Time to Plant the Tulips, How to Plant Tulips

Part of the You Can Learn Landscaping and Gardening series.
By Ken Brown
Editor, YouCanLearnSeries.com
October 28, 2005

Late fall before the first frost it is time to plant the tulips and other bulb plants like crocus. This simple article will discuss the proper way to plant bulb plants like the tulip and when to plant them.

First, I always recommend that you read the grower's recommendations for planting their hybrids. Generally, for tulips and bulb plants this is the standard recommendations.

  • Dig a hole approximately 6 inches deep.
  • Place bulb in hole with the bulb facing up.
  • Space bulbs about 4 to 6 inches apart.
  • Cover with dirt and water.
  • Dig a hole approximately 3 inches deep.
  • Place bulb in hole with the bulb facing up.
  • Space bulbs about 2 to 3 inches apart.
  • Cover with dirt and water.

These planting tips will produce the best chance that you will get the greatest number of your tulips to survive the winter and ensure an attractive spring blooming season.

Other helpful tips that will increase chances of survival include planting your bulbs before the first frost of the season and especially before the ground freezes.

Plant Bulbs in Clusters

A cluster of tulips in bloom.

For the most attractive spring glory plan your bulb plantings in clusters. Tulips always give a better show when there are groups of them together. So plan how you are going to combine colors, patterns and even tulip type to make the best spring presentation. Put the bulbs in clusters of 5 to 25, ensuring even spacing and proper combinations of colors. Don't be afraid to use contrasting colors to make a statement with your bulbs.

To amend the soil use bonemeal and / or bulb food in the bottom of the hole to help the bulbs have a good start when the ground begins to thaw. As you are digging the 6 inch hole loosen the soil another 2 inches and combine the bonemeal into that loosened soil.

Crocuses and tulips require some sun but do okay in partial sun. It is important that you plant your bulbs in the right direction when planting. Bulbs are food sources for the flower. When facing the wrong direction, they begin growing in the wrong direction and use up valuable energy and food trying to find the sun.

A photo of tulip bulbs.

Some people do plant them sideways or upside down for a purpose. If you want to delay the timing of your different groups of tulips, then that will take longer for those bulbs to poke their heads out of the ground and it will appear that you have timed your bulbs to bloom at different times in the early spring.

Other bulb and bulb like plants include:

Iris Plant on the surface
Crocus Plant 2 to 3 inches deep
Begonia Plant 2 to 3 inches deep
Lilies Plant 2 to 3 inches deep
Ranunculus Plant 2 to 3 inches deep
Gladioli Plant 3 to 4 inches deep
Daffodils Plant 3 to 4 inches deep
Dahlias Plant 3 to 4 inches deep
Tulips Plant 4 to 6 inches deep
Hyacinths Plant 6 to 8 inches deep

In Review, plant bulbs like tulips and crocuses the proper depth in the ground. Plant them in borders or groups / clusters to get the best visual impact. Get them in the ground before the first frost and especially before the ground freezes. Give the bulbs enough space between each other so they have the best chance of surviving. And most important, plant them so the flower part is facing toward the sun.

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