Can I Plant Tulips In February?

Can I Plant Tulips In February?

During the gloomy winter days of January, people often seek ways to boost their mood and gardening can be an excellent solution for that. Flowers have a special ability to bring joy and happiness, and among the most popular flower types are tulips, which were once even more valuable than diamonds. Tulips symbolize love, encouragement, cheerfulness, and many other positive feelings. As an early spring flower, they often represent the promise of sunshine to come. Typically, tulip bulbs are planted in the fall to bloom in the spring, but is it possible to plant tulips as late as February? The answer is yes, but certain conditions must be met for them to flower.

Tulips grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 7, but in some colder northern locations, the ground might still be frozen in February, making it impossible to plant tulip bulbs. However, if you live in a milder climate where the ground is workable, it’s completely possible to plant tulip bulbs in February. During the first season, you will see mostly greenery from your tulips, and the full flowers will bloom the following spring. If you want to see tulips bloom this year, there is a technique called forcing that can help you achieve this within weeks.

Forcing tulips

green and yellow tulips

Ruslan Suseynov/Shutterstock

Tulips bloom from hardy bulbs, which require 14 weeks or more of cooler temperatures to activate their germination process. There aren’t many places that have forsaken frost by February but don’t see highs above the 50s throughout May and into June, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to plant your tulips in the ground and get them to bloom that same season without a little help. That help is called “forcing,” and it means artificially chilling your tulip bulbs indoors to get things started. Otherwise, it could be a year before you see tulip blooms.

The best way to go about growing forced tulips is to purchase pre-chilled bulbs from a reputable seller. If you don’t have these, you’ll have to force the bulbs yourself indoors, which ultimately saps the flowers of their vitality and stamina and makes it hard to ever transplant them into the ground. Plus, it still takes the requisite 14 weeks, so if you wanted to plant them in February, you’d have to start forcing them sometime in November. If you purchase pre-chilled bulbs and conditions are right in February, place them pointy side up in well-draining, slightly acidic soil and full sun, about 4-6 inches apart so the bulbs have room to offshoot and multiply. Then wait and watch your tulip garden grow.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.