Tulip Bulb Division


The tulip is an easily recognizable, popular flower. Tulips come in a variety of colors and add an elegant aesthetic element to any garden. Over time the meaning of tulips became "perfect love." Like roses, different colored tulips have different meanings. Red tulips mean true love, purple is a symbol of royalty and variegated tulips mean beautiful eyes.

Tulip Bulb

A tulip is a bulb that stores its entire life cycle in an underground structure and blooms in the spring. Once they are done blooming they begin to store energy and nutrients to survive the rest of the year. Do not disturb bulbs until the tulips yellow and die back.

Dividing Tulips

Because they are self-contained and work hard during spring to store energy to survive the rest of the year, moving a plant can take some of the energy out of it. Wait until late summer or early fall before dividing your tulip bulbs. This allows the plant to collect as much energy as needed to survive either relocation or temporary storage. The best way to start is to dig deep around the blooming plant. Most tulips that have been in the ground for quite awhile will be deeper than normal. Once you have determined depth, lift the bulbs out of the ground.

Care After Division

It's hard to re-create the conditions that the tulips were in before division. It is suggested that you put at least some of the bulbs back in the same spot where you dug them up. Once you decide where to plant the rest of the bulbs, there are several things you should do to ensure they will grow well next season. First, brush away any dirt still attached to the bulb. Carefully separate the bulbs, keeping the largest, healthiest ones. When you replant, make sure you dig at least 8 inches deep. Also add peat moss to help make sure the bulbs will have good drainage, which is important to health and growth. In addition, you need to add some low-nitrogen or bulb fertilizer in the hole. Finally, just fill in the dirt and wait until spring to see the end result of your hard work.

Bulb Storage

If you are not replanting the bulbs right away they need to be properly stored. Wrap them in a paper towel or cover them with dry sand or peat moss. Put the bulbs in a paper bag or in the sections of an egg carton. Keep them in a cool, dark place.


Tulips originally came from Persia and Turkey in the 17th century. Europeans gave tulips their name, which meant "turban." The popularity of the tulip quickly spread with the Europeans, particularly in the Netherlands. Today it is very common to buy Dutch tulips as most tulip bulbs sold come from there.

Keywords: tulips, dividing tulip bulbs, bulb division

About this Author

Sheri Engstrom has been writing for 15 years. She is currently a Gardening writer for Demand Studios. Engstrom completed the Master Garden Program at the University of Minnesota Extension service. She is published in their book "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites." She is also the Online Education Examiner Minneapolis for Examiner.com.