Tulips are a quintessential spring flower, and their bright colors add happiness to any garden or bouquet! Caring for tulips is relatively easy, whether you’re a new gardener or an experienced one, and they bloom throughout the spring. With a romantic meaning of perfect love, tulips add a touch of whimsy and color to any garden.
Below we’ll cover proper tulip care, including sun, water, temperature and other care needs so you can begin nurturing your tulips. We’ve also included different types of tulips, some frequently asked care questions and a bonus section on tulip bouquet care.
While tulips are often attributed to the Netherlands, they’re actually native to Central Asia and Turkey. They’re believed to have been imported to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century where they now enjoy an annual festival and other celebrations.
There are many different types of tulips, but two of the most common are the single and double tulips. Single tulips have the signature cup shape that many people associate with the flower, and they have six petals. Double tulips, also referred to as peony tulips because of their multiple layers of blooms, have extra petals.
Known for their bright colors, tulips are typically classified as a perennial flower, although some of the hybrid varieties have a shorter lifespan. Since they require several weeks of cold temperatures prior to blooming, tulips should be planted the autumn before you want them to bloom. If you live in a warmer climate, pre-chilled bulbs can be purchased. Tulips prefer full sunlight and soil with medium moisture — wet soil will cause them to rot.
Types of Tulips
There are over 3,000 types and varieties of tulips registered to date, so you are sure to find a tulip that appeals to you. While widely known for their cup-shaped blooms, there are varieties that have different and unique shapes to fit any garden aesthetic. Below are some of the most popular tulip varieties.
Parrot tulips get their name from their brightly colored, feathery-looking petals. They are cup-shaped and have blooms that appear frilly and fringed, and can be found in pinks, oranges, reds and more (and are often two-toned). They can grow to be quite large, with the blooms measuring 5 inches across and the stems growing between 12 and 26 inches in height.
Darwin Hybrid Tulips
If you’re looking for a hardy flower that blooms annually, the Darwin hybrid tulip may be just the plant for you. Known for their bright, warm colors, these tulips come in red, orange, pink and yellow, among others. Darwin tulips can grow to be two feet tall — freezing winters won’t bother them, and they’ll do just fine in wind and rain.
These tulips make up the largest group of tulip varieties. Triumph tulips have the signature cup shape that tulips are known for, and they have the strength of Darwin hybrid tulips. While slightly smaller than Darwin hybrids, Triumph tulips will fare fine in wind and rain. They come in a plethora of stunning colors, like peach, pink and purple.
For a unique addition to your garden, try the species tulip. These non-hybridized flowers have some interesting bloom variations and come in an array of vibrant colors, including the more traditional tulip colors such as reds and yellows, but also some more unique whites, blues and pinks. While smaller in size, usually between 4 and 12 inches tall, they are just as tough as their larger relatives. These plants will do best in rocky soil.
How to Care for Tulips
These plants do not require much in the way of specialized care, but it’s important to be mindful of the conditions they are in. For the best visual results, plant them in groups of 10. Below are some tulip plant care tips to help your flowers thrive.
Tulips do best in full sunlight, but be sure to pay attention to the temperature. They thrive in warm, not hot, weather (55°F – 70°F). If you live somewhere that’s hotter than their ideal climate, consider planting your tulips where they’ll receive sun and shade. You should also ensure they are shielded from high winds.
Be sure that your soil is moderately moist. Once you plant your bulbs, they should be thoroughly watered, but that is the only time they will require heavy watering. If it rains once a week where you live, then no additional watering is needed. If you experience a long dry spell, your plants should be watered once a week. Heavy rains and wet soil will cause the plants to rot.
Tulip bulb care is essential to successfully growing tulips, and that starts well in advance of when they bloom. Bulbs require 12 to 16 weeks of chilling at temperatures 55 degrees Fahrenheit and below. If you live in a mild to moderate climate, you can plant the bulbs in autumn before you want them to bloom (before the ground freezes).
If you live in a warm climate, pre-chilled bulbs can be purchased. They do best in places with warm summers but be mindful of the humidity. High humidity, and the rains often associated with it, can cause your tulips to die due to root rot.
Tulips bulbs, stems and flowers are toxic to both people and pets. If ingested, tulips can cause vomiting, diarrhea and excessive salivation. They can even cause death in pets so keep curious paws away from these poisonous blooms.
Pests & Problems
Pests: Tulips are a favorite among deer, squirrels and other animals. It’s quite common to find that your newly planted bulbs have been dug up by an animal visitor. To deter them, try planting daffodils with your tulips — animals typically avoid eating them. You can also bury the bulbs with a cage or chicken wire surrounding them to act as a barrier.
