Storing Tulip Bulbs

The Facts about Storing Tulip Bulbs

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the proper method of storing tulip bulbs. In fact, if you do a little research on the internet, you are sure to be confused. Every other website gives conflicting information on storing tulip bulbs, and most of it concerns growing tulips in cold climates where there is snow and a frozen ground. Even people who claim to be master gardeners and experts on tulips get it wrong.

To dispel one myth, tulips are perennials and they do not need to be grown as annuals.  You do not have to pull up all your tulip bulbs every fall and store them for the winter, not even if you live in a place where the ground freezes and it drops to thirty below zero. Tulips are perennials and once planted they will come up for several years in a row before needing to be exchanged for new bulbs.

Tulips are cold hardy just like crocuses, and they can be frozen hard all winter and still pop up through the soil in the spring. The only exception to this is if you plant your tulip bulbs so late in the fall that they have no roots at all before the frigid weather comes along. Then they may not come up. So, plant early enough in the fall that your tulips can be rooted before winter.

Tulips burst through the soil in early spring. They are one of the earliest of all spring flowers, especially in northern locales. After they are done blooming, the flowers die back. Over the summer, tulip bulbs gain energy through the leaves that are left on the plant. That’s why it is important not to remove the stalks when the flowers die. The bulbs underground receive nutrients from above and are able to recharge themselves to bloom again.

When fall comes, the tulip bulbs go dormant and stay that way throughout the winter. No matter how cold it gets, they are fine. When spring comes, the tulips will bloom and are one of the most beautiful spring flowers. If you are planting bulbs for the very first time, do it in the fall. In northern climates, that means September or October so they can root before the snow flies. It stays much warmer below ground than it does above so the ground can be frozen for a very long time at the surface but not where the bulbs are located. Even when the frost line drops below the bulbs, they will still be safe and sound.

Storing tulip bulbs is necessary only if you should get them in the spring and need to wait till fall to plant them. The best method is to place the bulbs in a paper bag and store it in a cool, dry place until fall. Don’t place them in the refrigerator. It is not the cold air that is bad for them, but the presence of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables give off some types of gases which will kill the tulip bulbs. If you have a refrigerator in which you never put fruits and vegetables, it will be okay for the bulbs.

Depending on where you live, tulip bulbs can be planted in September or October, sooner in cold areas and later in warmer locations. Try to get them in the ground before the first frost. They need a spot with a lot of sun and soil mixed with plenty of organic matter. Compost and dried manure are excellent choices. Tulip bulbs should be planted around 4 to 5 inches deep, and an inch or two deeper in cold areas. Make sure to plant bulbs with the widest part of the bulb on the bottom of the hole. All they need is the soil carefully replaced and a good watering to start them out right. If you are living in an area that has temperatures way below zero, covering the soil with a good, thick layer of mulch will help them make it successfully through the winter.