planting and care

If the weather is still quite warm, you can pop the tulip bulbs in the fridge for 6-8 weeks to give them the cool start they need, so you need to start planning early! If you are refrigerating tulip bulbs be sure to store them away from fruit and vegetables as the natural ethylene gas given off by ripening fruit can damage the bulbs. Bulbs are planted pointy side up at a depth three times the width of the bulb as this will help to keep them cooler. Discard any bulbs that are soft or showing signs of mould.

Soil

Tulips prefer soil which drains freely. If the soil is too sandy, mix compost or cow manure through it a few weeks before planting.

Water

If it rains regularly through autumn and winter, you may not need to water at all. Once roots are established, water weekly to keep the soil moist if rainfall is inadequate. Avoid overwatering at planting time as bulbs can rot.

Fertilise

Prior to planting add some fertiliser to the ground. Tulips love a combination of blood and bone and a complete fertiliser.

After flowering

Leave bulbs in place after flowering and allow the foliage to go yellow and die back naturally. This is the bulb’s period of storing nutrients for next year.

Once the foliage has browned, gently dig up the bulbs and lay them out to dry until the foliage becomes brittle and then it can be removed. You can then store your bulbs in a paper bag or an old stocking (where they get a bit of air circulation) and store them in a cool place (less than 20C). Never store your bulbs in an airtight container.

Then your tulip bulbs will be refreshed and ready to plant again next autumn.

Tips for potted tulips

  • Make sure pots are wide and deep enough to allow good root growth. Place large pots on wheels before filling to make them easy to move around.
  • For an impressive display, plant bulbs so they are almost touching each other. This also allows tall flowers to support each other.
  • Plant early and late varieties in different pots
  • Keep the pot in the shade until shoots start to appear
  • Keep up the watering once foliage appears, especially if rainfall is low.

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