HomeDIY CraftHow to Plant Perennial Tulips for Spring Colour Year After Year

How to Plant Perennial Tulips for Spring Colour Year After Year


Planting tulips is a must in my fall garden chores. To get beautiful spring colors, you have to work months in advance. Depending on where you live, here’s how to figure out what types of perennial tulips to plant and when to plant them.

When to Plant Partially Bloomed Flower Bulbs, Tulip Bulbs on a Pile of Soil

Every fall, I give my future self a small gift. Vancouver’s skies are cloudy and rainy almost throughout the winter. Towards the end of February and beginning of March, we start seeing signs of spring, which completely revives my soul.

One of the harbingers of spring is the tulip and other spring flowering bulbs. When we have been living in such a lack of color for the last few months, confined inside. Coloring can instantly bring much-needed outdoor serotonin and dopamine.

What is even better than planting tulips is planting perennial tulips. These are tulips that haven’t lost their ability to return year after year, giving you a steady rainbow of colors with minimal work.

So, think about the future and give yourself some happiness Planting perennial tulips in the fall. Here’s what you need to know.

This post will cover…

Choosing Perennial Bulbs

While technically, all tulips should be perennials, that will not always be the case. After years of breeding and hybridizing tulips for larger flowers and stronger stems, they have lost their perennial characteristic. This is why most people consider tulips annuals and are pleasantly surprised if they come back the next year.

But! You can intentionally grow tulips as perennials – all you need to do is Make sure you are purchasing the correct bulb.

While purchasing bulbs, Look for words like making tulips perennial and naturalizing, Also, pay attention to the blooming time (early, mid, late) and try to choose certain varieties for a longer blooming season of tulips.

There are many different types of tulips (which you can learn more about in this post), but here are some of the best perennial tulips:

  • darwin hybrid
  • greggi
  • phlegmoniana
  • fosteriana
  • species/botanical (These are smaller and more resemble the original wild tulip)

It is important to note that tulips are simply perennial plants in their ideal conditions. usually the best Zone 3-8, They require cool winters, spring moisture, a sunny site and good drainage. Tulips are native to Central Asia, so their ideal conditions may not match everywhere.

green emperor tulip
Fosteriana ‘Foreign Emperor’ Tulip

naturalizing tulips

Naturalizing the tulip takes it one step beyond perennials. While some tulips will come back for many years, Tulips that have grown naturally will not only continually return but will also multiply.

The best tulip species for naturalizing are Fosteriana and Koumaniana. For more tips on giving bulbs a natural look, check out this post.

When to Plant Perennial Tulip Bulbs

Like most gardening advice, when to plant tulip bulbs Depends on where you live, For those with very harsh winters, you’re looking at mid-September, and for those in warmer climates, mid-December. For most people, October to November is best.

For me, in zones 7-8, the ideal time is early October. Don’t push too hard on a date, but let it be known that you want to put them in the ground before the first frost, They need to be in the ground before the first freeze to establish themselves. The ideal temperature for planting tulips is 9⁰C/50⁰F.

Tulips must go through a period of cold, So if you don’t mind putting them in the ground before freezing, it may be best to grow them in containers instead.

Try to plant your tulips immediately after purchasing them. If you need to store them, keep them in a cool and dry place. But the longer you keep them stored, the more likely they are to dry out while you wait for planting.

When to Plant Tulip Bulbs, Purple Tulip Field
Planting trees on a large scale creates a wonderful display of colours. However, nothing can ever beat the Tulip Festival!

How to Plant Perennial Tulips

Tulips like loose, rich soil with good drainage. They can grow in sun and shade, but Full sun will give you the best chances for tulips to be perennial. But I always like to remind people that in the spring, the garden gets a lot more sunlight than you think because deciduous trees are often bare when the tulips start to emerge.

plant tulips with roots downwards and pointed part upward, I like to put them in groups of odd numbers, like 5 or 9, for a more natural display. But make sure they are still spaced far enough apart from each other so that they have enough room to grow.

To speed things up, I like to use Power Planter. This is especially helpful if you are planting a lot of bulbs for naturalization. It really saves your wrist and reduces time.

After planting tulips, Give them water. This will encourage root growth and help them grow better. They need to establish themselves in the ground before the soil freezes.

Mark where you have planted the tulips and add a layer of mulchSuch as leaves or pine needles to protect tulips during winter.

orange and yellow tulips
Darwin Hybrids ‘Appledorn Elite’ Tulip

At what depth to plant perennial bulbs

Generally, it is recommended to plant bulbs 2-3 times the height of the bulb, Personally, I think it’s best to plant them deeper, especially in cooler climates.

First, look at the planting instructions and then always plant deeper if they give a range. If they give no sign, aim for a depth three times the height of the bulb, or slightly deeper if you live in a cold climate. Covering with mulch after planting may also help.

once again, power planter Helps you reach deep enough with ease.

perennial tulip care

Once planted, you don’t need to do much with your bulbs except wait for spring color to arrive.

You can kill the flowers or cut them back and bring them inside, but I recommend leaving them in place to increase the risk of them coming back as perennials.

whatever you do, leave the leaves behind—This is necessary for the plant to recharge the bulb so that it can come back the next year.

Another thing I like to do is take reference photo, This way, you can remember where you planted the bulbs in case you want to plant more later.

Visit the Tulip Festival

Common Perennial Tulip Pest

The biggest problem you’ll encounter with perennial tulips are squirrels. Many squirrels feasted on the bulbs I naturalized last year, but I planted enough that I didn’t mind sharing some of them. You can check them out in the video below!

However, if you want to deter squirrels and other rodents, you can Cover the area with a layer of chicken wire or hardware cloth after planting. Then, secure the wire to the ground with landscape pins or large stones. If you want to hide its appearance for the winter you can add mulch over it.

This will prevent rodents from digging up the bulbs. Remember that you should remove the covering before the bulbs emerge in the spring.

If you’re dealing with voles or groundhogs, you can do this Add gravel to the bottom of your hole when planting. Insert the soil and bulb, making sure the soil surrounds the bulb. Then, add another protective layer of gravel.

Deer can also be a problem. My biggest recommendation is to mix tulips with daffodils as they will not eat them and Plant them close to home, Where deer may be less inclined to go.

FAQs About Planting Tulips

Do tulips come back every year?

Only perennial tulips such as Darwin hybrids, species, greige, fosteriana and kaufmanniana will return. These tulips are considered perennial bulbs in zones 3-8. They require cold to bloom, so purchased tulips may not see a return when started in pots in warmer climates.

Make sure the bulb’s leaves remain intact. These leaves provide energy to the bulb and ensure that it is recharged to bloom again the following year.

How deep should tulips be planted?

In cold climates tulips should be planted at a depth approximately 2-3 times the height of their bulb or even deeper. Some varieties may vary in how deep they should be planted, so follow the instructions on the pack, always leaning towards the deepest number suggested.

Can I plant tulips in spring?

If you plant tulips in the spring, you might get flowers, but no. The sooner spring arrives, the better. We plant them in the fall to give them time to establish roots before the cold snaps necessary to bloom.

So without that head starting to form a root system, tulips planted in the spring will not bloom or have less impressive flowers.

If you missed the chance to plant tulips in the fall, you can try planting them as soon as the ground is workable. Or, you could try planting the bulbs indoors instead.

I would suggest you buy potted tulips from a garden center instead. Leave them in a pot to enjoy as they bloom, and then dig them into the ground when the leaves begin to yellow. They may come back next year!

Stephanie with a bouquet of tulips and the tulip fields behind her

More Tips for Growing Flower Bulbs



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