Planting Tulip Bulbs in Winter

It's Not Too Late to Plant Tulips!

January 9, 2020

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!

What Do You Do With 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, 2 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 2-4 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.

About This Blog

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.