Planting Tulips and Other Flowering Bulbs

Blooming tulips are the perfect way to brighten up your patio and garden. They require a cold period that we don’t have on the Central Coast of California, which means it’s up to us to chill them in the refrigerator. It’s recommended that most flower bulbs be chilled for 10-12 weeks at 38-45 degrees prior to planting—just make sure no one mistakes them for shallots and tries to cook them. :  )

Planting Bulbs In the Garden

Blooming flowers make a great addition to your spring garden! Just find a nice sunny spot that has good drainage, and you are well on your way to spectacular color & beauty.

Here are some quick ideas for planting flowering bulbs in your yard:

  • Find a nice sunny spot that you can see and enjoy daily.
  • Make sure the soil has good drainage, then dig 2-3” below the planting depth to loosen the soil; this will allow the roots to grow.
  • Plant the bulbs with the roots down and the pointy ends up. 
  • To prevent root burn, lightly sprinkle bulb food/fertilizer over the surface AFTER you plant the bulbs. If the ground is wet and rain is expected soon, do not water much after planting—just moisten enough to get the fertilizer into the ground. If we are having a drier winter, water more thoroughly but less frequently so the soil doesn’t dry out.
  • Once the first sprouts poke through the soil, fertilize again.

Note: Different bulbs have different spacing and sun requirements

TULIPS: Plant 6” apart and 6-8” deep in full to partial sun. Tulip Big Smile will grow to a height of 24-26”, Tulip Red Impression will grow to 20-22”

ANEMONE BLANDA: Plant 3-4” apart and 4” deep in full to partial sun. They’ll grow to a height of 4”

Dutch Iris

DUTCH IRIS: Plant 6” apart and 6” deep in full sun. They’ll grow to a height of 18-22”

HYACINTHOIDES: Plant 4” apart and 4” deep in full to partial sun. They’ll grow to a height of 12-18”

Planting Bulbs In Containers

Once your bulbs reach the desired temperature, it’s time to transfer them to the container of your choice. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Fill a pot two-thirds full of potting soil. Make sure there are drain holes in the bottom of the pot so excess water can drain out—you don’t want your bulbs sitting in water or they’ll get moldy and die.
  • Making sure they’re approximately 1 inch apart and about 4 inches from the top of the pot, gently press each tulip bulb into the loose soil—with the roots down and the pointy ends up—just far enough that they stay in place on their own. The pointy ends should be facing in different directions. Some gardeners recommend arranging the bulbs with their flat side facing out for a neater display of leaves.

Bulbs in pots should be planted much closer together than when planted in the ground

  • Cover with more soil until the pot is full, leaving 1 inch empty at the top.
  • Water thoroughly until water drains from the bottom, and place the pots in an area where the temperature does not vary too much. The north side of the house works, as does as a garage or carport.
  • Water occasionally so that the soil does not dry out during the winter.
  • Once the first growth appears (about an inch of green), move gradually into brighter light and eventually full sun.
  • When the flower buds start to grow, apply bulb fertilizer according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • When flowers start to open, move the pot to a nice, sunny location and….
  • Enjoy!

One of the great things about growing tulips in pots is that you can easily remove them after they bloom. Put them in a cool, dry place until fall and then replant them after another 10-12 week chill.

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