15 Tips For Longer Lasting Tulip Blooms This Season

Are you looking to get more life out of our tulip blooms this season? These popular perennial bulbs are a mainstay in the spring garden. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago shares her top tips for longer blooming tulips this season!

Purple and White Tulips Blooming in Garden

Tulips have become quintessential spring flowers in our gardens. Their jewel tones are available in single flowers, double flowers, late-blooming, and early blooming you name it. No matter what you are looking for, there is a tulip for you.

Growing beautiful tulips begins with putting the work in during the autumn. While this work is simple enough to do, it can take a bit of prep and planning to ensure that you get the job done correctly.

If you’ve decided to grow tulips in your garden and want to get a little more longevity out of their blooms, you’ve come to the right place! Continue reading as I share some of my top tips that will help to extend the bloom time of your tulips this season!

Watch Your Watering

Bottom view, close-up of watering red tulips from a red plastic watering can, against a blue sky. Tulips have beautiful cup-shaped orange-red flowers with dark green oval, oblong leaves with tapered tips.
Water your tulips about once a week during a dry spring.

Tulips are relatively low-maintenance plants. Considering the beautiful colors these spring bloomers provide our otherwise desolate gardens, the minimal effort these plants require is quite remarkable. Watering your gardens in the spring is vital, but this rule does not apply to tulips.

The only water your tulip bulbs require is rainfall. Of course, if you are experiencing an unusually dry spring you should water your tulips lightly about once a week.

The reason for keeping the water to a minimum with tulips is simple: bulb rot. If the tulip bulbs are watered too frequently or sit in standing water for too long the bulbs themselves will begin to rot or develop a fungus.

When this happens you may notice your tulip stems weakening which can cause collapse. This will also make it very difficult for the tulips to return next year.

If you feel the urge to water your tulips, hold off. Nature is likely taking excellent care of your spring beauties.

Fertilize Your Bulbs

Top dressing with granulated fertilizer for bulbous plants during planting. Close-up of a woman's hand in a blue glove pouring granular fertilizer from a garden shovel onto a bed of freshly planted bulbs.
When planting bulbs, it is recommended to fertilize the soil with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Tulips can greatly benefit from fertilizer in the fall as well as the spring. After you plant your bulbs in the fall, top-dress the soil with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Do not mix this fertilizer into the hole you have dug for the bulb. The contact between the fertilizer and the tulip bulb can cause burning, which is damaging to the bulb and the overall health of the tulip plant. 

In the spring, once you see the tulips begin to pop up through the soil you can fertilize again. Using the same 10-10-10 fertilizer, sprinkle it around your bulbs. Follow any package instructions for application rates. There are also bulb fertilizers, such as bulb tone, which are also a great option for your bulbs.

Stake Your Tulips

Close-up of yellow tulips with metal stakes blooming in the garden. Tulips have beautiful cup-shaped flowers of bright yellow petals with pinkish hues.
If you grow high varieties of tulips, they may need stakes.

Whether you are growing taller tulip varieties or tulips with large heavy flowers, staking your tulips is an easy and beneficial way to care for your plants. This will help keep your plants supported through windy weather or heavy spring rains.

Gather your tools before you get started. You will need one stake per tulip. Your stakes could be anything you have on hand such as green plastic stakes, or bamboo stakes. You will also need something soft to tie the tulips up such as twine, velcro, or extra fabric.

Before the tulips bloom insert your choice of stake a few inches into the ground and close to the stem. Secure the stake with garden twine. Be sure to tie the twine gently, if you tie it too tight you run the risk of snapping your tulip stem.

Keep Critters Away

Close-up of a small chipmunk on a log, against a blurred background of yellow and red tulips. The chipmunk is brown in color with a white belly and dark brown stripes on the back.
Rodents such as chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels can be a problem in your spring garden.

Without fail, every spring, I find at least one perfect tulip step that has been bitten off at the base and then just left in my garden. I would almost rather the critter would have eaten the whole thing! Suffice it to say, little critters can be an issue in a spring garden. They are hungry and they are not particularly picky.

If you notice chipmunks, rabbits, or squirrels nibbling on your tulips there are a couple of things you can do to keep them away. These animals do not like intense aromas.

Add bone meal to your gardens or sprinkle some cayenne pepper around the base of your tulips. All-natural animal repellants are also available at garden centers or big box stores that are strongly scented and will help repel animals.

Be Prepared For Insects

Close-up of a snail on a tulip flower, on a green blurred background. The flower is small, cup-shaped, has pale pink petals covered with drops of water. The snail is small, brown-orange in color with a beautiful shell.
The most common pests of tulips are aphids, slugs and snails.

Just like any other plants in your garden tulips can struggle with insect infestations. Aphids and slugs can all be found on these spring beauties. If you are ready to treat them you will be ahead of the game.

Aphids are tricky on tulips because they can transmit a disease called the “tulip-breaking virus”. This can cause streaks and discoloration in the tulip flowers, as well as other spots and lesions on the leaves and stems of the plants. Control aphids by gently spraying your tulips with your garden hose, be careful not to knock off the flower petals!

