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How to Care for Tulip Bulbs

By Desirae Roy ; Updated September 21, 2017

Tulips are one of the heralds of spring, creating seas of colorful, waving blooms in masses of rich green foliage. A celebration of new life, the tulip is the result of tender care given to bulbs over the dormant season.

Allow the foliage of tulip bulbs to yellow and die back before cutting the foliage down at the start of summer. The foliage is feeding the bulb, giving it the energy necessary to bloom the following season. Dead foliage can then be cut down to within 1 to 2 inches of the bulb. Spent flowers, however, should be removed right away to avoid seed setting.

Dig bulbs that need more space after foliage has been cut back, up to 6 weeks after the blooms are spent. Use a spade and carefully dig around the tulip bulb, lifting it so as to avoid cutting the flesh.

Store spring bulbs for fall planting in paper or mesh bags suspended by string from the ceiling of a cool, dry place. Allow air circulation and do not stack tulip bulbs too deeply in storage or mold and decay may set in.

Plant stored tulip bulbs in the fall in a prepared bed. Till the soil to a depth of about 12 inches, adding compost for drainage. Add a 10-10-10 fertilizer per manufacturer instructions and mix one cup of bonemeal into every 5 square feet of soil.

Pay attention to planting depth to enhance blooms. Tulip bulbs should be planted 2 to 3 times as deep as they are tall. Allow at least 3 to 6 inches in between each bulb.

Water tulip bulbs right after planting to keep them in place and moist, and to encourage root development before the cold weather sets in. However, beware of over watering as bulb rot could ensue with too much moisture. Additional watering is typically unnecessary since rainfall supplies the spring blooms with adequate moisture.


Things You Will Need

  • Tulip bulbs
  • Spade
  • Paper bags/mesh bags
  • Twine
  • Bonemeal
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer

About the Author


Desirae Roy began writing in 2009. After earning certification as an interpreter for the deaf, Roy earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Eastern Washington University. Part of her general studies included a botany course leading to a passion for the natural world.