Tulips in bloom at Floriade, Canberra, Australia
image by John O'Neill:commons.wikimedia.org
Tulip bulbs can be harvested from their home in the ground for transplantation, thinning, gift giving or simply for storage until they can be replanted in the fall. When carefully removed from their surroundings and with good storage conditions, tulip bulbs easily survive harvesting to bloom in future seasons.
Harvest your tulip bulbs in the summer or fall after the bloom has faded and the foliage has been allowed to yellow and died back, while still attached to the bulb. This will feed nutrients back into the bulb, recharging it for the next bloom cycle. Dig the soil around the plant several inches wider than the plant and at least 6 inches down alongside the plant. Loosen the soil to gently extract the bulbs. After lifting all of your tulip bulbs, brush them off with your hand or a dry clean cloth to dislodge any dirt on them. Cut the dead foliage off above the bulb crown, setting the bulbs aside for storage and discarding the spent foliage.
Prepare a shallow and soft storage bed for the tulip bulbs that will give support and keep the bulbs separated. Fill a shallow box or plastic container with several inches of clean sand, sphagnum peat moss or dry sterile potting soil. Nestle the bulbs into the medium three-quarters of the way up the bulb and ensure that there is some storage material between each bulb so that they are not touching. This will cut down on rot considerably.
Place your bulbs in a protected location with low to no light and a consistent temperature between 60° and 65° Fahrenheit.
Monitor your tulips while in storage to check for diseased or rotting bulbs. If you see these discard them immediately and scoop up the sand or peat moss the bulbs were in immediate contact with and discard that as well. Bulbs can be re-planted in the fall before the ground freezes for bloom the following spring.