Tulip planting

Asked May 12, 2016, 12:30 PM EDT

I purchased tulips 2+ weeks ago while in holland. I was told to plant within 3 weeks. I have kept them in the original box in the fridge. Best time for planting tulips is fall. Can I plant now in May? Im concerned they won't bloom next spring by planting at the wrong time of year. Can I keep them in the box until fall? Should I try starting them in a planter & then transplant to the ground in fall? What is the best course of action? Thank you.

Anoka County Minnesota tulips replanting tulip bulbs

1 Response

Bulbs are planted in the fall because they require a period of chilling to initiate flowers. For most spring-flowering bulbs, 10 to 13 weeks of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit are needed. Bulbs also need to put down good root growth before they sprout foliage and flowers. The roots will then be able to supply the tops with water and nutrients from the soil.

Waiting until spring to plant the bulbs will not satisfy these requirements, so spring-planted bulbs will likely not bloom this year. Saving the bulbs for planting next fall is not a wise choice either. Proper storage conditions to keep the bulbs cool and dry are often hard to find in the home environment. Bulbs usually begin to soften and rot or may actually sprout before they get planted. Even under ideal storage conditions, the bulbs will lose some of their food reserves through the natural plant process of respiration.

One alternative is to force the bulbs to bloom indoors, but it should be noted that it often takes two to three years for bulbs to rebloom after they have been "forced" for indoor use. Remember that the bulbs will need to be chilled for as long as 13 weeks to initiate flowers. Plant the bulbs in pots of soil with the tips of the bulbs just above the soil. Moisten and store in a cold, 40-degree location, such as a refrigerator. After the chilling period, bring the pots into a cool environment, about 65 F to 70 F. Plants should be in bloom in seven to 14 days

Some gardeners have had success with planting forced bulbs outdoors after blooms have faded by keeping the plant foliage as healthy as possible with high light, moderate fertilizer and water. Keep the plants actively growing until the leaves mature and die back naturally. To prevent seeds from forming, remove the flowers after they bloom. Place the potted plants in a cool, very sunny location and keep the soil moist to the touch. Fertilize with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer according to label directions. The longer the leaves stay green and healthy, the larger the bulb will become. This improves its chances for blooming the following year.

When leaves dry down, store the bulbs in a dark, cool place until fall planting time. Because few homes have a good storage place, it may be better to directly plant the bulbs outdoors. If the leaves have died back, plant bulbs outdoors when the soil is workable. If the leaves have not died back, wait until after the last frost to plant the bulbs with their leaves. When planting bulbs in fall that have been stored through the summer, discard bulbs that are soft or diseased. Care for the bulbs outdoors as you would other spring bulbs.

Here is a link to the University of Minnesota Extension Garden website that provides instructions on how to force bulbs to bloom indoors: