A gift of potted tulips brings spring into your home in the midst of winter. Potted tulips may bloom for several weeks, but when the blooming period is past, many people wonder what to do with the bulbs. Tulips planted in the fall in your yard may successfully bloom for several years, but the recipient of a gift of tulips won't be able to plant the bulbs in the yard in the middle of January.
If you live in a warm climate where tulips don't normally grow, if you live in an area where pests such as rodents and deer make it unlikely you'd ever see a bloom from tulips planted out of doors, or if you don't have a yard in which to plant anything, you may decide to toss the spent tulips in the trash, bulb and all . Treat them as you would any other floral gift: enjoy them while they are beautiful, and discard them when they're done, free of guilt.
Save in Cool-Weather Climates
If you live in an area where tulips routinely are planted in the fall to bloom in spring, you can save your gift tulips to eventually transplant in your garden. After the flowers have faded, leave the pot in a sunny area and continue to water regularly. New, green leaves should begin to form. These leaves will provide the nourishment the bulbs need to bloom again next year. Feed a mild liquid fertilizer or fish emulsion every two weeks.
Keep watering your tulips until the new leaves begin to yellow and droop. This could take weeks or months, depending on the type of tulip bulb, the amount of light the plant receives and the variety of bulb. Once the leaves begin to die back this way, remove the bulb from the pot and plant it in your garden or flower bed at the same depth it was growing in the pot. Next spring the bulb should reward your efforts with a bloom.
Save in Warm-Weather Climates
In the deep South, the weather rarely gets chilly enough to provide tulips with the 12 to 16 weeks of wintry weather the bulbs need to flourish. Instead of planting your bulbs in the yard once the leaves yellow, set the pot with the bulb in it in a dark place and stop watering it. Let the bulb dry out completely. Twenty weeks before you'd like your tulips to bloom, retrieve the dried bulbs from their storage place and re-plant them in fresh potting soil. Water well and put the pot in the refrigerator. Choose a spot where the pot will stay cool but isn't in danger of freezing.
After 16 weeks, take the pot out of the refrigerator and plant the tulip bulbs in your garden. You also have the option of keeping the potted bulbs indoors and allowing them to bloom there, as they did when you first received them.