Do Tulips Need To Be Dug Up Every Year? (When+How)

Tulips are lovely colorful flowers, and every gardener wants more of them. Instead of buying the bulbs every year, you can store them by digging up and replanting them. This will save you from repeated buying of the bulbs and getting more bulbs for more tulips.

But can’t we just leave them there? Do tulips need to be dug up every year?

Generally, the tulips are dug up for the bulbs, divided, and sowed again to grow more tulips. Some gardeners also dig their tulips when they are not producing enough flowers due to overcrowding. Tulips don’t prefer to be dugged up every year; just do it once in 2-3 years for better growth.

If you want more of their blooms in your garden, you can dig them up. In that case, it is better to wait until the plant goes dormant. 

If you wish to know more about digging up tulips, reading this article till the end will help you to know everything about digging tulips and how you can store and replant their bulbs.

Tulip root bound

Does tulip need to be dug up every year?

Generally, you don’t need to dig up tulips every year. Digging them up every 3-4 years will help promote more flowers.

After 3 to 4 years, the plant will become old, and the bulb will get overcrowded underground.

However, if you do not dig up tulips every year, you should ensure that the site you choose to plant tulips doesn’t receive much water. Getting too much water during the summers can rot the bulbs.

Tulips will not enjoy overcrowded conditions and will stop blooming.

In such a situation, digging up the bulbs and dividing them for more plants and blooms is a good idea. Moreover, it will also help you get more flowers.

Sometimes, whether to dig up the tulip bulbs every year depends, to some extent, upon the variety you own.

For example, if you have border tulips, they will not flower much in their second year. This is the reason they are sometimes discarded after they bloom. 

But, digging up the plants, collecting the bulbs, and storing them to replant them in the fall will help you get more blooms.

There is no guarantee that these stored bulbs will rebloom profusely, so you can plant them in areas like your garden’s borders or on containers indoors.

When to dig up tulips?

For digging up the tulips, do it during the early summers or in fall before frost arrives. Some big tulips should remain dormant for at least 8-10 weeks. These tulips can be grown in mild weather conditions, but they will need annual digging.

They need winter dormancy so that they can bloom during the coming spring. If your region has mild climatic conditions, these tulips might not grow well or flower much. 

However, you can dig the bulbs in the fall months, store them in your fridge for 3 months, and plant them back in your garden in the late winters for reblooming.

The small tulips don’t need any dormancy period and will flower well with minimal digging.

Like the border tulips, some tulips will stop flowering in their second year if they are left under the ground. But they can flower again if you lift them every year and collect the bulbs for autumn planting.

For lifting the plant for the bulbs, wait until the leaves turn yellow six weeks after blooming.

Move all soil from the bulbs. Throw away the bulbs showing signs of disease or damage like mold or soft and mushy bulbs. 

Now dry the bulbs and store them in a warm and dark place having good air circulation with a temperature ranging from 18°C to 20°C. You can replant the bulbs in autumn.

You should rethink the time of digging up the tulips bulbs for replanting them. Early digging up of the bulbs can kill your tulips.

The tulips bloom in the spring season, and when early summer arrives, their blooms will start wilting. When the leaves start yellowing, you can go ahead and start digging.

Digging up, storing, and replanting the tulips

Knowing the right time and way to dig up tulips will result in healthy, strong, and long-lasting plants with abundant blooms every spring. 

Fall is the right time to dig up the tulips and collect the bulbs. Let us see how we can successfully take out the bulbs, store them, and replant them for spring blooms.

Prune the tulips before digging out bulbs

Tulip pruning

Once the blooms start dying, it is time to dig up the bulbs. Wait until the last blooms start to fade and fall off. 

Now cut off the flowering stem using pruners. It will help the bulbs to store energy for more blooms. Prune off close to the plant or bulb base.

Looking for gardening supplies? We have tested 100's of products before recommending them to you guys. Check out our best pick below:

Dig out the bulbs

It will take six weeks for the leaves to turn yellow and die. Within these six weeks, the bulbs will get enough energy for blooming healthily in the following spring. Take a shovel and dig out the bulbs from the ground.

Within these six weeks, don’t overwater the bulbs as that can rot the bulbs. Mild rain will be fine, but too wet soil can damage the bulbs.

Clean the bulbs

Prune the leaves and the roots at the bulb base. Brush off the maximum amount of soil from the bulbs.

You can also use paper towels to wipe the outside of the bulb. Cleaning the bulbs will result in fast-drying out of the bulbs.

If the bulbs are showing signs of browning or rotting in their outer body, gently rub the bulb with a paper towel to remove the outer layer of the bulb.

Throw away the damaged bulbs, like the discolored, soft, and mushy ones. Healthy bulbs should be hard and full. However, little signs of damage like small spots can be removed by sterilized pruners.

Dry out the bulbs

Now it is time to dry out the bulbs. Keep the bulbs in a tray and place them near and cool, dry place for two days. 

Don’t expose them to sunlight or moist surroundings as that can rot the bulbs. Keep them under a shaded area, but cold and dry area.

Storing the bulbs

Now it’s time for storage. After drying up the bulbs, you should store them in a dark, dry area for 12 weeks. If you reside in a warm region, keep the bulbs in a drawer inside your refrigerator.

