Tulipa 'Avignon'

Tulips – Grow Guide

Our handy guide covers everything you need to know about growing tulips, from planting bulbs to choosing the best varieties.

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

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do not Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do Cut back in June

Do Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Spring wouldn’t be the same without the impressive flowers of these showy bulbous perennials. Tulips are grown for container displays, for cutting and favoured for both informal and formal border planting.

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Browse our plant database for over 60 stunning tulips to grow.

Their size varies greatly with the smaller species and hybrids offering a less regimented and more delicate show. Although perennial, they are often only reliable for one year and are usually treated as annual bedding. Species tulips and hybrid types will set seed and the display will improve year after year.

Spring wouldn’t be the same without the impressive flowers of these showy bulbous perennials.

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Planting position

Tulips of all types prefer a well-drained soil and a position of full sun. To enjoy the flowers for as long as possible, choose a sheltered spot. A wet and windy site is far from ideal. Very heavy clay or sandy soils will need to be improved by incorporating plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting bulbs in autumn. Tulips prefer a neutral or alkaline soil pH. Conditions in your garden not ideal? Find out how to grow tulips in problem places.

Planting technique

Bulbs can be purchased in early autumn. Delaying the planting of tulip bulbs until November is said to reduce the risk of the fungal disease tulip fire (see below), as cold weather can wipe out the fungus. Choose large bulbs and avoid any with damage or mould. Dig a planting hole with a garden trowel or bulb planter and drop the bulb into the hole with the pointed end up. Plant at about three times the depth of the bulbs height with about 5cm between each bulb. For an impactful display plant a good number of tulips together.

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Propagation

If you want to enjoy blooms from year to year, plant fresh every autumn, or lift and store the bulbs. To do this, lift them with a hand fork once the foliage has turned yellow a month after flowering. Remove the foliage and pull or cut off the stem and remove the flaky outer coating from the bulb. Leave the bulbs to dry and then store in a paper bag. Offset bulbs that have formed can be gently pulled away. These are then stored alongside their parent bulbs in paper bags in a cool, frost-free place. The offsets are then planted out but deeper – about 20cm – in autumn. Species bulbs will self-seed in the garden. Avoid deadheading and allow the seed to disperse to encourage more plants.

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Troubleshooting

Tulips are prone to attack from a fungal disease known as tulip fire (Botrytis tulipae). This fungus is particularly bad in wet seasons as the spores are spread by wind and rain. The symptoms include distorted and stunted shoots and leaves and unsightly brown blotches all over the plant. If your plants are affected, remove and burn them and avoid planting tulips on the same site for at least two years. If storing bulbs prevent this problem by dipping them in a fungicide solution. Planting in November should help reduce the risk of the disease.

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Pruning

Tulips can be deadheaded after flowering. Avoid deadheading species types or you will miss out on the seed. Don’t cut back foliage until it has turned yellow which will be about a month after flowering. Cut back foliage too early the bulbs will be weaker the following year.

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Vase life

Tulips make good cut flowers and have a good vase life – they will continue to grow in the water. Avoid mixing daffodils and tulips in a vase as the daffodils let out a substance that can prevent the tulips from taking up water.

Secateurs

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Tulip varieties to try

  • Tulipa sprengeri – a species tulip with bright red flowers in May. Reaches about 15cm in height
  • Tulipa ‘Cairo’ – single orange, streaked with soft red flowers. Slightly earlier flowers than others. 45cm in height
  • Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ – a very popular dark velvety tulip with almost black flowers. Grows to about 55cm in height
  • Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’ – a lily flowered tulip with pure white flowers. A really popular tulip reaching a height of 50cm
  • Tulipa ‘Angelique’ – shell pink flowers with a slightly ruffled edge. Reaches a height of 40cm
  • Tulipa ‘Brown Sugar’ (pictured) – a beautiful Triumph tulip with coppery petals and a light scent