Make Room For Tulips In Your Wild Child Garden

If you don’t want to add tulips to your backyard garden, I am not sure if we can be friends. I am just kidding, but I really, really, really want you to give tulips a try this season. I learned the trick to growing tulips about 5 or 6 years ago from a gardener friend of mine in North Louisiana. He encouraged me to try it, and asked me what I had to lose? He suggested I buy a box of them from Home Depot my first year to see how I liked it. I did. He walked me through planting and all the confusion of “refrigeration” periods, and I have never looked back. I cannot imagine not planting tulips in the fall, and I hope after you learn how to grow them, you won’t be able to imagine it either.

Tulips Basics

Tulips are grown primarily in Northern climates with very long periods of cold. We don’t have that here in South Louisiana, but we do have refrigerators, so we are in business. Tulips are refrigerated because our Louisiana winters are not cold enough for long enough to allow them to bloom properly without additional chilling. These bulbs should be refrigerated at least six weeks prior to planting, which means you need to have your tulip bulbs in the refrigerator NOW!!

Where To Buy Tulip Bulbs

For your first year growing tulips, I will give you the same advice my gardening friend Mr. Harold gave me…get some from Home Depot. They cost around $10 and have been in my garden for years!! They have a nice variety to choose from, and they have served me well.

I also have some online companies that I love to order from that I will link for you below. Beware, the options are much more than Home Depot, so you could get yourself in trouble. Remember your available space and how much of it you want to devote to tulips this year. Don’t get alot of bulbs that you won’t plant.

Here are my favorite online companies to order from

Breck’s Bulbs

Breck’s Bulbs come straight from Holland, OH MY WORD! They can really get you in trouble. I love to dream on their site though!! They have great reviews. Don’t pay attention to the gardening zones and how they say that tulips don’t grow here. Watch and see baby, is all I have to say about that!

Breck’s Bulbs

Holland Bulb Farms

Holland Bulb Farms is also another great source! They are a family owned business and are based in Milwaukee, WI. The farm was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1975. This website can also get you in trouble. There is so much to choose from.

Holland Bulb Farms

One Thing To Consider When Buying Bulbs

Tulips look better when planted in masses or groups rather than single rows. Plantings are also more dramatic when one or just a few colors are used. If several colors are used, they look so much better when planted in small groups of individual colors within the larger planting. If you purchased your bulbs prepackaged in mixed colors, you don’t have any choice of the colors and will have no way to group individual colors. Remember that. I don’t recommend buying the mixed colored bulbs. Instead, I like to buy bulbs in single-color packages and mix them the way I want them instead.

I am also a huge fan of mass plantings of one color. My first year, I planted only white, pictured below, and I absolutely fell in love!! I have added other colors since then, but white is still my favorite!

Got Your Bulbs, Now What?

The best bloomers come from pre-chilled bulbs that are planted into the Louisiana garden in late December or early January. So ordering bulbs in late October to get them in refrigerator by mid-November is ideal. You will need them in the refrigerator by early December, so get yours now!

Without 6 weeks of refrigeration, you have little chance they will bloom properly. So, as soon as you get your bulbs, place them in a paper or plastic bag punched with holes and store them in the refrigerator for six weeks or more. Don’t place bulbs near apples because they give off ethylene gas, which causes bulbs to rot.

After 6 Weeks of Refrigeration You Are Ready To Plant

If you take nothing else from this content, hear me on this. The best blooms are obtained when pre-chilled tulip bulbs are planted into the Louisiana garden in January. Here’s why: For one thing, the soil is too warm until late December. Planting your bulbs in soil that is still too warm can cancel the chilling process and lead to the bulbs blooming poorly. That is not what we want at all!! We want heavy bloomers, right? Also, bulbs planted earlier bloom earlier – as early as February – and the weather is so unsettled at that time that the flowers are more likely to be ruined by freezes and winter storms. Tulips planted in late January generally bloom in March and April when the weather is much better for blooming flowers.

Where To Plant your tulips

Plant tulips in sunny to partly shaded areas that have good drainage. Drainage is really important for all bulbs, but especially those that are in the ground during potential freezing temperatures. Plant your bulbs into beds that have been generously amended with organic matter and a light application of fertilizer.

How To Plant Your Tulips

Here in Louisiana we don’t plant spring-flowering bulbs as deeply as is recommended on the plant label. Remember, we are breaking the rules a bit to grow tulips here. We have tweak the system. Plant your tulips about 5 inches deep, spaced about 3 or 4 inches apart.

There is a trick to planting tulips that you want to know. Look carefully, and you will see that one side of the bulb is flattened. Plant the bulbs so that the flat side faces the outside edge of the raised bed or container that you are growing in. The first leaves the bulbs send up will then all face the outside, and it looks so much better!! The first year I grew tulips I didn’t know about this trick, so I spent the entire season wondering why they were all growing in different directions.

how to care for your tulips

Just keep the soil moist and enjoy the show. You have given them all they need to thrive. As long as your spot is sunny and drains well, your tulips will be gorgeous. Enjoy! Below are some tulips from last year in window boxes in my backyard. They are the best!!

Storing Bulbs For Future Seasons

The down side to growing tulips here is that they can’t stay in the ground all year. Bummer! The summer months allow the bulbs to reproduce, but we can’t have it all, I guess. So, we will take what we can get and be glad!

We will have to dig up the bulbs and store them indoors for the summer and fall. Here’s how to do it:

Lifting Bulbs

It is best to lift bulbs after blooming is finished. Then gently spade up the bulbs, being careful not to cut into the bulbs/tubers and damage them.

Drying Bulbs

Store bulbs in a well-ventilated, area until they are dry. I like to lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and leave them on the patio until they are dry. And, just let the leaves remain on the bulbs until they become dry.

preparing bulbs for storage

The bulbs should be dried for about a week before you prepare them for storage. Pull any loose any remaining foliage, shake the bulbs gently to remove any clinging soil, dust them with a fungicide powder like this to prevent rot. Then place them in unsealed paper bags or old nylon stockings with some dry peat moss to keep the bulbs from touching one another. Store them away from sunlight in a cool, dry place until next October when you can put them back in the refrigerator.


I hope this helps as you get ready to grow bulbs for a beautiful spring show of color!!