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How To Plant Tulip Bulbs

Nothing heralds the arrival of springtime quite like the first flourishes of gorgeous tulips in a multihued array! But in order to achieve that perfect spring landscaping aesthetic, you first have to know how to plant tulip bulbs the right way.

We’re here to help take all the guesswork out of it. Read on to learn all about how to plant tulip bulbs…from timing to tools to all the steps for achieving healthy tulip blooms that will captivate in the springtime and throughout the blooming season.

How To Plant Tulip Bulbs

Choosing the Right Planting Time

The very first step to learning how to plant tulip bulbs is knowing when to plant tulip bulbs! Tulip bulbs generally thrive the best as a springtime flower, and in order to achieve their full growth potential, they require planting in the fall through winter months (depending on your USDA growing zone).

Knowing your growing zone will help you know how to plant tulip bulbs at such a time that they can truly thrive. Typically, this perfect planting window will come after the first light frost but before the first hard freeze of the season.

Selecting the Right Planting Location

How to plant tulips. Planting tulip bulbs in the ground in the fall in your garden.


Choosing the right soil and digging into it at the right time are key components for how to plant tulip bulbs. Tulip bulbs require moist, well draining soil to plant, which in many cases will not require much extra effort on your part.

However, you will be planting tulip bulbs after the growing season, and if you live in a dry, arid climate or in a location where there’s been drought, the soil may be too hard. In this case, wetting the ground ahead of time and possibly adding a bit of compost to help revive the nutrients in the soil is a necessary step before planting tulip bulbs.

More important than the state of the soil when planting tulip bulbs is the ground temperature, however. The ground temperature needs to be consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting your tulip bulbs, in order for them to properly put down roots over the winter season.


Like many flower varieties, tulips are sun lovers. They will do their best with full to lightly shaded sunlight. When choosing where to plant tulip bulbs in your landscaping, be sure to bear in mind how much sunlight they will receive throughout the day. Most tulips need six hours or more of sunlight to truly thrive.


The landscaping potential of tulips is just about endless…which is part of what makes them such an appealing and widely grown flower! From decadent Red Emperor Tulips to lace-edged Fringed Tulips to delicate bi-colored tulips like the Estella Rijnveld, there is a tulip variety for every kind of landscaping.

This is where you can truly play around and have some fun! You can try planting tulip bulbs all in a row for a wave of color, or alternate and stagger the tulips in patterns to create delicate designs and whorling patterns in your landscape. Go for a single color or mix and match bulbs to create a rainbow effect of riotous springtime colors.

Tulips can complement just about any other flowers in your landscaping as well. Crocuses, irises, lilies, and more will pair off with the verdant blooms of a tulip head in the spring. You can tailor planting tulip bulbs to fit your aesthetic, whether that’s bold and majestic, artsy and elegant, dainty and demure, whimsical and fun…the sky’s the limit with all of the various tulip varieties to choose from.

Necessary Tools for Planting Tulips

How to store tulip bulbs

While the absolute necessity tools for planting tulip bulbs can be confined to just a garden trowel, there are several tools that will make this process quite swift and straightforward. And it can be a lot easier on your body as well!

One of the key items to consider is a bulb planting tool. This handy gadget will help punch out the soil to the desired depth, removing all the hassle of trowel digging and measuring the inches of your holes. Gardening gloves are another must, as they help you handle the tulip bulb without the risk of contaminating it.

Lastly, gardeners of all ages can benefit from a kneeling pad. You might be spending a lot of time down on your knees in the soil, digging and placing and refilling holes, which can be quite hard on your knees.

The good news is, these items are not only widely available–they also can be found in a single, affordable gardening pack! Consider grabbing one of these to help make your process of planting tulip bulbs easy, straightforward, and as painless as possible.

How to Plant Tulip Bulbs: A Step by Step Guide

Tulip bulbs sprouted in wooden box flower shop.

