7 Different Stages of Tulip Growth: Lifecycle & Process

Prepare your colorful spring garden beds or pots during the fall and watch as the seven stages of tulip growth occur.

Come spring, you will be surprised with a rainbow-colored display of perfectly symmetrical blooms that you can use for cut flowers.

The lifecycle of tulips starts with planting in the fall, followed by root growth before going into a cooling time, where they rest for eight weeks. As the temperatures rise, the tulips commence the growing stage, where the leaves start to emerge. After the leaves have emerged, beautiful blooms will begin to appear. One month after the first bloom, the tulips will start regenerating, where new bulbs will form, and finally, the tulips will reach their multiplying stage.

Dive into the details of the tulip growth stage and see how easy it is to plant out your spring flower displays.

How Long Do Tulips Take To Grow?

From the first stage of planting tulip bulbs into the ground to 6 months later, when they bloom, the tulips have gone through 4 stages of their lifecycle.

After years of breeding by horticulturists, tulips are now available in a vast range of colors, shapes, and sizes. You can find bright, vibrant colors in muted pastels, making them an ideal addition to your spring garden.

Sizes can vary within varieties, but tulips generally grow from 6 inches to 2 feet tall (15-60 cm).

Because of the hybridizing over the years, Tulips have changed from being regarded as a perennial to annual.

Native to Central Asia and Turkey, the tulip flowers are made with three petals positioned in a cup shape with three sepals and a central stigma. One stem can produce one or two flowers and vary in shape.

The roots of the tulip will usually reach a depth of 2 feet (60 cm) over the years, and they have a habit of pulling their bulbs further into the ground to protect themselves from predators.

When planting tulips, many companies recommend a depth of 6-8 inches (15 cm-20 cm), but if you are planting in well-draining soil, you can afford to go a little deeper (12-15 inches/30-38 cm) to protect them.

Check out this awesome time lapse video of the stages of a tulip:


Tulip Growing Stages

Now we will take a peek at the planting details further.

1. Time to Plant

Plant your tulip bulbs in the fall season, from around mid-October to December at the latest, preferably 6-8 weeks before your first frost date. When planting the bulbs, choose a sheltered sunny position with well-draining soil.

Tulip leaves will need to penetrate the soil to emerge to the surface, so if you are planting in heavy clay or sandy soil, you may need to improve it beforehand.

To amend the soil, using organic compost or well-rotted matter will help with aeration and prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged during heavy rainfall. Plant the bulbs 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) apart and (12-15 inches/30-38 cm deep).

Also read  5 Rose Blooming Stages & Lifecycle Guide

After planting tulips, you can top dress the garden bed with a slow-release fertilizer 10-10-10 or 10-15-10 is ideal. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for dilution quantities and water in the well.

Avoid using fertilizer directly on the bulbs as it can cause burning and damage them.

Many gardeners enjoy planting tulips in pots, and they can make a great focal point on the patio or by the entrance of your home in spring. If you are planting tulip bulbs in pots this fall, ensure you use a multipurpose compost that is peat free.

Ensure careful examination of your tulip bulbs during this stage, as many pests and diseases that occur later on can result in damage to the bulb.

One way to check for a rotting bulb before planting is to drop it in water; if it floats, it is rotten, and if it sinks, it is healthy and ready to grow.

2. The Roots Are Forming

Suppose you planted your bulbs in October; during November, the bulbs’ roots will start to form using the nutrients from the soil and providing a base to grow.

The optimum temperature for the tulip roots to grow is 32 to 55°F (0-12°C), and warmer conditions can be slightly challenging as the bulbs need to go through a cooling period to produce decent flowers.

You can expect sufficient roots to form after 4-6 weeks, so by January; the bulbs will have roots and be ready to start their cooling stage of the lifecycle.

3. Time to Cool

Tulips go through an interesting cooling time in their lifecycle; the soil temperatures below 55°F encourage a process that turns the storage of starch and carbohydrates into glucose.

The storage of glucose in the water they hold is what protects them during the frosty months. Glucose-filled water is less likely to freeze than straight water.

As the warmer temperatures approach, the glucose that has been held during winter is then used as energy to create the blooms in springtime.

December or January is the prime time for your tulip bulbs to start cooling off. This part of the growth cycle is essential for the bulb to produce beautiful spring flowers.

Tulip bulbs require a temperature of 41°F (5°C) for at least four weeks to be well-rested in preparation for springtime. If your garden experiences frost during this time- don’t panic, as this won’t harm the bulbs.

For warmer climates with mild winters, you can keep tulips in the refrigerator to imitate the cooling period for 12 weeks before planting.

4. Growing Begins

After the cooling period during the winter, when the bulbs have converted the carbohydrates to glucose, the growing stage begins. If the bulbs have been planted during fall, you will see growth around February or March.

During these months, the leaves gradually surface the soil and push up from the bulb. This is an excellent time for gardeners as the 12 weeks have passed and the bulbs have been forgotten.

The leaves appear as the climate changes, and the excitement of a display of fresh tulip flowers begins to become a reality.

At the beginning of the growing stage, the leaves may appear yellow-green, and if you are growing your tulips in a container, this is a great time to bring them into a cool greenhouse environment.

