Planting Tulip Bulbs in Winter

It's Not Too Late to Plant Tulips!

January 29, 2019

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Tulip bulbs are typically planted in the fall, but what happens when you forget to plant them or you miss a few? Here’s how to plant tulip bulbs in winter!

Planting Forgotten Tulips

One January, I came across a bag of tulip bulbs that had gotten misplaced in my gardening shed. Evidently, the dozen tulips hid when I planted over 150 other bulbs in October. I was looking forward to seeing this variety’s colors lining my garden path. At least, that was the plan.

After doing a little research, I came across a study about planting tulip bulbs on top of the ground and late in the season, done by Cornell University. Researchers found that you can grow gorgeous tulips in only mulch, two inches being the optimum depth. They experimented with mulch layers up to six inches deep and determined the two-inch covering (renewed every autumn) produced the largest amount of flowers and the most vigorous plants.

Yellow tulips

How to Plant Tulips in Winter

According to the Cornell study (done over a six-year period), you should plant tulips this way:

  • Clear away snow and loosen soil, if possible. If not, choose an area with soil full of organic matter.
  • Scratch in bulb fertilizer. If the ground is totally frozen, scatter fertilizer sparingly and over a larger range than normal.
  • Place bulbs on top of soil. Do not press them in, as this will damage the bulb base, where roots form.
  • Cover with two to four inches of aged mulch or finished compost. Go for the thicker layer if planting during the height of winter, like I did.
  • Renew mulch covering often to be sure there is at least a two-inch layer.

Want more advice on planting and growing tulips? See our Tulips Growing Guide, as well as Fall Bulbs: Planting for Spring Flowers.

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A lifelong gardener shares the endless lessons she’s learned from her garden over the years, in hopes of making your own gardening just that much easier! Read along for advice, photos, and more.

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planting tulips in pots

can I plant my tulips in pots? it's winter right now, would I keep the pots in the garage or place them outside?

Planting Daffodil Bulbs in Winter

I ready your article about planting tulip bulbs in the winter, but I have daffodils that I could not plant in the Fall. The company from which I bought them told me to put them in a bucket with soil or peat moss in layers. They are in my garage. Can I still plant these bulbs using the method you suggest for tulips? Thank you, Randy


I got sick and was unable to finish planting my daffodil bulbs can I still plant them like the tulip described above.

Squirrels eat ALL the fruit off my trees before to enjoy 1 piece

I visit here often and always have my handy paper version of the Farmers Almanac as well : ) but my question for anyone whom has an answer that will solve this issue once and for all I will be grateful infinitely. I have peach, pear, fig, blueberries, bananas, grapes and various forms of citrus trees, all are organic and aside from my citrus that barely provide any fruit the rest are extremely bountiful however aside from the fig tree which I have built a cage around we are not able to enjoy one peach, pear or grape thanks to the squirrels that we have even seen eat an orange. The peach tree is very large and though we use to build a cage around it too of different types of chicken wire etc. we are no longer able to do this as it is 35-40 ft. tall and each year it bears an extremely healthy supply of fruit but the squirrels eat all of it even before it is ripe and we are hopeful that you will have a suggestion that will finally end this. We are in North Florida and it is just today finally getting warm outside and we live in a bird sanctuary which is lovely as we have bird houses around our house in various locations allowing us to enjoy them starting a family every year and we have no problems with the birds just the squirrels whom this year already within a week have eaten almost 200+ unripe peaches. We are hoping we may contact you and hope to salvage the remaining few hundred we have left : )
Thank you so much

squirrels get all the peaches

We, or at least I, an Almanac editor, feel your pain and know your hunger. I too have a peach tree —now— for the squirrels. I got mouthwatering fruit the first year, then they discovered it. A few years ago a master gardener suggested hanging sparkly Christmas ornaments on the limbs. The “shine” would deter the critters. Well, only during the day. In the morning I would find barely nibbled hard peaches on the ground. And only for a while. A few of the ornaments are still on the tree. I asked everyone I met or thought might have a good answer. Even the cooperative extension service (at least the one I contacted) could provide no advice. A grower at a farmer’s market was mum. Of course, he had a field of trees; perhaps he built loss into his season. If you ever learn of a fool- (squirrel-)proof way of keeping them away, please share.

The only advice you might find helpful is to pick the peaches well before they are ripe, and ripen them indoors/in a protected area. They are not quite as good as tree-ripened, but you feel at least like you kept the squirrels from the entire harvest.

Will this work so perennial bulbs will keep coming back?

... year after year?

Planting potted tulips

I have just inherited a pot of spent tulips. I would like to plant them in my garden. How is the best way to handle this situation?

They need to make top growth

They need to make top growth to feed the bulbs for next year’s flowers. If the ground is warm enough for planting in your area then by all means plant them outside but otherwise keep them growing in the pot as long as you can. Help them along by scratching in some bulb fertilizer or giving them some water soluble plant food. If the tops die back you can pull the bulbs from the pot and let them dry out. Store in a cool, dry, dark place. Plant them in the garden in the fall and hope for the best. Often forced bulbs need a year to recover and rebloom.

Plant tulips under mulch

Did you have any trouble with squirrels eating the bulbs? I have problems when the bulbs are buried under soil. This technique sounds like a squirrel smorgasboard! lol

Tulip bulbs

I had purchased tulips and hyacinth in small pots last summer with the intention of planting the bulbs in fall, thru miscommunication they were simply placed in shed, still in pots with some soil. Now a warm day in middle of March in NE Oklahoma, I open the shed to find these tulip bulbs were sprouting an inch and more in their completely dry soil pots, I have watered them all and sat them in Sun for past 4 days bringing them in at night, as we are having a freezes at night and cooler windy weather during day. Having never had tulips or hyacinth, I need help, have I done the right thing, when should I put them in ground? The hyacinth is about 1 1/2" and has already started to show its color blue flower without opening all the way and is still so short, what should I do, when to plant in ground or stay indoor ( I think is indoor kind) to cold winter. Will these hyacinth bloom all the way?

You can keep the bulbs in the

You can keep the bulbs in the pots and bring them outdoors when the weather has warmed up a bit. Or you can plant them in the ground with some compost added. You can also add a little 10-10-10 soluble fertilizer to the soil. See more information at



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