Tulips

How to Grow Tulips

instagram icon20 MIN Read

15 Jul 2022

By Michael Jacobson

Tulips are well-loved, brightly colored flowers that are often associated with early spring. These stunning flowers come in almost every color imaginable, from delicate pastels to vibrant shades, and are the perfect addition to both garden borders and pots. 

Tulips are also one of the easiest plants to grow, requiring very little gardening experience. There are hundreds of tulips to choose from in several shapes, colors, and sizes to inspire your creativity. If you’re looking to add a touch of color to your garden, tulips are the perfect choice for both new and experienced gardeners.

Here is our complete guide on how to grow tulips, so you can put on your gardening gloves with confidence. 

How to grow tulips

Tulips have been a loved flower for centuries, most famously in the Netherlands, and growing them is fairly simple. They’re impressively versatile plants and can grow well in sun or part shade. Here are our steps on how to grow beautiful tulips year after year.

Where to grow tulips

Tulips prefer sunny spots with full or afternoon sun and not too much shade. If possible, plant the bulbs in full sun to help your tulips reach their maximum height and flower size. But if you live in Zones 7 and 8, choose a shady site or one with only morning sun as tulips will struggle in excessive heat. 

How to plant tulips

Once you’ve chosen where to plant your tulips, you’ll need to prepare for planting your bulbs. In most areas, you should plant your tulips in mid-to-late fall. A good rule of thumb is to plant them after the first light frost.

When planting tulips, the aim is to plant at twice the depth of the bulb. Plant the bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep, or three times the height of the bulb. Drop the bulb into the soil with the pointy side up before covering it with soil. Tulip bulbs do not like wet or waterlogged soil, so it’s important to use well-draining soil. Make sure to space the bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart and choose a large enough planting site. You can then apply a few inches of compost over the soil to encourage earthworms to tunnel into the soil to improve circulation. Be sure to water your tulips straight away to trigger growth.

Tulips don’t like too much water so once you see green leaves and buds start to form, only water them when there’s been no rain for 3-5 days. Generally speaking, rainfall is more than enough water for tulips. 

How to propagate tulips

In simple terms, propagation is the process of creating new plants from existing plants. Tulip propagation from bulbs should be fairly simple, but must be done at the right time of year to produce healthy flowers. Fall is the best time of year to propagate tulips from bulbs, as bulbs require a long chilling period before they bloom.

Division is the quickest way for you to propagate your tulips. To divide your tulips easily, mark their location with stones while they are blooming in the spring so you can find them quickly later on. When fall arrives, dig up the bulbs and break the bulblets away from the bases of the daughter bulbs. Then replant all of the bulbs and bulblets 6 to 8 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart for hybrid tulips. For small species, plant them 3 to 5 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. 

Growing tips

When growing tulips for the first time, you’ll want to make sure your hard work pays off. Here are some of our top tips for growing tulips to make sure you grow healthy and vibrant blooms.

  • Over-watering is the death of tulips. Avoid deliberately watering a bulb bed unless it’s especially hot weather. Wet soil can cause fungus and disease which can rot tulip bulbs. To improve drainage, add shredded pine bark or any other rough material to the soil. 
  • Apply compost to your tulip plants annually to give them the nutrients needed for future blooms.
  • In the spring once their leaves start to grow, feed your tulip the same bulb food which you used when planting them before watering well.
  • Once your tulips have bloomed, you can deadhead them but make sure not to remove their leaves. Tulips need their foliage to gather nutrients which are then stored in the bulb. When their leaves turn yellow and die back, you can then prune them off. 

Common pests and diseases

There’s no worse feeling than putting love and care into your tulips, only to spot discolored leaves, or find that your bulbs didn’t produce any flowers. Even when grown in perfect conditions, pests and diseases can strike your tulips. 

Here are some common pests and diseases that can affect tulips that you should watch out for:

Pests

  • Green peach aphids: White to yellowish-green insects, green peach aphids are around an eighth inch long. You’ll find them settling on the undersides of leaves and on stems, buds and even stored bulbs. They suck on the plant’s juices causing deformed flowers and curled leaves. A spring bulb should be able to survive a small aphid invasion, but cannot survive larger infestations. To avoid aphids, you can knock them off your tulips with a stream of water from a garden hose. 
  • Spider mites: Spider mites suck juices from tulip leaves. They weave fine webs in the leaves and stems and can cause a white or yellow speckled appearance to your tulips. Control spider mites with a strong blast from your hose, without hitting the flower. 
  • Slugs: Slugs can damage the leaves of tulip plants and sometimes the flowers. To avoid slugs, keep the soil dry and free of debris - as slugs prefer moist and cool conditions. You can buy slug traps, or even invite toads into your garden who will eat the slugs. 

Diseases

  • Tulip fire: Tulip fire, otherwise known as botrytis blight, is a fast-spreading fungal disease. It can cause distorted leaves, brown spots on the leaves, a fuzzy gray mold, and spots on the flowers. To avoid tulip fire, check the tulip bulbs carefully and discard any with small black sclerotia on the outer scales. Then remove the infected bulbs quickly to avoid contaminating the soil. Avoid planting tulips for at least three years in sites where tulip fire has occurred.
  • Gray bulb rot: Gray bulb rot and tulip crown rot can cause your tulip bulbs to turn gray and wither. 
  • Basal rot: Basal rot can be identified by large brown spots and white or pink mold on tulip bulbs. While the bulbs will produce shoots, the flowers may grow deformed and the leaves may die early.

Tulip diseases can be avoided by examining tulip bulbs well before you plant them. Look out for dark or spongy spots and mold. 

Buy beautiful tulips online with French Florist for same-day local delivery.

Perhaps you’re not one for gardening, or simply prefer your tulips in a vase. Whatever the occasion, tulips are the perfect choice for a flower arrangement - and there’s no better place to go for tulip delivery than French Florist. 

Our local team of experts design each bouquet using their 40 years of experience, ensuring each arrangement passes strict quality control. That way, you’re sure to be wowed every time.

Looking for the very best quality tulips delivered to your door? Order tulips from French Florist today, for delivery nationwide and same-day local delivery.

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