Tulip bulbs can be left in the ground each year in some areas, but in most places, bulbs tend to flower best when they are stored until the growing season.
Tulips are one of the most popular fall-growing flowers, famous for their bold color and clean-cut lines.
While they can be treated as annuals, discarding the bulbs after they bloom, many people prefer to store tulip bulbs to replant the following spring.
Keep reading to find out how to store tulip bulbs for the next growing season, including how to remove, clean, and dry the bulbs for storage.
How to Store Tulip Bulbs: A Step-By-Step Guide
Storing tulip bulbs is common in areas where temperatures don’t drop low enough for long enough during the winter season for the bulbs to enter dormancy. The bulbs are usually put into storage around mid-summer, between late July and early August.
Tulips are unique plants because the largest bulb, often called the mother bulb, only flowers once. After this flower blooms, the plant begins forming offset bulbs.
As temperatures warm in the summertime, the foliage of tulip plants will start to die back naturally. Tulip bulbs should not be removed until the foliage has died. Leaving the foliage until it dies allows the plant to put its excess energy to good use, growing offset bulbs for the next season.
Tulip bulbs need to be stored in controlled conditions to allow them to develop mature root systems and support the development of the bulb. Bulbs can be stored for up to 12 months if they are properly prepared for storage and kept at the correct temperatures.
Learning how to store tulip bulbs is convenient and easy with our step-by-step guide!
1. Pull Bulbs
After the mother bulb blooms, the foliage of your tulip plants takes around 6 weeks to die off naturally. You can remove the bulbs after the leaves have all naturally died away.
Don’t lift any tulip bulbs if the foliage is green or your bulbs will miss out on a significant amount of nutrients.
To remove the bulbs, loosen the soil around them with a small garden shovel or fork and then pull the bulb from the ground.
Gently clean away any soil and remove any damaged tulip bulbs, but make sure to leave the foliage attached.
2. Dry Bulbs
Next, you need to dry the bulbs somewhere cool and dry for about 2 days. This can be done using a tray or a mesh bag. Make sure not to store tulip bulbs in moist conditions because they retain moisture very well so they will quickly develop rot.
You should also check the bulbs to make sure none of them are withered or rotted. Any bulbs that feel soft or mushy should be discarded. Healthy tulip bulbs should feel firm, plump, and heavy.
3. Remove Roots and Leaves
Once you have dried the bulbs for a couple of days it’s time to prepare them for storage.
To do this, you’ll simply trim the dried roots, stems, and foliage from the bulbs using a pair of handheld pruning shears.
Trim the dried foliage, roots, and leaves as close to the tulip bulb as possible. Then, clean away any remaining dirt using a paper towel and you’re ready to wrap and store your tulip bulbs!
4. Wrap Bulbs
Before storing your tulip bulbs you’ll want to wrap them individually in a breathable material, such as paper bags or newspaper.
This allows the bulbs to retain just enough moisture to maintain a consistently cool temperature, without letting them get soggy.
5. Place Bulbs in Mesh Bag
Tulip bulbs are often stored in a few different types of breathable materials. You can use paper bags, mesh bags, or string net bags.
Whatever material you choose, place the bulbs in the bag once they are dry and ready to store. The bag will allow air to flow around the stored tulip bulbs, preventing them from molding or rotting.
6. Store Tulip Bulbs
Now that you’ve prepared your tulip bulbs for storage, it’s important to make sure the storage climate is just right to maintain the bulbs until you can plant them.
Tulip bulbs need to be stored in temperatures warm enough for the bulbs to develop flower buds but not so hot that they face issues that may inhibit their survival.
The ideal temperature for storing tulip bulbs in the summertime is a slightly cool 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Tulip bulbs should be kept in this ambient climate for up to 12 weeks before transplanting them into your garden.
In areas where temperatures don’t drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit regularly, you’ll want to go ahead and store them in your fridge. The crisper bin is the best place in the refrigerator for tulip bulbs because it shields them from light.
Make sure you keep an eye on your tulip bulbs, checking for any signs of moldy or dried-out bulbs every two weeks or less.
Check the newspaper, or whatever material you wrapped your bulbs with, and if it’s looking rotten or moldy go ahead and remove and replace it. If the bulbs are looking shriveled and dried out, mist them with water gently before wrapping them back up in the paper material.
Keep your tulip bulbs stored until time to transplant them into pots or directly in the soil outside at the correct time for fall planting in your area.
They should only be planted when the soil temperature is the correct temperature for the bulbs to produce roots, usually when the ground is still cold but not frozen.
In zones 3 and 4, tulip bulbs are generally removed from storage and planted into the ground soil in late September to early October.
In more temperate zones 5 through 7, the best time to plant your stored tulip bulbs into the soil is in October and November.
Finally, in warmer zones 8 through 10, you can leave your tulip bulbs in storage until anywhere from November to January.
What to Avoid When Storing Tulip Bulbs
Avoid storing your tulip bulbs in direct sunlight or other light, such as the light in the refrigerator if you store them there, or they may start to prematurely grow.
Avoid storing your tulip bulbs with any fruits or vegetables because these release ethylene, a gas that may kill the flower inside the tulip bulb.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can tulip bulbs be frozen?
Tulip bulbs should not be frozen. If you live in a cold climate be cautious of your tulip bulbs being exposed to temperatures any lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In freezing temperatures any older parts of the plant may be damaged, which impacts its ability to produce bulbs during the next growing season. If young tulips freeze, they probably won’t produce bulbs properly.
Where is the best place to store tulip bulbs?
The best place to store tulip bulbs is a dark environment with ambient temperatures between 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Many gardeners store their tulip bulbs in basements and garages. In warmer climates, you may need to refrigerate your bulbs to maintain the cool temperatures necessary for storage.
How long can I store tulip bulbs in the refrigerator?
If you choose to store your tulip bulbs in the refrigerator, remember not to leave them for longer than a few months or they may begin to rot. It’s best to use a cool, dark basement wherever possible. Since many people don’t have access to a basement it is possible to store tulip bulbs in the fridge for around 3 months, but you will have to watch them carefully for any signs of rot.
Can I leave my tulip bulbs on the ground year-round?
Some gardeners prefer to treat tulips as annual plants so they plant them each year. In warmer climates, you probably won’t want to leave your bulbs on the ground all year long because tulips need cooler temperatures to develop. For gardeners in northern regions where winters tend to be colder, it is possible to leave your tulip bulbs in the ground year-round.
Wrapping Up How to Store Tulip Bulbs
No matter where you live it’s easy to store tulip bulbs! The most difficult part of storing these showy bulbs is maintaining ambient temperatures and this can be made easier by using the crisper drawer in your fridge.
With this step-by-step guide on how to store tulip bulbs, we’ve done the research so you don’t have to, giving you more precious time to devote to your gorgeous flower garden!
For more information about tulips, including how to plant them and care for them, check out our tulip guide.