Tulips in flower

One of the most popular of all of the spring flowering bulbs are tulips. And the tulips that we see as cut flowers are hybrid tulips, usually Darwin Tulips and Parrot Tulips.

Species tulips are usually much less demanding bulbs to grow and care for than the highly bred cultivars we see in mass displays and as cut flowers.

With the modern hybrids we have Darwin Tulips, Parrot Tulips, Single Early Tulips, Doubles and Species

One of the best known bulbs in the world, the Tulip has a long history. At one stage one of the most expensive items, a lot cheaper today.

When do they flower ?

Depending on the variety or species tulips will flower from early sting to early summer, however most modern cultivars will be mid season.

Although seen as ‘Dutch’ tulips are actually from the Mediterranean countries and this gives us the key to growing them. They come from regions of hot summers and cold winters, but usually mountainous or at least very well drained soils.

Tulip Care

Preparing for planting

A sunny position and a well drained oil is essential, in heavy soils amend the ground by either lifting the garden bed or digging in some sharp sand, perlite or similar.

Bulbs in the original conditions would stay in the ground all year, however, we are mainly growing hybrids and are are not dealing with ideal conditions. This is why we lift tulips.

The best time to plant the bulbs is in late summer to fall, the soil should still be warm.

Bulbs should be planted around 5 inches below the surface of the soil and give them a little space, around 4 inches apart. They do look best planted in large clumps.

The bulb is planted with the roots down, and in man cases they come without roots, so ‘pointy end up’ if you like.

After planting water in with a liquid seaweed fertilizer and that’s about it.

It is always best to do this a few weeks before planting.

Basic Tulip Care

You will probably not need to water tulips at all, they are fairly tough bulbs. In very dry or hot conditions you may need to water once a week. However as they flower in spring and have generally died back by summer, this is not a problem.

  • If you are leaving in the soil, remember that they need a dry summer.
  • If you are digging, lift them and leave them to dry thoroughly before storing. The modern hybrids are more likely to require lifting than the species tulips. However, we like to lift all Tulips every 3 – 4 years, to divide, replenish the soil generally keep healthy.
  • Remember to wait until the foliage dies back before digging, the bulbs get their energy for next years growth from the foliage.


If you ‘lose’ your tulips over winter its not the ice, its the water, tulips can handle a freeze if planted deeply enough, but soggy ground is a problem.

Late planting.

You can plant bulbs in spring if you need to, its just that fall is best.
In warmer areas tulips will probably need to be replaced each year unless you dig them and give them a winter in the refrigerator.
Potted tulips can just be stored in a cool dry place over summer.

Growing Tulips in Vases

Yes you can grow tulips in vases, the bulbs are suspended just above the water, and the so called ‘tulip vases’ are specially designed to do this.

The bulb itself must not touch the water or it will rot.

Tulip Varieties

With new releases every year its a little hard to recommend. However we do like the species tulips, the flowers are not as big but they do have a simple elegance.

Species tulips are generally treated as rock garden plants. They will require a well drained position with full sun, we do not lift ours every year, we do divide them every 3 years or so. When buying species tulips ask for growing instructions for the specific species.

Links to Species Tulips

  • Tulipa saxatilis
  • Tulipa linifolia
  • Tulipa eichleri
  • Tulipa clusiana
  • Tulipa greigii
  • Tulipa kaufmanniana
  • Tulipa kolpakowskiana
  • Tulipa batalinii
  • Tulipa neustruevae
  • Tulipa humilis ‘Albocaerula Oculata’.
  • Tulipa stapfii Tulipa sogdiana


  • Digging or Lifting Tulip Bulbs.
    It is common practice to dig or lift tulip bulbs over summer, however in nature this is not what happens. Tulips are originally from the Middle east where summers are very hot dry, tulips like a dry dormancy. We lift tulips to provide these conditions. Mark where your tulips are planted while the foliage is still visible, this allows you to dig around them.
  • Storage of Tulip Bulbs.
    Store the bulbs in a cool dry position during summer. Store the bulbs outside in a cool dry position to dry before bringing into storage.
  • When to Plant Tulip Bulbs.
    Tulip Bulbs are best planted in late fall to early winter. Remember that tulips like a sunny position. Look for bulbs that are of a good size and are clean, firm and dry but not shrivelled. Plant bulbs at 3 times the height of the bulb.

Where to Buy
Readily available for sale online from specialist growers.