Also read  Ultimate Gladiolus Growing Stages Guide (Step By Step)

In temperatures of 60-70°F, the leaves will turn green and speed up the growing time.

This stage of the tulip’s lifecycle usually lasts for around three to four weeks before moving to the blooming time.

5. Blooming Time

Photo: Tauralbus / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

April to May is when your tulips showcase their magical beauty!

The roots provide nutrients only during this time, and all that remains of the bulb is the brown case. All the energy stored during winter has to turn into beautiful flowers.

During this time, your tulips will require watering like any other plant but be sure to only water when needed. About 1 inch of water per week is enough for tulips during the growing season if there is no rainfall.

Overwatering during this time can lead to root rot affecting the following stage of their lifecycle or potentially killing the plant.

Unfortunately, tulips are not known for their longevity when in bloom; if grown in a cooler climate, you can see them in flower for 1-2 weeks.

Because of their origin, tulips flowering in warmer weather will only be seen for a few days before the flower dies off.

After the flowers of the tulips are spent, you will need to deadhead them; this is important to keep the energy in the leaves and roots.

When deadheading, you must wait to remove any leaves until they have turned yellow, as they will need this foliage to help store energy for the following season.

If you are growing tulips as a stock for cut flowers in the home, this is the moment you have been waiting for. As the tulips begin their blooming stage, they will produce a bud on a thick, sturdy stem.

As the bud begins to show color, you can harvest the flowers for your indoor arrangement.

By harvesting the buds before they open, you will increase the time they are displayed in your home.

Tulips are unlike other indoor flowers as they will continue to grow inside the vase – even as much as 6 inches more.

When cutting the tulips for a vase arrangement, use a sharp pair of scissors or knife. Cut the base of the stem at an angle, place it in a vase of water immediately, and keep it in a cool room.

One tip many gardeners advice is to prick a small hole in the stem with a needle; this prevents the tulips from drooping and keeps them upright.

6. Regeneration

After the blooming period during May and June, your tulips will commence the regeneration stage of their life. The flowers have been produced, and now they concentrate on making baby bulbs under the soil’s surface.

This form of regeneration is done asexually, meaning the plant has both male and female parts, giving it the ability to reproduce independently.

During this stage, the bulb will take nutrients from the soil and create bulbs to produce flowers for the following year.

Bulbs are heavy feeders, so adding fertilizer at this stage is recommended. Use a slow-release fertilizer 5-10-5 (Nitrogen-Potassium-Phosphate) to boost nutrients; that way, you will ensure they spread and create a new generation of bulbs for the following year.

Also read  5 Rose Blooming Stages & Lifecycle Guide

7. Multiplying

The final stage of the tulip’s lifecycle happens as you approach July to September, and the leaves of the tulips have started to turn yellow.

During this time, up to five bulbs can be produced and will grow attached to the mother bulb. These babies are called bulblets, each of which will begin to build its root system.

Within the bulblet, the leaves and blooms are formed.

During this multiplying time, you can gently dig up the bulbs, break the smaller bulblets off the mother bulb, and re-plant them. This will increase your stock and provide you with more flowers next year.

Spreading your bulblets can be done instantly after the tulips have stopped flowering. When re-planting your new bulblets, remember to plant them at the same depth as their height and with the pointy side facing up.


FAQs About The Different Stages Of Tulip Growth 

What is the lifecycle of a tulip?

The tulip’s lifespan is 2-5 years; each year, it will go through a seven-stage process.

The first stage is being planted, followed by root growth. After root growth, foliage growth begins and is followed by blooming.

After blooming, tulips will regenerate and multiply their bulbs.

What do tulips look like when they start?

When tulips start to grow, the leaves will sprout from the top of the bulb and shoot through the soil.

During the peak growing time when the temperatures are optimum, you will see a stem grow with a bud and a flower to follow.

How many weeks does it take for tulips to bloom?

After planting tulip bulbs, it can take five months for them to bloom – provided they have gone through the suitable growing process beforehand.

How long after planting will you see growth?

Generally, you will see growth on tulip bulbs after 8-16 weeks of winter or cool conditions.

As soon as the bulb has broken the dormancy stage and the temperature is warm, you will start to see leaves grow.


To Sum Up

After looking at the different life processes the tulip goes through, they are effortless to grow. Almost half of the life of the tulip is unseen and working under the surface of the soil, making them easy to forget about.

Tulips were initially classed as perennial; there is a chance they will produce the following year again, but only if the bulbs receive the right conditions to recharge during the cooler months

If grown in the right conditions, they can be an ideal crop for an entrance garden bed in spring and provide you with a stock of cut flowers for indoor vases. With so many varieties (over 3000), you can find something to suit your garden and climate zone.

Lucy Young

Meet Lucy, a seasoned gardener with a green thumb and a wealth of experience cultivated over 10 years in her own backyard oasis. Now, she channels her passion into writing, sharing invaluable gardening knowledge on her website. From nurturing plants to expert pruning techniques, Lucy's articles are a treasure trove for both seasoned enthusiasts and budding gardeners. Join her on this leafy journey as she sprinkles insights, tips, and tricks to help you create your own flourishing paradise. Get ready to dig into her gardening wisdom and unlock the secrets of a thriving garden!

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