Tips for Planting Tulip Bulbs

Tulips (Tulipa) are best used in a mass planting for a hit of spring color. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 11, tulips are perennials that bloom between March and May, depending on variety and region. Tulip bulbs should be planted before cold weather sets in for best results. Tulips are available in a range of colors, including blues, reds and yellows.

When to Plant

Plant tulip bulbs in fall to allow for winter chilling. Depending on variety, bulbs require an extended period of winter chill for best blooms. In mild winter areas (zones 7 and above) tulip bulbs may be pre-chilled in the refrigerator for several weeks before planting, according to the University of California's Madera County Master Gardener Program. Tulip bulbs should be planted after other annuals or new plants are put into the garden to avoid damage to the bulbs.

Where to Plant

While tulips thrive in full sun, they may be planted in filtered sun in hotter areas, including zone 9 and above. In particular, planting tulips under a deciduous tree that leafs out after tulips have bloomed will help prolong the blooms in hot summer areas, according to University of Illinois Extension. But tulips will lean toward the sun, so in most areas should be planted in direct sunlight.

Depth and Spacing

Plant tulip bulbs deep-the general rule of thumb is that the depth should be three times the width of the bulb. Bulbs should be properly spaced, between 4 to 8 inches apart, depending variety, as overcrowding of bulbs will disrupt a garden and limit production.


Plant tulip bulbs in rich, sandy, well-draining soil. Tulips thrive in soil with a neutral pH, but can survive in slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soil. Bulbs should not be planted in areas where tulips were recently growing.

Water and Food

Tulips require regular water during growth and bloom season, but do not overwater, as bulbs may rot. This is of particular concern in wet-summer regions, like Florida. Soil should be kept moist, but standing water should be avoided. Phosphorus may be mixed into the soil to encourage growth or bulbs may be fertilized with a 10-10-10 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) soluble fertilizer.

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About this Author

J.D. Chi is a professional journalist who has covered sports for more than 20 years at newspapers all over the United States. She has covered major golf tournaments and the NFL as well as travel and health topics. Chi received her Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is working toward a master's degree in journalism.