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How to Plant Tulip Bulbs in the Fall

tulip on a background of the sky image by Tolchik from

Tulips are one of the first signs of spring. Their bright colors shout that winter is over and warmer days are ahead. Tulip bulbs are classified as a perennial flower, but for some reason they tend to do great their first season, and then are touch and go each spring after that. For this reason, many gardeners treat tulips as annuals and plant new bulbs every fall for a guaranteed spring bloom.

Select a site for your tulips that has moist, but well-drained soil, and receives full sun.

Loosen your soil 8 inches deep and work a fertilizer that is specially formulated for bulbs into the soil. You can find bulb fertilizer at any lawn and garden center. Follow the directions on the package of your particular brand regarding the amount to use. If you intend to treat your tulips as annuals and replant bulbs each year, it is not necessary to fertilize.

Plant tulip bulbs 8 inches deep, with the pointed end facing up. Space bulbs 5 inches apart.

Backfill the hole with the soil removed. Tap the soil down over the bulb and water until the ground is damp, but not saturated. The National Gardening Association recommends that you don't water the tulip bulbs again until the leaves begin to appear.

Cover the planting site with 2 inches of mulch. Straw, leaves or grass clippings work well, as they are easy for the tulips to push through when they grow.


If you live in a warmer, southern climate where you do not experience freezing temps, keep your tulip bulbs in a paper bag in the bottom of the refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting. This will mimic the winter chilling period for the bulbs which will prompt the bulbs to bloom. If you live in a gardening zone where you experience freezing temperatures in the winter, plant the bulbs directly in the ground in the fall.


Never plant tulip bulbs in an area where water doesn't drain well. Standing water around a tulip bulb can cause it to rot.

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