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How to grow tulips in warm climates

Did you never had success with tulips and you think they won't grow in your climate? Don't give up, it is possible! It will be difficult to enjoy your tulips for several years, but believe me, even in Holland most gardeners use tulips as annuals!

Most important rule is that you plant tulips in the coolest part of the year and only use pre-cooled bulbs. In areas where the soil temperature doesn't drop below 60 degrees, you have to use a fridge or climate controlled (40-50 degrees) room to grow healthy roots

planting_Organic_Tulips_Fall.large.jpgTwo keywords to grow succesful tulips in warm climates  "Cold period" and  "Healthy roots"

1.Cold Period

Most tulips need at least 12-14 weeks of “cold period” to develop a beautiful flower.  This makes it hard to grow tulips in warm/tropical climates, but not impossible…

The cold period is normally giving by nature when the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees. In warm climates where the soil temperature isn’t dropping (long enough) below 55 degrees you can fool the bulb into thinking they've gone through a cold winter underground..

Tulips can start their chilling period from mid September. Before mid September they are not ready for their wintersleep… We pre-cool all bulbs shipped to zone 8 and higher. You can also  give them a "cold treatment" yourself.  This can be done quite easily in your kitchen refrigerator.  Store the bulbs 6 to 16 weeks cold,  depending your climate/soil temperature. Place bulbs in a ventilated (paper) bag, mesh bulb/onion bags or egg cartons. Do not store them next to fruit, especially apples, all ripening fruit is giving off ethylene gas what will kill/damage the flower inside the bulb.

Tulip bulbs need to start their cold period before December 1st. Do not buy bulbs after December 1st unless they are “pre-cooled” and stored cold at the place you bought them.

The bulbs can be stored cold for several months, keep the bulbs in the refrigerator until planting. It is very important to take them directly from the fridge to your planting site, don’t let them warm up in the sun!  

 2. Healthy Roots

Tulips like to be planted in cool soil (32-55 degrees) to make roots. It takes about 4-6 weeks to grow sufficient roots, after they have grown roots they are ready for warmer spring temperatures. It can be a challenge to grow healthy roots when you live in a warm climate. In areas where the soil temperature doesn't drop below 60 degrees, you have to use a fridge or cold climate controlled (40-50 degrees) room to grow healthy roots. Plant the tulips in a pot, water them and place the pot 4-6 weeks in your fridge.

During the rooting process it is very important that the soil (4-8 inch deep) isn’t too warm (above 60 degrees) or too dry. Read below some tips how to ensure the best circumstances for your tulips in warm climates.

  • Plant tulips in the coolest part of the year
  • Plant tulips in partial/full shade 
  • Plant bulbs six to eight inches deep and apply two-inch thick layer of mulch to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool.
  • Bring the soil temperature down by regular watering, the soil should be moist.