Problems: Tulips are prone to fungal diseases. Two of the most common are basal rot and botrytis blight, also called tulip fire. To prevent fungal diseases, make sure to carefully look over bulbs before purchasing them. Avoid buying bulbs that have blemishes or other noticeable discoloration. You should also plant the bulbs in a well-lit area with soil that can properly drain.
Repotting & Propagation
Repotting: If your tulips are wilting or have turned yellow, it might be time to repot them. You should first trim the plant down to the bulb. Similar to planting in the ground, tulips should be planted in pots in the early autumn:
- Carefully dig out the bulbs and remove any new bulbs that may be attached to the original bulb (these can be stored for later use)
- Fill your pot three-quarters full with soil and place the bulbs, leaving at least half an inch between each one.
- Add more soil until just the tops of the bulbs are peeking out.
- Place the pot in a well-lit area and water as needed
Propagation: Tulips are most commonly propagated through division during the autumn. Gently lift the entire parent plant from the ground in the autumn once all the foliage has died and pull the smaller, new bulbs from the roots of the parent plant. The new bulbs should be planted once the soil temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’ll need to be buried about 8 inches deep. Water the bulbs well and watch for new blooms in the spring.
While tulips are relatively easy to take care of, you may still encounter some problems or have questions about how to raise them. Below are some common questions about tulip care and their lifecycle.
Why Are My Bulbs Being Dug Up?
Animals are a very common foe of tulips. Deer, squirrels and other rodents will often dig up the bulbs to feast on, but you can take some precautions to prevent this from happening. When planting the bulbs, plant daffodils throughout the area as well — animals avoid eating them. You can also plant the bulbs with a cage or chicken wire surrounding them.
Do Tulips Bloom More Than Once?
Tulips are a perennial plant, meaning they will bloom every year. However, some hybrids are not as hardy and will likely need to be replanted the following year. It’s also important to note that if you live in an area where the ground will not dip to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to replant the tulips every year since the bulbs need several weeks to chill.
Why Do I See Leaves But No Blooms?
The most common reason for having non-flowering plants is that the environmental requirements haven’t been met. Be sure that the soil is a low enough temperature when planting the bulbs, and avoid planting in soil that is too wet. It is also possible that an animal has damaged the bulb by trying to eat it, causing leaves to appear without blooms.
Do My Tulips Have A Disease?
Tulips are susceptible to fungal diseases. Symptoms can include discoloration on the plant, deformed blooms and lack of blooms. Fungal diseases can be prevented by purchasing healthy bulbs — be sure to closely examine the bulbs for any discoloration or bruising. It’s also important to plant the bulbs in a well-lit area with soil that can drain properly.
Do Tulips Need Sun or Shade?
Full sunlight is needed for tulips to do well, but they should be shielded from high winds. They should also be in soil that has moderate moisture. Wet soil will cause the plants to rot.
What Should I Look For When I Purchase Bulbs?
It’s important to buy bulbs that have no discoloration on them — this could be indicative of a fungal disease. Buy bulbs that are dry, and be sure to keep in mind that you’ll need about 5 bulbs per square foot of planting space.
Tulip Bouquet Care Tips
Not only do tulips make a wonderful addition to any garden, but they also make for gorgeous spring bouquets! Below are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your beautiful bouquet.
1. Cut the Stems
Tulips will keep growing in the vase, so it’s important to trim the stems to keep them at a good height. Once you’ve determined how tall you’d like the tulips to be, cut the bottom of the stems at a 45-degree angle. You should trim off any leaves or foliage on the stems that will fall below the water line — if left on, this foliage will rot and cause the water to go bad.
2. Place in Cold Water
Place the tulips in a vase with cold, fresh water. Nothing extra is needed — just water is enough!
3. Provide Proper Lighting
Tulip bouquets should be placed in an area with indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will shorten the lifespan of your bouquet since tulips can wilt quickly after blooming. If you find that your flowers are bending, be sure that they aren’t searching for the sole source of light in the room.
4. Repeat This Process Every Few Days
Repeat this process a few times throughout the week, including trimming the bottom of the stems. It’s also important to provide fresh, clean water frequently.
Tulips, while a common spring flower, are anything but boring. Their tough nature makes them a great candidate for gardeners of all experience levels, and their bright colors add life to any floral arrangement. This tulip care guide will help you maximize your plants’ lifespan, and with the bouquet care tips you can even make a lovely floral gift for a friend or loved one!