One of the first signs of spring in some gardens is the blooming of tulips. The tulip is a true bulb that encases nutrients in the layers of the bulb for the plant to grow. It is important to understand how and when to plant tulip bulbs for continuous color year after year in the home garden.
Prepare the garden bed in the summer for planting tulip bulbs in the fall. Choose a sunny location where the bulbs receive at least five to six hours of sunlight. Cornell University recommends the garden site receive eight to 10 hours of sunlight if possible.
Test the soil to determine the pH level before adding any fertilizer or other organic materials. Tulips prefer a pH level between 6 and 7, according to Mississippi State University. Raise the pH level of the soil by adding lime, or add sulfur to lower the pH.
Add natural fertilizer to the garden site when tilling the soil. If you use manure, make certain it is well rotted. Fresh manure produces too much heat as it decomposes, and will kill the bulbs.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Remove any unwanted debris like rocks or old roots from other plants. Break up any large clumps of soil. Rake the entire garden bed for a smooth planting surface.
Plant the tulip bulbs in the fall before the first frost to ensure the roots of the tulip bulb become established before winter. Locate the top of the bulb--the pointy end--and place the bulb in the soil so the top is 5 to 6 inches below the soil surface. Space the bulbs 4 to 5 inches apart. Cover them with soil.
Water the freshly planted tulip bulbs thoroughly. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch for protection against the winter cold.