Tulips are a beautiful addition to any landscape. These herbaceous perennials come in a variety of colors ranging from bright reds to soft yellows, even “Queen of the Night” black! Tulips are said to be easy to plant and grow, but exactly when do you plant tulip bulbs? Of course, you want your blooms to be successful! In this post, we will explain the best time to plant tulip bulbs for optimal displays.
Tulip bulbs should be planted in the fall when:
- Soil temperatures are under 60 degrees.
- It is 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost.
Northern parts of the globe should plant bulbs between September and October. Southern parts of the globe are better off planting bulbs between November and December.
If you are a novice gardener or this if your first time planting tulip bulbs this may be a lot of information to consider. We encourage you to keep reading to get the answers to determine frost dates and planting times by region in order to make your tulip planting a success!
What is a Planting Zone?
A planting zone or hardiness zone is a geographic scale that tells you what type of growth results you can expect in certain climates. Knowing your planting zone is a good place to start when planning to grow tulips.
When to Plant Tulip Bulbs in New York
New York is in planting zones 7a and 7b. The first frost dates in these zones are around mid-November/early October. Therefore, you can plant tulips from mid/late September to early/mid-November for the best results.
During this time of year, soils usually run 40-50 degrees, which are perfect conditions for planting.
Initial watering is essential to successful blooms. However, you do not want to over water plants as it can cause bulb rot.
When to Plant Tulips Bulbs in California
California actually has a range of planting zones from 5a to 10b, but we’ll divide California by Northern California and Southern California. The first fall frost in Northern California is somewhere near late November. Frost times in Southern California can be infrequent. If you can’t pinpoint a frost time be mindful of your local weather and take note of when temperatures start to cool off. Use your soil thermometer to your advantage in this case!
Chill your tulip bulbs in all parts of California before actually planting. Chilling bulbs in the refrigerator allow the bulbs to become acclimated to the warmer soil temps in this area. Bulbs should chill in the refrigerator for about 4 to 6 weeks before planting.
Ideally, you should plant tulip bulbs in Northern California between the months of September and December.
For Southern California, plant bulbs between mid-December and the first few weeks of January.
When to Plant Tulip Bulbs in Texas
The first fall frost in Texas is around the third week of November. North Texas has a planting zone of 6a, while the rest of Texas has planting zones of 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, and 9a.
Plant around late October to early December if you live in the North Texas area. If you are in the hotter climates you can plant in mid-January, early February. Keeping your bulbs watered and moist is the key to allowing them to set in the soil.
When to Plant Tulips in Florida
Florida is the hottest of climates thus far. Planting zones for Florida fall between 8-10. The Florida Keys falls in 11. Frost times across Florida can be infrequent but this is where your planting zones come into play. For those living in zone 8, November to early December is the best time to plant. Zone 10 should plant from late December to early January, and if you live in zone 11 January to early February planting will yield the best results.
Before planting bulbs in Florida, place them in a paper bag and leave them in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks. It is important that you do not put them near any fruits or vegetables that emit gas, as this will destroy the bulbs.
Can I Plant Tulip Bulbs in the Spring?
It is not ideal to plant tulip bulbs in the spring as time is of the essence, and bulbs need to be in the ground before it gets too warm in order for them to bloom properly. According to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, Tulips grow best in cold weather because the cold temperature allows the bulb to break down the stored starches and carbohydrates that they produced in the spring into glucose they will use to grow and bloom the following year.
However, there is a way to plant bulbs in the spring. If you live in climates where there is not much of a winter, planting bulbs in the early spring could work well. This process is referred to as “tricking” or “forced” growing. You must follow specific steps in forced growing. While forced growing is a growing technique it is not always successful. Take these following steps to grow tulip bulbs in the spring through the forced method:
- Plant bulbs in a nursery pot. The bulb end should be pointing up. You can plant several bulbs in one pot.
- Moisten soil after planting bulbs.
- Place the whole pot in a plastic bag that is completely sealable.
- Place sealed pot in the refrigerator for 10-12 weeks (be sure to check the soil periodically to make sure it remains moist)
- After the bulbs begin to sprout remove them from the refrigerator and prepare to transfer the bulbs outside. (Remember planting in early spring will give you better blooming results)
- Remove sprouted bulbs from nursery pot and plant them in a shady area outdoors. In certain areas, during the early part of spring, you should still be able to have soil temperatures below 60 degrees.
Give these springtime planting tips a try, and you always have the option to wait for fall planting.
You Have Tulips to Plant!
We are quickly approaching planting season for several regions when it comes to tulips. Now that you have the gist of planting zones, frost times, and springtime planting, move forward with the determination to germinate and create great tulip blooms. Have fun growing something magical.