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How To Plant Tulip Bulbs In Pots

What’s the first thing you think of when the spring breeze knocks on your door? Is it flowers? Many people associate tulips with the arrival of springtime due to their vibrant colors and March to May sprouting times.

Tulips are beautiful blooms that many people use for in-ground landscaping. But you can also learn how to plant tulip bulbs in pots!

Planting and caring for potted tulips is an easy process. It’s also a great alternative if you rent and cannot have flower beds.

If planting tulips in pots sounds like a fit for you, keep reading to learn how to get started!

how to plant tulip bulbs in pots

1. Pick and Purchase Your Tulip Bulbs

You need to pick a variety before learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots and beginning the process. Thousands of tulip varieties are out there, which can make the choice difficult. But the following are the most common bulbs available for purchase.

Darwin Hybrid

The Darwin Hybrid variety is the epitome of what you’ll typically envision when thinking of a tulip. They are cold-hardy and grow best in USDA hardiness zones 3-8. They come in many colors, with pink, orange, red, and yellow being the most popular.

And each beautiful bloom is about four inches in size, and they’ll begin emerging in mid-spring! If you’re going to learn how to plant tulip bulbs in pots, this is a great choice to go with.

Double Tulips

Double tulips are a general category for tulips that have an abundance of petals. They look as though they have two sets of petals, hence the category name. Double tulips grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-8, typically cold and drought-tolerant. You can find them in almost any color under the sun. And the early spring-blooming flowers are usually about six inches in size!

If you like a fuller look, these are a great option when learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots.


red emperor tulip (Madame Lefeber) blooming on the flowerbed

The Fosteriana variety of tulips have a unique look, as they have slightly pointed petals instead of rounded ones. They grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-8 and are cold-hardy. You can find them in plenty of solid or multicolored options, with each flower being about five inches in size. And you can expect them to begin blooming in early spring.


If you want an exotic look when learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots, try the Parrot variety! These flashy flowers look like bird wings with fanned-out petals and vibrant colors. They grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-7 and have drought and cold-tolerant attributes.

Each early-spring blooming flower is about five inches in size! This is the way to go if you’re seeking to pursue beauty while learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots.


Triumph tulips can look a little similar to Darwin Hybrid tulips. But the petals of this variety look a little tighter.

They grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-7, are cold-hardy, and can handle harsh winds and heavy springtime rains. This is another variety you can find in solid and multi-color options, allowing you to choose from many bulbs. Each flower is usually about four inches large and will begin blooming in mid-spring.

What to Consider When Picking Your Tulip Bulbs

Blooming schedules and planting hardiness zones are essential when learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots. You should also consider the look you’re going for, as these are living decorations.

Blooming Times

When would you like to see your beautiful tulip blooms? Tulips are springtime flowers, but there are early, mid, and late-blooming varieties. If you want to be in the springtime spirit as soon as possible, you might want early-blooming varieties. And if you want tulips blooming throughout the season, you may want to plant a few of each.

Planting Zones

Residing in the correct planting zone is essential to tulip health. You should find your zone before learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots. If the climate is too hot or too cold, they may not grow. Most tulip varieties grow in zones 3-8, but some have different requirements. Always check the USDA hardiness zone requirements for the bulbs you’re looking at.

Their Look

Are you going for a flashy or classic look? Always look at bloomed pictures so you have a sense of what the flowers will look like.

If you’re putting your potted tulips on your front porch, you might want a fancier look. So, the Parrot variety or double tulips will give your entryway a little more pizazz. But if you don’t like the flashy look, Darwin Hybrids, Triumphs, or Fosterianas are pretty options too. It all depends on the vibe you want.

2. Select a Pot and Soil for Your Bulbs

potting soil

Unlike in-ground flower beds, you don’t need to dig up a designated area or till the soil. You’ll just need to purchase some pots and soil when learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots.


Figuring out how to plant tulip bulbs in pots starts with the perfect planting pot. You’ll need a pot that has a minimum depth of one foot, as tulip roots are 5-6 inches long. Without the minimum 12-inch pot, the roots can get tangled into a clump. This will stall the growing process until you move the bulbs to a bigger pot.