You can wrap the bulbs in a newspaper. It helps in storing moisture and also maintaining a consistent temperature. You can also store them in sphagnum moss or sawdust.

Another option is a mesh bag. It is a good option as the holes in the mesh bag will allow the bulbs to receive good ventilation. You can also try a paper bag or cardboard box to keep the bulbs away from light.

If you have stored your tulip bulbs in your fridge, maintain a temperature below 10°C. Do not store any fruits along with the bulbs. Fruits release ethylene gas, which can kill the flower in the bulbs.

Keep checking the bulbs

After two weeks, observe the condition of the bulbs. If the storage material you are using has got rotten or moldy, replace the material with a new one. If the bulbs get wrinkled or shrunken, mist them a little.

Planting the tulip bulbs

The right time to plant the bulb is before the first frost arrives in your area. You should plant tulips at least 6-8 weeks before the frost. However, you can also plant them in the early spring.

If your region receives cold winters, you can plant the tulip bulbs in September and October. If you think of chilling your bulbs, then you can plant them in the months of later February or early March.

Can we leave tulips in the ground over winter?

Tulip survive winter

Tulip bulbs are the spring-blooming bulbs and also winter hardy bulbs. Thus they would be able to stay under the ground even during the winters. Tulip bulbs will benefit by staying in the ground.

When you find their leaves are wilting a bit during the summer or fall months, you can prune off some of the spent parts like leaves, flowers, or stems. 

But, do not touch the bulbs. Leave in under the ground to see your tulips bloom in the next coming spring. 

However, some gardeners dig up the bulbs to divide the bulbs to avoid overcrowding and replant the divisions for more plants.

Also read: What Temperature Do Tulips Need? (+Growing Them At Different Temperature)

Can we leave tulip bulbs in the ground all year?

You can leave more or less all the tulip bulbs under the ground the whole year, provided you leave in an area where they receive chilling weather during the winters. 

The tulip bulbs will need a good amount of cold temperatures to bloom profusely during the spring.

Do tulips come back every year?

Tulips are noted as perennial flowering plants, which means they are expected to grow and bloom every year. But actually, it doesn’t happen for all tulips. 

Some tulips are grown as annuals where gardeners dig up and collect bulbs every year to replant them each year. Tulips will only behave as perennials if they get the exact growing conditions they get in their native land.

If you manipulate the surrounding temperature and humidity around your tulip garden bed and mimic their exact growing conditions like their natural habitat, then maybe you can encourage the tulips to come back every year.

Getting tulips to come back every year depends mainly upon the region you live in and the variety you ought to grow. You should choose a suitable variety, which tends to repeat flowering every year. 

For example, the Giant Darwin hybrid tulips are known to repeat flowering every year. These types of varieties produce big flowers and strong stems. They are also available in various beautiful colors.

For getting these tulips to come back every year, along with region and variety, you should take care of your plant, provide them with requirements adequately and prevent all types of situations causing infestations and other cultural damages.

Tulips grow when they receive a lot of sunlight, for at least 6 hours per day, accompanied by well-drained soil that has pH level neutral. 

Well-drained soil is essential, especially during the summers, as, unlike some other plants, these tulips go dormant in summers. 

Tulip long stem

Excess water can cause root rot. For fertilizing, while planting, they won’t need much fertilizer. 

After a couple of weeks, you can fertilize them three times by sprinkling organic fertilizer – in fall, in early spring when you see first sprouts, and during the late spring when the flowers become spent.

Planting tulips quite deep in the soil, at least 4 times the bulb’s height, will help them come back more. Planting deep will protect the bulbs from extreme temperature and pests. 

Deep planting will also help the tulips to get more nutrients from the soil.

Also read: Do Tulips Grow Back Every Year? (+How To Encourage To Grow Back)

Can we leave tulips in the ground after flowering?

Though tulip bulbs are considered winter hardy bulbs that will like remaining in the soil even during winters, some tulips should be dug up and allowed to dry up.

When these tulips have completed their flowering, remove all the spent flowers and stems, leaving behind the leaves. Now, let the plant be for 2 to 3 weeks. 

After the tulips are done flowering, it is time for them to use enough energy to make their bulbs strong for blooms the following year.

If you cut the leaves beforehand, the bulbs won’t be firm, and they will also not flower healthily in the next year. Now collect the healthy bulbs, wash them, dry them and store them for planting in the autumn.

Final words

Tulips are beautiful flowers, and thus every gardener loves growing them every year. They would give your garden a very stunning and vibrant look.

As tulip bulbs are pretty expensive, it is better to dig them up to collect them and replant them instead of buying them every year.

You need to store the bulbs and prevent them from rotting correctly.

If you wish to keep your bulbs in the ground all year, you should avoid overwatering and create physical barriers around your garden bed. This barrier will protect the bulbs from being eaten up by pests like rabbits, rodents, raccoons, and deer.

Take care of the plant by providing them with all their requirements to soon watch out for beautiful colors smiling in your garden.

Source: WikipediaNorth Dakota Stae UniversityThe Royal Horticultural Society.


Hello everyone, My name is Richa and I am here to make you a better gardener by creating an in-depth and helpful resource for all the fellow gardeners out there. If I could help even a few people understand their plants better then I call it a success for my efforts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts