Tulip & Bulb Care


Tulips herald spring like few other plants in the landscape. These majestic plants burst forth with a wide variety of colors suspended at the end of a long, vibrant green stem. Tulips grow from bulbs placed in the ground in the fall. All bulbs contain everything the plant needs to form the beautiful flowers that appear each spring. Adding flowering bulbs to your landscape brightens your gardens and provides fresh flowers for cutting in spring arrangements.

Bulb Basics

Bulbs consist of a round or oblong fibrous mass that houses the roots, stem and leaves. They serve as the energy storage method of the plant as it cools during the winter. Most bulbs require some cooling period, usually at least 12 to 14 weeks. Never place bulbs in a warm location before planting. Most spring flowering bulbs can be left in the garden as long as the bulbs receive a few application of bulb fertilizer to sustain the plants.

Soil Preparation

Soil forms the foundation for any garden bed. Preparing the soil for bulb planting requires loosening the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches as well as adding organic amendments to the soil. Creating the best environment possible before planting tulip or spring flowering bulbs will enhance the health of the plants. Work compost and peat into the garden bed to enhance the bulb-growing environment. Apply a layer of mulch to help maintain even soil temperature to protect tender bulbs over the winter.

Bulb Care

Caring for tulip bulbs requires careful handling during transplant and division. Clip off the flower with sharp gardening shears after the flower fades to prevent the flower producing seeds. Remember that we want the bulb to concentrate its effort into preparing to produce a flower the following year. Allow all foliage to yellow completely before trimming the stems and stalks back. Dig up bulbs in mid-summer, examine the bulbs for weak, mushy areas and discard if the bulb shows these traits. Bulbs should be dried in the shade and stored in boxes in a cool, dry area to prevent rotting.


Tulips are one of the largest spring bulbs planted in the home garden. Plant spring bulbs to a depth two to three times the size of the bulb from its longest point. Most tulips will be planted to a depth of 8 inches. Bulbs have two ends called the root plate and nose. The nose features a pointy green shoot-like nub. The root plate looks like a round, slightly raised cap on the opposite end of the nose. Plant the nose upward and fill the hole with amended soil. Water the bulb after planting and throughout the fall if there's limited rainfall.


Tulips and bulbs create a dramatic affect on the winter-bare landscape. Bulb plants allow the gardener to create a beautiful springtime display with minimal effort. Tulips can be planted in groups by digging out areas of the garden instead of individual holes. These stunning spring plants look beautiful as individual accents along a garden border or as mass plantings.

Keywords: tulips, tulip bulbs, bulb care

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.