The riot of color produced by blooming bulbs is a sure harbinger of spring. Tulips are an indispensable part of the spring garden--made even more so by the ease of care. Once established, tulips generally require very little and return year after year. In milder climates, however, tulips might need to be chilled over the winter to encourage blooming again in the spring.
Why Store Tulip Bulbs?
Tulips require the cold to stimulate proper growth in the spring. In places where mild winters are standard, the temperatures might not get cold enough to trigger this growth. In this case, you have two options: plant new bulbs annually or remove them from the soil entirely. If removing them, they need to be stored in a cold environment and replanted six to eight weeks before spring.
If you are unsure whether you need to prechill your bulbs before planting, check with your local USDA Cooperative Extension Service.
When to Lift the Bulbs
Remove the spent blooms so the plant does not expend energy making seeds--instead it will build the food reserve in the bulb. Allow the leaves to turn yellow before lifting the bulbs from the soil.
How to Lift and Store the Bulbs
Dig up the bulbs you wish to store. Use caution when doing this so the bulb is not damaged during removal. Allow the bulbs to air dry, then place them in a produce bag or burlap sack. They will need to be spend eight to 10 weeks at 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not store them with fruits and vegetables, though. Produce emits a gas, called ethylene, that can harm the plant resting in the bulb.
Planting Stored Bulbs
When removing the plants from cold storage, plant them immediately. They will bloom in approximately six to eight weeks after returning to the soil--use this as a gauge as to when to replant them.