How to Care for Tulip Plants

Overview

Tulips bloom in either early or mid spring, depending on the variety. You can plant tulips on their own or with other spring-flowering bulbs, such as hyacinth and daffodil. While technically a perennial, tulips often have a short lifespan, only flowering for two or three years before needing to be replaced. Caring properly for your tulips helps get the longest life and healthiest flowers possible from the bulbs.

Step 1

Fertilize tulips in the spring as soon as new growth begins, using a 10-10-10 analysis fertilizer. Apply 2 lbs. of fertilizer to every 100 square feet of bed. Work the fertilizer into the soil between the tulip plants, taking care not to get any on the bulbs, as it can burn them.

Step 2

Water the tulips throughout the flowering season until the leaves die off, as often as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. During wet springs, additional watering may not be necessary.

Step 3

Use sharp scissors to cut off the flower stem at the base of the plant once the flower begins to wither. Removing the flower prevents seed formation and encourages the bulb to bloom again the following year.

Step 4

Use sharp shears to cut off the foliage at soil level once it yellows and dies back on its own. As long as the foliage is still green, it is still collecting nutrients for next year's blooming period.

Step 5

Apply 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 analysis fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting bed in the fall, approximately six weeks before the first expected frost. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil surface, then water thoroughly so the fertilizer leaches down to the roots of the plants.

Step 6

Place a 2-inch layer of mulch over the tulip bed after fertilizing in the fall. Mulching preserves soil moisture and also protects the bulbs from frost damage.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't try to divide your tulip bulbs. Unlike daffodils, tulips bulbs can rarely be divided successfully.

Things You'll Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Scissors
  • Shears
  • Mulch

References

  • University of Kentucky Extension: Tulips and Their Care
  • Colorado State University Extension: Tulips: Fall-Planted for Spring Delight
Keywords: tulip care, spring bulbs, growing tulips

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.