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How to Plant Tulips

Updated: Oct 19


We've been growing tulips for over 5 years here at Island Flower Farm. My first year planting 700 bulbs I thought I was in the big leagues. The following Spring we brought our tulips to market and customers couldn't believe their unique appearances and extra long vase life. We sold out every single market that Spring. Flash forward to 2020, and we've probably trialed over 200 different varieties and have grown over 85,000 bulbs. They are one of my favourite flowers because you don't need to be a master gardener to grow them, tulips are exceptionally easy to grow and almost hassle-free. You've got this!


Upon receiving or purchasing tulip or daffodil bulbs, open their box to allow the contents to breath. Spring bulbs can be planted from October up until December here on Vancouver Island. No time to plant right now? Don’t worry, the bulbs can be held in a dark and cool area such as your potting shed, a cool basement, or the garage until you’re ready.

The most important thing is to plant the bulbs in the fall, before the ground freezes, to provide them with the necessary cool period to allow the flower to bloom. 

You got this!



Tulips Facts

Cut tulips are geotropic, meaning they will start to bend with gravity.

Tulips are also phototropic, causing them to grow and bend towards light sources.

After being cut, tulips continue to grow sometimes up to an inch. If not re-cut, they may begin to bend over the vase as they grow.



How To Plant:

Plant your tulips in a sunny location which doesn’t have standing water that could encourage disease and rot. Here at the farm we dig various 3x65 foot trenches, about 8 inches deep, and plant our tulip bulbs en masse. This helps us maximize space on our little farm, and it helps ensure a more efficient harvest come Spring. Most Flower Farms treat tulips as an annual, harvesting the flowers with the bulbs still attached, and replanting with fresh bulbs the following Autumn.

As a home gardener, tulips make the most beautiful impact in the garden when planted in clumps of 5 or more bulbs (in floral design we always stick to odd numbers, and I like to apply the same rule in my garden). To do so, dig out a generous circle of soil about three times the depth of the tulip bulb. If you're feeling generous, you can sprinkle a handful of general organic fertilizer into the hole. Tulips can be planted very closely together, on the farm we go by the rule of planting our tulips a similar distance as eggs in an egg carton; less than an inch apart. As a home gardener, you'll want to leave a little bit more room between each bulb, say an inch or so. Press your bulbs into the soil securely, give them a drink of water, and then refill your hole.


To break it down into point form:

Plant tulip bulbs from now until the ground freezes

Plant in borders or containers in sun or partial shade

Plant the bulbs two to three times as deep as the bulb is high

Space the bulbs about twice the bulb diameter apart

Place the bulbs with the pointed side facing upwards


*If any of your bulbs have a little blue or fuzzy mould on them, plant them anyways, they will bloom. What you want to avoid planting are bulbs that are really "squishy" between your fingers. If your bulbs squish to the touch, toss them.


How to Harvest: 

During tulip season we’re often having to harvest two to three times a day. When in season, tulips mature quickly. The key to a longer vase life is harvesting at the correct stage. Harvest tulips when the buds are beginning to colour but before they have fully developed and opened. Tulips are long lasting in the vase, roughly 8-12 days depending on the variety. Simply cut your tulip at the base, strip off any leaves, and place in cool clean water.

On the farm, we treat tulips as annuals. We found after cutting the flowers, the blooms in subsequent years were not nearly as big and luscious as they were in the first year. 

If you’d prefer to not cut your flowers, tulips perennialize nicely in the garden, and you’ll be able to enjoy them spring after spring.



I'd love for you to keep me posted on your tulip growing journey! Happy Planting!


-Bronwyn


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