Tulips are one of spring’s greatest beauties. Unfortunately, they only stay a short time before they shed their petals and leave you waiting for next year’s bloom. But you don’t have to only enjoy tulips during that brief window, or only outside! Read on to find out how to grow tulips indoors and relish their beautiful blooms for months.
Step One: Prepare the Bulbs
The secret to growing beautiful tulips indoors is to mimic outdoor conditions as closely as possible, especially before you actually “plant” the bulbs. Tulip bulbs are accustomed to spending a dormant period underground during the cold season. It may seem like nothing is going on, but many bulb-type plants, including tulips, depend on this cold, dark “resting” time to prepare themselves to shoot up in the spring.
Before you put tulip bulbs in a vase or pot, you will need to chill them first. Store your tulip bulbs in a cold, dark place. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends a cooling period of 14 to 20 weeks at a temperature of 35 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Your basement or the crisper drawer in your refrigerator are two places where you can chill your tulip bulbs. Store your tulip bulbs in something breatheable such as a mesh bag or paper sack; avoid plastic bags, because your bulbs could rot. The bulbs will begin to sprout and form roots during this period, which will prepare them for planting. You can also buy pre-chilled tulip bulbs.
Don’t skip this step entirely, though. Tulip bulbs that haven’t been chilled may bloom but, if they do, the blooms will be stunted.
Step Two: Plant the Bulbs
- Buy a specially-shaped “bulb vase” such as you see in figure 11 here, which has a cup-shaped top part that holds the bulb up so that only the roots reach the water in the vase. Fill the bottom part of the vase with water, and place the bulb in the top part. Alternatively, you can buy a straight-sided glass vase and fill the bottom with glass “vase gems.” Pour water around the vase gems, and place the bulb so that it rests on top of the vase gems but not in the water. The idea is to have the roots in the water, but not the bulb itself, because a wet bulb will rot.
- Place the bulb and vase in a warm location that receives indirect sunlight. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, 60 to 65 degrees is an ideal temperature for this step, but room temperature will work, too. The bulb will form leaves and flowers. Keep the vase here until the shoots turn green.
- Once the shoots have turned green, move the vase to a warmer area with more sunlight.
- Rotate the vase ¼ turn on a regular basis so your tulips get even sunlight, and so you get lovely, well-balanced plants.
- Enjoy your beautiful blooms!
Bonus: Two More Ways to Enjoy Beautiful Tulips Indoors!
Growing tulips in a vase is a wonderful way to bring these spring beauties indoors and enjoy their blooms even during the winter. But maybe you have tulips in your garden too, and want to bring in some cut flowers, or maybe you want to use that unique planter you picked up at the farmer’s market. Here are some valuable tips from the University of Vermont Extension on how to care for cut tulips and extend their beauty to its maximum duration. Figure 6 in this booklet from the Virginia Cooperative Extension shows you the perfect way to plant tulips in a pot with soil, and just above the diagram is a description of the ideal potting soil for tulips. Remember: if you’re planting different types of tulips in the same pot, always pair early-season bloomers together in the same pot, rather than mixing tulips that bloom at different times.
Enjoy your tulips!