Take Stock of Your Planting Area

As you’re gearing up for planting tulip bulbs, the first key is to take stock of how your chosen planting bed is doing. Check the soil temperature and soil moisture to determine if it’s the proper time yet for planting tulip bulbs.

You can also help your tulip bulbs do their best by taking time to weed out the planting area and removing any rocks from the soil. This will help give the roots more open space to take hold.

Dig Holes to the Proper Depth

Once the soil is at the right temperature and is a bit moist (you can either moisten it yourself or wait for a nice autumn rain), it’s time to dig the holes for planting tulip bulbs!

You will want to plant your tulip bulbs about six to eight inches below the soil, with four to six of space inches between each bulb in any given row or pattern. If you’re planting a lot of tulip bulbs all at once, you can also dig a trench rather than lots of individual holes.

The depth of your hole needs to take into account the height of your tulip bulbs, however. If you have a one inch tall bulb, your hole needs to be seven to nine inches deep. This depth helps prevent squirrels and other foragers from digging up your tulip bulbs over the winter.

Place Tulip Bulbs Right Side Up!

This is a key element for how to plant tulip bulbs that you may not have had to pay much attention to when seeding flowers in the past! Tulip bulbs will have a pointy side which you want to have facing upward when planting them. Otherwise, they might grow sideways or try to bloom down into the ground.

Fill In the Holes or Trench

Before you fill in the holes or trench you’ve dug for your tulips, there are a couple things you might consider putting in there first!

Plant food is one of these things. Some organic plant food added to the soil around the bulbs can potentially help encourage perennial growth among tulips, which often struggle to come back in subsequent years due to a lack of nutrients.

You might also opt to line the holes or trench with gravel, thorny branches, holly leaves, or another prickly or hard substance before filling it in. This will help deter mice, moles, voles, and other burrowing critters from digging them up through the winter.

Lastly, when backfilling the holes or trench where you are planting tulip bulbs, do so gently, being careful not to tilt the tulip bulbs. Be sure to pack the soil snugly to help protect your tulip bulbs from the elements.

Water Your Newly Planted Bulbs

Once you’ve filled in your holes or trench, water the soil lightly–not soaking, just a gentle sprinkle to help kick off the below ground growth. You should not need to water again until the springtime.

Tips for Tulip Plant Care

how to plant tulip bulbs in pots


Tulip bulbs will generally need no further watering until they bloom in the spring, usually around March or April. Even then, the springtime rains should take care of the majority of their watering needs. However, if you experience an early season heat wave or drought, supplemental watering is fine.


Continued, regular feeding with your organic plant food will help encourage the perennial growth for which tulips are known–but with which they often struggle due to unfit soil. Feed your tulip plants on a regular schedule based off of your individual flower food requirements, and you just might see them bloom again the following year!


Mulching is a great practice to help make the most of watering your tulips. A light layer of mulch laid around the flower bed will help retain moisture throughout the year.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Plant Tulip Bulbs

What should I do with my leftover bulbs after planting?

It’s not uncommon to end up with too many tulip bulbs after planting, or to run out of room before you plant them all. Not to worry, though! You can actually store tulip bulbs for up to 12 months.

This can be a great practice to bear in mind if you’re concerned about perennial growth for your tulip bulbs. Keeping a few in storage to plant the following season will give you the opportunity to see how your old tulips come back, while at the same time you can plant more of the same variety–just in case the old tulips don’t return.

Are some tulip varieties easier to grow than others?

As an overall standard, most tulip varieties are considered relatively easy to grow! Choosing the best tulip variety to grow really comes down to your color and landscaping choices and preferences.

Wrapping Up How to Plant Tulip Bulbs

Once you know how to plant tulip bulbs, the real fun begins! Getting to choose tulip varieties and design your landscaping patterns can be such a fun process with plenty of opportunities to really hone in on your gardening aesthetic.

Check out our Tulips page for some variety ideas to choose from, tips on tulip growth and care, and so much more!