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Life Cycle of a Tulip Flower

By Gwen Bruno ; Updated September 21, 2017
Everything the tulip needs to bloom lies inside its bulb.

Knowing the origin of the tulip assists in understanding its life cycle. Sandra Mason, horticulture educator, recommends planting tulips in well-drained soil that stays dry in the summer. This mimics their natural environment and helps them live longer.

Tulips in Nature

The tulip adapted to dry summers by developing an underground storage unit (the bulb), which permits it to stay alive through a long dormancy.

Tulip Structure

Inside the bulb lies everything the plant needs to grow. The dry reddish-brown coat (called a tunic) protects the plant, allowing it to stay dormant until conditions are right for growth.

Awaking From Dormancy

The bulb begins growing immediately after fall planting when it is exposed to moisture in the soil. It goes into winter having already developed a strong root system.

Spring Blooming

As the weather warms in the spring, the shoot emerges. Depending on the variety, tulips bloom any time from early April to late May.

Returning to Dormancy

The tulip’s leaves convert energy from the sun into food through photosynthesis. The leaves must be allowed to stay on the plant until they wither for the bulb to bloom the next season. The bulb remains dormant through the summer.


About the Author


Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.