Soil Type

Tulips typically enjoy sandy, well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.0. With that said, a flower-specific potting mix will be perfect for them. The pH of these kinds of soils hovers around 6.0, and potting mixes often have sand in them. And to help with drainage, you should ensure your pot has holes in the bottom to release excess water.

3. Plant Your Tulip Bulbs

Orange Emperor tulips similar to red emperor tulips

With all of the above information in mind, it’s time to learn how to plant tulip bulbs in pots! Planting should begin in the fall to allow the flowers to sprout in the spring. The bulbs need the cold winter weather to trigger the growing process.

Follow these steps when planting your tulip bulbs in pots:

  1. Fill your pot up with soil.
  2. Dig a hole that’s about six inches deep in the soil.
  3. Place your bulb in the hole with the pointed side facing upwards. Then loosely cover it with soil.
  4. Water your bulbs immediately after planting and fertilize them with a bulb fertilizer.
  5. Place your planted tulip bulbs somewhere safe and sunny outside. And wait for the flowers to emerge in the spring!

4. Care for Your Tulips as They Grow

Rows Apricot Fox/Peach Buds/Open Flowers Tulips Green Stems/Leaves, White Tulips in Background, Vivid Blue Sky Dark/White Clouds, Daytime - Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Oregon (HDR Image)

After initially planting your tulip bulbs, they won’t need much maintenance until springtime. You’ll need to water them once a week for about four weeks after planting. Then you’ll leave them alone until the warm weather starts rolling in.

Here are the care requirements you’ll need to conduct after figuring out how to plant tulip bulbs in pots. Start this care regimen after the leaves emerge in springtime.

Watering Requirements

Tulips aren’t picky when it comes to watering. Once you see the leaves poking out of the soil, you can water them once a week. But you should only water them until the soil is damp. Then leave them alone until the next week.

Sunlight Requirements

Whether you plant your tulips in beds or learn how to plant tulip bulbs in pots, they need full sun. This means they’ll need around 6-8 hours of daily direct sunlight during the springtime. So, if you had them in a shady area over the winter, you should move them into the sun.

Fertilizing Requirements

According to the steps on how to plant tulip bulbs in pots, you’ll fertilize your bulbs immediately after planting. After this initial fertilization, your tulips will only need fertilizing once a year in the springtime when they begin growing.


Deadheading is a vital task among most flowers. If you see a tulip flower decaying, you should pinch or cut the flower off the stem. Doing this allows the plant to stop using unneeded energy and promotes quick, healthy growth for the following year.

Treat Pests and Diseases as Needed

Common tulip pests include aphids, bulb flies, and caterpillars. Aphids and caterpillars will usually chew on the flower and foliage, leading to early decay. Bulb flies will lay larvae that will eat the bulb, leading to an unusable tulip bulb.

You can use a flower insecticide to get rid of aphids and caterpillars. Insecticides can help kill adult bulb flies. And spraying them near the base of the flower can deter them from laying eggs.

Two of the most common diseases your tulips may get include Botrytis blight and bacterial soft rot. Botrytis blight is a type of gray mold that causes cell death. And bacterial soft rot causes wet, squishy spots on your tulips, leading to decay.

You can control Botrytis with a fungicide spray and remove the affected parts of the plant. Bacterial soft rot isn’t treatable, so you must focus on preventing it from spreading. And getting rid of any affected plants is the best way to do this.

5. Optional: Pick Your Tulips

Many people who learn how to plant tulip bulbs in pots plan to leave their tulips inside the pots. But you may decide to cut them for a fresh bouquet!

To do this, you should cut the flowers before they open. Cutting above the leaves is also the best idea, as the leaves help store nutrients for the bulb.

After picking, cut the stems on a diagonal for better water uptake and place them in a water-filled vase!

Enjoy Beautiful Blooms After Learning How to Plant Tulip Bulbs in Pots

Potted tulips are much easier to manage than an entire flower bed of them. And they are a great way to enhance your outdoor decorating! The above steps should make learning how to plant tulip bulbs in pots easier. And you’ll be on your way to stunning springtime blooms soon!

Are you interested in learning more about tulips? Take a look at our tulip page for more fascinating facts and all things tulip-related!