Slugs are found in really moist areas of the garden and are usually hiding under some leaves or other plant material on the ground. Keep your gardens clean and on the drier side to keep slugs away. If you find slugs in your garden any way you can use a product such as sluggo.

Bring Them Indoors

A large bouquet of lush orange tulips in a white vase on the table, on a white background. Women's hands are adjusting the vase. Tulips have large, double, cupped, bright orange flowers.
Cut off the stems of the tulips with sharp scissors and place them in a vase of water to enjoy the flowers indoors.

Another excellent way to continue enjoying your tulip blossoms is by cutting them from the plant and bringing them indoors and arranging them in a vase. Using a garden knife or sharp garden sheers cut the tulip stem close to the ground.

Once the stem is removed, bring the tulip inside and cut at an angle under running water. Remove any dirt and extra leaves from the stem, and place in water. For long-lasting cut stems, change the water daily and give the stems a fresh cut.

In terms of the health of the tulip bulb, try to leave some leaves attached to the bulb. These leaves will continue to photosynthesize and create food for the bulb which will help the bulbs survive dormancy and produce beautiful flowers next season.

Plant Fresh Bulbs

Close-up of female hands planting tulip bulbs in autumn garden. A woman digs holes with a shovel for planting bulbs. A flat wooden bowl full of tulip bulbs is on the ground next to an empty paper bag.
It is recommended to buy the bulbs in the fall so that they are fresher at the time of planting.

Over time, bulbs can lose some of their vigor and will not perform as well as they should. This can even be true of bulbs you have just purchased from a store.

For example, you may feel tempted to shop at a spring bulb sale at your garden center. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a plant bargain.

However, if you are looking to give your plants the best shot at having a longer bloom period I would suggest you wait until the fall to purchase your bulbs. This will help to ensure that your bulbs are fresher rather than dried out and tired.

Choose High-quality Bulbs

A market with many wooden crates full of different varieties of tulip bulbs. Above each box there is a plate with the image of a tulip and the inscription of the variety. Several wicker baskets are on the shelves. 4 beautiful vases with lush bouquets of colorful tulips are on the shelves next to the bulbs.
Choose a reputable company that will deliver your bulbs by the time they need to be planted in the ground.

There are so many options when it comes to purchasing your tulip bulbs. Choose a company that, first of all, has the variety of tulips you want to plant. Secondly, look for a company that will ship to your home when the season is correct. These companies will often ask for your zip code to determine the best time to deliver your bulbs.

Your tulip bulbs should arrive very close to the time that they should be planted in the ground. This will ensure that your bulbs are nice and fresh right when they go into the ground!

Try Viridiflora Tulips

Close-up of 'China town' tulips blooming in the garden. The flowers are large, cup-shaped, have vertical petals of a ruddy color with green feathers on the outside. The petals are slightly wavy along the edges. The leaves are dark green with white edges.
One of the longest-blooming tulips is the ruddy ‘China town’ variety.

Viridiflora tulips are later blooming tulips, and they are also noted as being the longest blooming tulips, lasting up to three weeks! These tulips are unique in that each variety of viridiflora tulips has a green streak through each of their petals. Plant these tulips with early blooming tulips for a long display of beautiful bright flowers.

There are many different colors and shapes available of viridiflora, ranging from white to red with many shades in between. Try ‘China town’ if you are looking for a blush variety or ‘Formosa’ for a bright green tulip.

Pair these tulips with other spring bulbs, or make a statement and plant a large swath throughout your garden.

Plant Early-Blooming Varieties

Close-up of a flowering field of 'Cilesta' tulips. The flowers are beautiful, double, peony-shaped, have bright red petals with bright yellow edges.
‘Cilesta’ is a delightful early-flowering tulip variety that produces double bright red flowers with yellow margins.

There are many different types of tulips you can grow in your garden. Early-blooming tulips will begin blooming shortly after your crocuses, around early to mid-spring. There are many different types of early-blooming tulips, but here are a few to get you started!

Early Blooming Varieties
    • ‘Abba’ is an early-blooming double tulip. These red beauties will grow to 1 foot in height

    • ‘Apricot Beauty’ is a single early tulip. This tulip has a nice strong stem, making it a good choice if you get a lot of rain. The flowers are a beautiful blush peach. This plant will grow from 1-2 feet in height.

    • ‘Cilesta’ is a nice tall double tulip that will reach 2 feet. These tulip flowers are bright red with yellow edges, which make quite a splash in your pastel spring gardens.

    • ‘Foxtrot’ is a double early blooming tulip that is white with bright pink edges. ‘Foxtrot’ will grow to one foot in height and would be pretty planted with purple flowers.

    • ‘Mondial’ is a beautiful white tulip. This is a double early tulip that will grow to about one foot in height.

