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How to Grow Tulips From Seeds vs. Bulbs

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Tulips (Tulipa) are popular flowers that come in a variety of warm colors. They are produced from tulip seeds or bulbs and each propagation method has a vastly different result – tulips grown from bulbs will bloom the following spring after planting, while those grown from seeds may take two years or more to flower. The tulip is a herbaceous perennial that grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 10.

Growing Tulips From Bulbs

According to the National Gardening Association, tulips grow best in direct sunlight and slightly moist, adequately drained soil. Plant tulip bulbs in excavated soil, with each bulb 5 inches apart and 6 to 8 inches deep, with their pointed ends up. When planting bulbs in a group, bury them each at the same depth, so they sprout at about the same time. Mix the excavated soil with a low-nitrogen fertilizer and cover the bulbs. Pack the ground above the bulbs and thoroughly water the area, but do not water them again before they sprout, as too much moisture can cause them to rot.

After the plants flower, deadhead blooms but do not remove their leaves for at least six weeks, as they are still providing nutrients for next year’s tulips. Once the leaves yellow, cut them off. To maintain fertile soil and healthy plants with vibrant future blooms, The Farmer’s Almanac suggests applying compost to the area once a year.

Growing Bulbs From Seed

When growing tulips from seed, patience is key – a plant may take a few years to flower and its blooms won’t look much like those on the parent plant. According to DenGarden, you can cultivate tulip seeds yourself by allowing an existing plant’s flowers to go to seed. After accumulating tulip seeds and drying them, plant them in a cold frame in autumn and cover them lightly with moist soil.

You should see germination in March or April, but keep them in the cold frame throughout the spring and summer as they need time to create bulbs. Then, move them to the garden in autumn. Before planting, make sure the bulbs are healthy. They should have a dark brown hue and feel hard. You should see blooms the following spring.

Planting Tulips in Different Hardiness Zones

Tulips need cold weather to propagate, so take special care when planting in warmer climates. If you live in an area where temperatures rarely dip below freezing, such as USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10, chill your tulip bulbs for six to eight weeks before planting them by refrigerating them in a paper bag. Make sure to keep them away from ripening fruits, as fruit produces ethylene gas, which can kill the bulbs. Certain species of tulip, such as the lady tulip (Tulipa clusiana), the candia tulip ( Tulipa saxatilis) and the Florentine tulip ( Tulipa sylvestris) are better suited to warmer climates, according to the National Gardening Association.

The best time to plant tulip bulbs is when the soil is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This will occur at different times during the year in different areas:

How to Grow Tulips From Seeds vs. Bulbs. Whether you like them with frilly petals or smooth, solid-colored or striped, tulips (Tulipa sp.) add beauty and color to the spring garden. Although typically started from bulbs, tulips can also be grown from seed. Tulip bulbs are commonly found in garden centers and catalogs …

How to Plant Seeds From Tulip Pods

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Planting tulip (Tulipa) seeds is a laborious process and won’t yield a flower for at least seven years, as the majority of tulips are grown from bulbs. However, if you have patience and just want to experiment, plant the seeds from the tulip pods and wait for the bulb to develop.

Tulips are cold-weather flowers and produce colorful displays in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 10, with each zone having different in-ground planting months. The National Gardening Association gives a good layout for when to plant in which zone; however, growing from seeds is more an indoor task for at least one year.

History of the Prized Tulip

Originally grown wild in the Chinese region that borders Tibet, Afghanistan and Russia, tulips traveled the Silk Road and arrived in Istanbul by early 1055, as noted in Smithsonian Magazine. By the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire’s sultan had so many tulips growing in his gardens that he required 920 gardeners to tend them, and today the tulip is the symbol of the Ottomans. The tulips of Holland are the most famous because of its ideal growing conditions.

Tulips like mild winters and summers that are not too hot. The maritime conditions of North Sea Holland are just right, as the temperatures provide the right range during the bulbs’ growing season, and the proximity of water allows the tulip bulbs to convert the starch inside the bulb into sugar, thus giving it energy. The average annual temperature in these coastal areas is 48 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the ideal climate for the tulips, reports Tulip Festival Amsterdam.

Planting Seeds From Tulip Pods

Once your tulip plant has flowered, allow it to dry out and wither. When the pods turn brown, remove them from the plant. Open the pods and remove the seeds and place them in a dish for about a week to dry out. Then move the seeds to a plastic bag surrounded by a damp paper towel. Keep the bag in the refrigerator for several months, creating a dormancy period prior to planting the seeds.

Remove the seeds from the bag and plant in individual small pots filled with well-draining compost. The Garden of Eaden recommends topping off the seed with no more than about 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) of soil and setting the pots out in the sun or a south-facing cold-frame (think incubation box). It may take several months to a year for the seeds to germinate in temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees F. Be sure to keep the pots watered and add a dose of slow-release liquid fertilizer. When the seeds have grown at least two leaves, they are ready to move to the garden.

Moving Seedlings Outdoors

Once the seedlings have matured to the point where they can grow outdoors in the ground, they can be gently transplanted. The process to this maturity takes anywhere from 12 to 15 months. The root systems of the seeds are delicate and must be handled with care. Touch the new bulb and be sure it’s brown and firm; plant the young bulbs in the autumn.

Check your hardiness zone to be sure that the newly planted bulbs are exposed to cold weather over the winter. Bulbs meant for zones 8 through 10 may need additional refrigeration before planting into ground. Don’t plant the bulbs unless the ground is under 60 degrees F. The big surprise is when the tulips flower – and what comes up is not at all like the plant from which you harvested the seeds. Some tulips are hybrids, as opposed to specific species varieties, so get ready to be surprised.

  • Smithsonian Magazine: There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever
  • The National Gardening Association: Planting Tulips
  • Tulip Festival Amsterdam: Why Do Tulips Grow So Well in Holland?
  • The Garden of Eaden: How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed

A versatile writer, Jann enjoys research as well as doing the actual writing. A career in television writing, as a magazine editor and celebrity interviewer, Jann adapts to her environment, having traveled the world, living overseas and packing and unpacking her treasures for a new location over 30 times.

How to Plant Seeds From Tulip Pods. Tulips (Tulipa spp.) are most often grown from bulbs, though they can also be started from seed. The process of starting them from seeds is a long one, and the tulips will not bloom for four to six years from the time they are sown. When collected from hybrid tulips, the seeds will …