How to grow tulips in problem places

Find out how to grow gorgeous tulips in heavy soil and partial shade, in this practical feature.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
To do
To do

Do not To do in January

Do not To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do To do in September

Do To do in October

Do To do in November

Do To do in December

If grown in the right spot, tulips can flower for years on end, adding a splash of dramatic colour to gardens every spring. But they can be difficult to grow in heavy soil or partial shade, only thriving in a light, free-draining medium in full sun. By planting tulips in aquatic baskets, you can ‘trick’ them into performing well.

Simply plant your tulip bulbs in the baskets and plunge them into your borders. As soon as flowering has come to an end, lift the baskets and leave them in a sunny spot, ensuring the bulbs bake and ripen.

Need planting inspiration? Discover 10 of the best tulips to grow, plus five stunning tulip combinations.

Find out how to plant tulips in problem places, below.

By planting tulips in aquatic baskets, you can 'trick' them into performing well.

You will need

  • Tulip bulbs
  • Aquatic baskets
  • Peat-free, multi-purpose compost
  • Grit

Total time:

Step 1

Fill the bottom third of an aquatic basket with equal parts of compost and grit. Place bulbs on the surface, at a depth of roughly 10cm, spacing them 3-4cm apart. Cover with compost to the top of the basket.


Step 2

Prepare a hole in your border the same width as the aquatic basket, and 4-5cm deeper than the height of the basket.


Step 3

Plunge the basket into the hole and backfill with soil. Water well and mark the spot so that you don’t plant over it by mistake.


Step 4

Once your tulips have finished flowering, remove the dead blooms. Carefully lift the basket out of the soil, leaving the foliage intact.


Step 5

Stand the basket in a sunny spot to dry out for at least eight weeks, then lift bulbs from the soil, and clean and store them. Don’t water them. Then, simply replant in autumn.


Tulips can be planted between September and December, but planting them from November onwards can limit the chances of them developing the fungal disease, tulip fire.

Fork and trowel