Tulips are the epitome of the spring garden. With careful planning you can have tulips blooming from late February through May. Choose unblemished (no signs of mold, rot or bruises) tulip bulbs that are firm to the touch. Plant tulips with the pointed side of the bulb "up" or at the top of the planting hole. If you are unsure what side is pointed, plant the tulip on its side. Choose named varieties of tulips rather than buying tulips by color. With named varieties you know exactly what kind of flower it will produce.
Plant tulips in the fall 30 days before your first hard frost or when the top 10 inches of soil cools to 60 degrees F. Tulips need 12 to 16 weeks of cool (45 degrees F or below) to stimulate sprouting, growth and flowering.
Preparing the Soil
Add 3 to 4 inches of compost to the area in which you want to plant tulips. Mix the compost into the top 10 inches of soil. Add super-phosphate (follow package directions) to the top 1 inch of soil/compost mix. Tulips prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Adjust the pH by adding lime (if your soil is acid) or sulfur (if your soil is alkaline).
Northern gardeners (planting zones 3 through 7) should plant tulips in full sun. Southern gardeners (planting zones 8 through 10) should plant tulips where they receive light or dappled afternoon shade.
Planting depth and Spacing
Planting depth and spacing depends on the size of the tulip bulb. Plant small bulbs at a depth of 5 to 6 inches with 2 to 3 inches between bulbs. Plant large bulbs 8 to 10 inches deep and spaced 5 to 6 inches apart.