Tulip – Ruffled

The majority of tulips (Tulipa spp.) flower naturally in the spring, making them a symbol of new life and renewal. Many varieties of tulips produce blooms in varying shades of yellow, adding a cheerful “hello” to the new growing season. Yellow tulips require the same care and maintenance as other colored tulip varieties.
Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) and tulips (Tulipa spp.) are often the first flowers of spring. Daffodils are available for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 11, while tulips grow in USDA zones 3 through 9. Most daffodils feature bright yellow tubular flowers, while tulips come in a rainbow of colors. Mixing the two bulbs in a single bed creates a colorful spring display and can increase the flowering period if you mix early-flowering daffodils with midseason or late-blooming tulips. Both flowers grow best with full, all-day sunlight and have similar care needs, making them amiable companions.


After tulips finish blooming and their stems die back, they become dormant. In order to break out of dormancy to begin new growth and produce flowers, tulip bulbs require a chilling period. In USDA zones 7b and higher where winter temperatures are short and mild, this chilling period does not occur naturally. Storing the bulbs inside a paper bag in a refrigerator with a constant temperature of 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit will meet necessary chilling conditions. Avoid placing bulbs near fruits and vegetables because the exposure to ethylene gas will cause damage. Store the bulbs for 8 to 16 weeks.


Tulips grow best when planted in the fall or winter, once the soil temperature drops to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower at a depth of 6 inches. Tulips prefer an area that receives full sunlight or light shade and contains fast-draining, deep, fertile soils. Tilling 3 to 4 inches of compost into the planting site will improve soil fertility and texture. Bulbs require a planting depth of three to four times their width, generally about 6 to 8 inches. Bulb spacing ranges from 1 1/2 to 5 inches apart depending upon the desired denseness of the planting. Position the bulbs in the ground with the flat end on the bottom and the pointed end on top.

Arrange the daffodil and tulip bulbs on the soil surface. Generally, cluster five to seven bulbs together, spacing the bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart within the cluster but setting clusters 12 inches apart. Alternate the bulbs in the cluster between daffodils and tulips so that each cluster contains both flowers for an informal look. For a more formal look, alternate clusters only containing daffodils with clusters only containing tulips.
Dig a planting hole for each bulb using a trowel. Make the hole deep enough that the flat bottom of the bulb is at a depth equal to about three times the bulb’s width. Set the bulbs in their holes, and fill the holes in with soil.

Water the bulb bed immediately after planting to help settle the soil. The daffodils and tulips require no further care until growth begins in spring.

Watering and Fertilizing

Correct watering and fertilizing methods will promote healthy growth from your bulbs. After planting, tulip bulbs require a single deep watering to provide moisture for root growth. If additional supplemental watering occurs during this period, the bulbs may rot from too much moisture. Resume watering once foliage appears in the spring, but only water during periods of little to no rainfall. Adding 1 teaspoon of 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer per square foot of soil at planting time will provide the growing bulbs with adequate nutrients. Repeat this application when leaves appear above ground in the spring.

Resume watering when the bulbs send up shoots in spring. Provide about 1 inch of water weekly, or enough to moisten the top 6 inches of soil, if spring rain doesn’t keep the soil moist.

Sprinkle 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of bed, applying the fertilizer to the soil between bulb clusters, after shoots appear. Water the fertilizer into the soil so that the roots can access the nutrients.


A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch added just after planting will slow moisture loss and insulate the ground against overly warm temperatures. Once tulips finish blooming, cut down the flower stalks to divert the bulbs’ energy from seed production to food storage. Cut the leaves off at their bases six weeks after flowering finishes to give the bulb time to store enough food. Dig up the bulbs, place them in a paper bag and store them in a dry place at 60 degrees Fahrenheit until it is time for chilling.

Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of compost and 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of garden bed in the fall. Dig the compost and fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil with a shovel.

Cut off the flowers as soon as they begin to wilt. Depending on the variety, daffodils may bloom earlier than tulips, so removing the old daffodils prevents them from detracting from the tulips’ beauty. Cut back the foliage after it dies back naturally, usually about six weeks after flowering.

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