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How to Store Tulip Bulbs (5 Steps)

Tulip fields in Netherlands with windmill

My mom was an avid gardener. She loved tulips and planted many of them in the yard. As many tulip growers do, she stored the bulbs after each growing season. She had paper grocery bags full of them stored in the cool basement (where us kids also played, but we knew better than to disturb the precious bulbs).

Tulips have natural storage organs called bulbs, which places them in the geophytes category of flowers. They bloom in spring, which is why they are known as perennial flowers. There are many types of tulips that grow in all sorts of colors such as red, white, yellow, and pink.

They are large, bright, and stand out from the rest, which makes them a really popular choice amongst flowers for any given event. There are about 75 different species of the tulip flower. They have a really long history of cultivation, which makes their classification quite difficult and controversial.

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

Brief History of TulipsTulips in a Garden

Tulips were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire and were imported to Holland in the 16th Century. The first book on tulips was written in 1592 by Carolus Clusius, which made tulips really popular in the region. His garden was even raided quite often for the bulbs, since they were highly sought after.

The Dutch Golden Age bought immense popularity for the colorful tulips. They became a must-have in festivals and paintings, so much so that they created the first economic bubble. This was known as the Tulip Mania in which people bought so many tulip bulbs that the price inflated unnaturally. They were used as money until the market crashed.

Nowadays, Holland is known as the home of tulips. It is called the ‘flower shop of the world’ because it produces the most beautiful flowers in the world. They have large fields of tulips in a pretty array of colors due to which many tulip festivals are held throughout the country when spring comes around. The Dutch were the first ones to take their love for tulips abroad and bought them to the United States.

You can still find millions of different tulips and other flowers in the Kop Van Noord-Holland. The tulip field is a beautiful tourist spot where tulips are arranged into a sea of different colors. It starts in late April and lasts until early May, and it is definitely a must-see at least once in your life.

Storing Tulip Bulbs

Tulip bulbs stored in a container

Step 1: Cut off bulb stems

Firstly, while the tulip is still planted, you need to cut off the stems of the bulb after the flower dies; you can opt for pruning shears to complete this job. Once all the flowers are removed, use a pair of pruning shears to cut the stems off the bulb. This will prevent the loss of essential nutrients and energy in the bulb, which is why you need to make sure you trim the stem off as close to the base of the bulb as possible. You can keep the leaves on the tulips since they will provide necessary energy for the next season.

Step 2: Pull out the bulbs

Once the leaves begin to yellow and die, you should pull out the bulbs. The leaves usually take 6 weeks to become yellow after the blooming period has passed. This is a crucial time for the bulb where it begins to gather the energy from photosynthesis to help it bloom next season. You can easily dig the bulb from the ground once all the leaves have died.

Make sure that you do not overwater the bulbs after the leaves have begun to die. They can continue to thrive under occasional rain, but the bulbs will begin to rot if the soil is too wet. You can pull the bulb out of the ground by loosening the soil with a small garden shovel.

Step 3: Clean off the dirt from the bulbs

Clean off all the dirt and worms from the bulbs with a paper tower. You should also remove any signs of rot and browning with a paper towel. Store them in a cool and dry place for 2 days in a tray so that they dry out. Make sure they aren’t in direct sunlight so places like a shaded area or garage work really well. They will rot under sunlight since they develop moisture.

Step 4: Wrap the bulbs

Wrap the bulbs separately in newspapers, which will retain some level of moisture and retain the necessary temperature. You can also use sawdust and sphagnum moss instead of newspapers. Put them in a mesh bag so that there is a healthy flow of air.drying tulips

Step 5: Storage location

Store the bulbs in a dark and dry place for 12 weeks. After that, you will need to put them in the crisper drawer of the fridge if you live in areas of milder winters. If temperatures don’t go below 10°C, you have to put them in the refrigerator.

Don’t store them near apples or other fruits and check for moldy or shriveled bulbs every two weeks. Remove and replace any newspaper that begins to mold or rot as well. You can gently apply mist with a spray bottle if they look shrunken or wrinkled. You should plant them 6 to 8 weeks before the first signs of frost appears.

Growing Tulips

Planting Tulips

Tulip bulbs need to be planted before the winters come since the ground can freeze up. The best thing to do to plant tulips is to use different varieties. This means that they will all have different bloom times from early to late spring, making your garden look beautiful throughout. You can get some indoor varieties as well as cut flowers.

Tulips have three petals as well as three sepals and are usually shaped like a cup. Tulips can be planted in all sorts of settings which include garden plantings, bed, borders, natural woodland areas, and more. Most tulips reach a height of 6 inches to an amazing 2 feet. Each stem grows one tulip bulb and every plant can grow 2 to 6 broad leaves.

Tulips are perennial flowers scientifically but hybridizing has been going for centuries. This has weakened the ability of the tulip bulb to come back each year, which is why a lot of farmers and gardeners treat them as annual plants. They plant new bulbs every autumn, especially since the North America soil and climate can never replicate the original soil available in Russia, where tulips were originally born.

Planting Tulips

Parts of a tulip and planting instructions graphic

Parts of a tulip and planting instructions graphic

Tulips need to be planted in Zones 7 and 8 in a shady area. They need a place with full or at least an afternoon or morning sun. Make sure that the soil is drained well, and is fertile, dry or sandy, and lies somewhere between neutral and slightly acidic. Excess moisture will impede the growing process for the tulips.

Tulips need to be planted in the autumn, at least 6 to 8 weeks before extreme winters are expected; this is why the perfect planting time for tulips is November or December in the South and September or October in the north. You will have to chill the tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for at least 12 weeks before planting it if you experience milder winters in the region.

If you plan on planting tall varieties of tulips then make sure you have a proper shelter against the winds which can break the stems. Choose a larger planting side since the bulbs will need to be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart.

To plant the tulip bed, you will need a tiller or garden fork to loosen the soil. Create depth of 12 to 15 inches and mix in at least 2 to 4 inches of compost. Tulip bulbs need to be planted really deep –at least 8 inches deep. Make sure you allow room for drainage and remember that the bigger the bulb, the deeper they go. Plant the tulip bulb with the pointy end up, cover it up with soil and press firmly.

You will need to water the bulbs right after you plant them. They need water to trigger the growth but can’t bear wet roots when they eventually begin to grow. You need a balanced fertilizer if you are planning to grow perennial tulips. Tulips have their own storage system which contains all the nutrients that they will need for one whole year that is released with the use of compost and organic material.

Caring for Tulips

Make sure to never water your plants if they are affected by rain every week, since tulips do not like being over watered. During a dry spell, you definitely need to water the tulips until winter arrives and the ground freezes over. Wet soil, irrigation systems, and rainy summers will cause the tulips to die, which is why unless there is a drought you shouldn’t water the tulips.

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