Plant Late-Blooming Varieties

Close-up of blooming 'Sorbet' tulips in the garden. Tulips produce erect flowers with long, broad, bright green leaves with parallel veins and a white margin, and cup-shaped, single flowers at the tips of the stems. The flowers consist of white petals with red strokes on each petal.
Plant varieties of late-blooming tulips to keep them blooming until May.

Similar to planting early-blooming tulips, planting late-blooming tulips will extend the length of bloom time in your tulip garden. Late-blooming tulips will bloom, well, later in the spring in April and will last into May. Here are a few options for you to try!

Late Blooming Varieties
    • ‘Creme Upstar’ produces beautiful light yellow flowers. This is a double late tulip that will grow nearly 2 feet in height.

    • ‘Greuze’ is a unique single tulip. The color of ‘greuze’ is a rich violet purple tulip that takes on hints of red when the sunlight shines through the petals. This tulip will grow to about 2 feet tall

    • ‘Lilac perfection’ is a late double tulip that will grow to 2 feet tall. The name says it all when it comes to this tulip, the petals are the perfect shade of lilac and they open into a dramatic blossom.

    • ‘Maureen’ is a pure white single tulip with a bright yellow center. This late-blooming tulip will grow to 3 feet tall.

    • ‘Sorbet’ is a fun single tulip. The flowers on this variety of tulips are mostly white with red brush strokes on each petal. ‘Sorbet’ will grow to 3 feet tall.

Use Soil That Crumbles

Close-up of female hands holding trowel with soil over freshly planted tulip bulbs in soil, in autumn garden. A paper bag with bulbs lies next to the bulbs planted in the ground. There are many dry yellowed and browned leaves on the bed.
Loosen the soil with a trowel and add compost if needed so the soil doesn’t hold too much moisture.

In Holland, the land of the tulip, these beauties grow in sandy soil. Now, that does not mean that you need to amend your soil so that it is sandy. But it does mean that your goal for planting tulips should be to amend your soil so it is not holding too much moisture. This moisture can lead to bulb rot.

When you did your holes or trenches, loosen the soil around with your trowel so that it is crumbly and not too dense. Backfill your nice loose soil around your bulbs. If you have clay soil, add some compost or other organic material which will help the water drain easily through the soil.

Plant in Cool Temperatures

Close-up of a gardener's hand holding a tulip bulb over soil with freshly planted tulip bulbs. The rounded bulbs are covered with a golden brown husk.
It is recommended to plant tulip bulbs in November when the temperature is cool.

Fall is the time to plant your bulbs. When it comes to tulips it is better to wait even a bit later in the fall. The cooler your temperatures are, the less likely you are to come across any fungal diseases. The cooler temperatures will also help to keep your bulbs safe from the harvesting critters in your yard.

 This timing will differ depending on where you live, but use the month of November as a guide. Try to get your bulbs in the ground before Thanksgiving, and your bulbs will be off to a great start.

Provide Plenty of Sun

Fresh red tulips in a flower bed illuminated by the morning sun. Tulips have beautiful, large, upright, crisp, bright green, oval, oblong-shaped leaves with pointed tips, and cup-shaped dark red flowers that have not yet opened.
Tulips prefer to grow in full or partial sun.

When you are choosing where to plant your tulips, look for an area with full sun or at least partial sun. This can be hard to determine in the fall since many deciduous trees will have dropped their leaves by the time you are planting your bulbs.

Sunshine is important to tulips because it will help your stems grow straight up rather than lean to reach the sunshine. The benefit of partial shade is that the flowers will not fade due to sun exposure, and will last a bit longer.

If you plant your tulips in too much shade they may not reach their full height, however, they will likely still produce beautiful flowers. The deeper the shade, the more likely you are to run into fungal diseases which will negatively affect the bulb’s ability to produce flowers year after year.

Plant New Bulbs Each Year

Close-up of a wooden bowl full of tulip bulbs ready to be planted in the autumn garden. There is a garden trowel and a paper bag of bulbs in the back blurred background.
Plant new bulbs every fall to keep your tulips looking their best.

While tulips are considered to be perennial bulbs, the truth is that they will not perform well forever. For example, I have bulbs in an abandoned garden of mine that produces lovely foliage each year but no blossoms.

To keep your tulip gardens looking pristine each year, it is always a good idea to plant new tulip bulbs each fall.

While your tulips are in full bloom note where the bulbs are and plan for where you could add new bulbs in the fall. You will want to be careful where you plant new bulbs so that you do not disrupt the tulip bulbs you already have in your garden.

You could plant the same type of tulips you already have growing in your garden, or you could spice it up and add a different color tulip, or a tulip that will bloom later or earlier than your current tulips. Have fun with it!

Final Thoughts

Tulips benefit from putting a little time and effort in during the autumn months. Do not cut your tulip greens back until they are brown to allow the plants time to create enough food for the winter. If you do this, your added fertilizer will be a bonus.

When springtime rolls around tend to your beautiful blossoming tulips as though they are herbaceous perennials in your garden. Enjoy their time in the sun!

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