Brightly colored tulips usually grow best when they are left in the ground. Tulips require a dormancy period to bloom—preferably 16 weeks at 40 F or less. If your ground stays frozen hard for most of the winter, or if it doesn't get cold enough for the bulbs, digging up the bulbs and storing them is the better option. You must recreate the chilling conditions necessary for the bulbs to go completely dormant and prevent them from drying out to have successful flowering in the spring.
Wait for the foliage to die back completely before digging up the bulbs. The leaves are gathering nutrients and energy for next year's flowers.
Loosen the soil around the bulbs carefully so that you do not damage them. Dig down from the side, then lift the bulb out of the ground.
Set the bulbs on newspaper outside for two to three hours to dry out.
Fill a small box with sand or vermiculite. Place the tulips in the box.
Choose a storage area that is cool enough to encourage dormancy. Garages, gardening sheds and unheated basement rooms are preferred.
Store the bulbs in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator if there is no appropriate storage place. Remove everything from the crisper drawer before you store the bulbs because the ethylene produced by fruit damages the bulbs.
Check the bulbs weekly for signs of rot. Remove any bulbs that show rotten spots immediately to keep the rot from spreading to the healthy bulbs.
Things You Will Need
- Label each box with the tulip variety to make replanting easier.
- Moisture will ruin the bulbs; always choose a dry storage area.
- Protect the bulbs from mice and other rodents which will eat the bulbs.