Tulips come to life and begin blooming from early to late spring, depending on the variety you plant. Mixing together early-, mid- and late-blooming tulip varieties allows you to enjoy these flowers for three months or more in your flower beds. While tulips are a spring bulb, fall is the time to plant them so the bulbs have a chance to establish over winter. Generally, most tulip varieties only bloom for two or three years before they need to be dug up, with new bulbs planted in their place.
Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over a well-drained bed in an area that receives full sunlight in spring. Till the compost into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil to add further drainage.
Dig the planting holes 5 inches deep for 1-inch diameter bulbs, or 8 inches deep for larger bulbs. Space the planting holes about 4 inches apart in clusters.
Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of bonemeal and 1/2 teaspoon slow-release 10-10-10 analysis fertilizer into the bottom of each planting hole. Cover the bonemeal and fertilizer with 1/4 inch of soil so the bulbs are not in direct contact with the fertilizers after planting.
Set the tulip bulbs in their planting holes with the pointed end facing up. Refill the hole on top of the bulbs with soil, then lightly firm it over the bed with your hands.
Water the bed immediately after planting so the soil feels moist to an 8-inch depth if you dig a small hole with a spade. Cover the bed with a 3-inch layer of mulch, then water a second time so the mulch is also moist.
Water throughout the fall as needed to keep the soil under the mulch moist. Stop watering once the ground begins to freeze.