Bulb Planting and Aftercare
Discover tips and tricks on how to look after your bulbs from our experts.
How to grow tulips
Plant tulip bulbs in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny spot in mid- to late autumn – November is ideal. Plant at at least 1.5 times the depth of the bulb, pointed end up, around 5-10cm apart. For the best displays, plant fresh bulbs each autumn.
Where to plant tulip bulbs
Tulips of all types do best in a sunny, sheltered spot, in well-drained soil. It's a good idea to plant tulips behind perennials in a border – their emerging foliage will conceal the foliage of the tulips as they die back. Improve heavy clay or sandy soils by incorporating plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting. If your soil is especially heavy, you could add some horticultural grit to the bottom of the planting hole. Tulips also grow very well in pots, in peat-free, multipurpose compost.
When to plant tulip bulbs
You can plant tulip bulbs from September, but Mid-October to November is thought to be the optimum time as the colder conditions reduce the risk of the fungal disease tulip fire. If you've not got around to planting tulip bulbs by late November don't worry, you can get away with planting them as late as December, or even January – they should still bloom in spring.
How to plant tulip bulbs
In autumn, dig a planting hole with a garden trowel or bulb planter and drop the bulb into the hole with the pointed end up. There's no need to soak tulip bulbs, simply plant them 10cm deep or at about 1.5 times the depth of the bulbs' height, with about 5-10cm between each one. For the best display, plant tulips en masse.
Tulips grow very well in pots. Half fill the container with peat-free, multi-purpose compost and plant the bulbs at 1.5 times their depth, with a few centimetres between each one. Top up with compost.
You can also combine tulips with other spring bulbs in a container for a more long-lasting display.
How to deadhead tulips
Tulips can be kept in the soil all year round to reflower the following year, but you may find they don't put on as much of a display, and may be shorter and have smaller flowers than previously. To prevent this, it's important to ensure as much nutrients return to the tulip bulbs as possible. Deadhead them after flowering to stop the plants wasting energy on producing seed (the exception to this rule is for species tulips, which should be left to develop seed and naturalise around your garden). Don’t cut back foliage until it has turned yellow which will be about a month after flowering. If you cut back the foliage too early the bulbs will be weaker the following year.
How to propagate tulips
Some gardeners prefer to lift and store tulip bulbs rather than leaving them in the ground. To do this, lift them with a hand fork once the foliage has turned yellow a month after flowering. Remove the foliage and pull or cut off the stem and remove the flaky outer coating from the bulb. Leave the bulbs to dry and then store in a paper bag.
Offset bulbs that have formed on the sides of the main bulb can be gently pulled away. Store these alongside their parent bulbs in paper bags in a cool, frost-free place.The offsets can planted out but deeper – about 25cm deep – in autumn.