Yes, you can store tulip bulbs after they have flowered. The ideal way to store tulip bulbs after flowering is to allow the foliage to die back naturally, dig up the bulbs, clean and dry them, and store them in a cool, dry place until it is time to replant them in the fall. Storing the bulbs properly after flowering allows them to be replanted so they can bloom again the following year.
When to Dig Up Tulip Bulbs After Flowering
The best time to dig up tulip bulbs is when the foliage has turned yellow or brown and died back. This usually occurs 6-8 weeks after the blooms are finished. Waiting to dig up the bulbs until the foliage has died back allows the plant to absorb nutrients back from the leaves and stem into the bulb for next year’s bloom. Digging too early can reduce the bulb’s stored energy reserves.
Here are some guidelines for when to dig up tulip bulbs after flowering:
- Let the foliage remain for at least 6 weeks after blooming ends.
- Lift bulbs when foliage has turned completely yellow or brown.
- Dig up bulbs by early to mid June at the latest.
- Earlier flowering varieties can be dug up in late May.
- Very late flowering varieties may need to remain in ground until early July.
The foliage needs time to replenish the bulb after blooming, but leaving the bulbs in the ground for too long during summer dormancy can lead to depletion of nutrients and bulb rotting. Timing it right ensures bulbs are dug up at their peak ripeness for storing.
How to Prepare Tulip Bulbs for Storage
Once you have dug up the bulbs at the right time, there are a few steps to prepare them for proper summer storage:
- Clean the bulbs by brushing or rubbing off any loose dirt, but be careful not to damage the papery skin.
- Cut off the stem and foliage, leaving about 1-2 inches attached to the top of the bulb.
- Sort through the bulbs and discard any that are diseased, damaged, or appear unsound.
- Lay the bulbs out in a single layer in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks.
- Turn the bulbs occasionally during the drying period. This allows any remaining moisture to evaporate.
- When the outer skins feel crisp and shells sound hollow when tapped, they are cured and ready for storage.
Proper drying or curing of the bulbs helps extend their shelf life in storage. Any excess moisture can lead to mold growth and bulb rot.
How to Store Tulip Bulbs After Flowering
Tulip bulbs require a dry dormancy period over the summer months until they are ready to be replanted in fall. Here are some tips on storage conditions to keep tulip bulbs in optimal health:
- Temperature: Store bulbs at temperatures between 35-45°F if possible. Warmer temperatures can lead to premature sprouting and shorter shelf life.
- Humidity: Low humidity levels around 60-70% prevent mold growth. Avoid damp storage areas.
- Air Circulation: Good airflow around the bulbs helps prevent condensation and mold.
- Location: Choose a dark, dry, well-ventilated room like a basement, garage or shed. Avoid attics which get too hot.
- Storage Containers: Use containers with ventilation holes like crates, mesh bags or wire baskets. Avoid sealing in plastic bags.
- Bulb Condition: Inspect bulbs occasionally and remove any that show signs of rot or disease.
With proper post-flowering care, most healthy tulip bulbs can be stored successfully over the summer and rebloom for several years.
How Long Can Tulip Bulbs Be Stored?
If given the right storage conditions, tulip bulbs can typically be kept for planting for 2-3 years.
Over time, the bulbs begin to deplete their energy resources and flowering performance may decline. Annual replanting is recommended for best results.
Here are some general guidelines for tulip bulb storage longevity:
- Well-cured bulbs stored under optimal cool, dry conditions may last up to 3 years.
- Bulbs stored in less ideal warm or humid conditions may only last 1-2 years.
- Larger bulbs tend to have longer viable storage time than smaller bulbs.
- Some tulip varieties naturally have shorter lifespans than others.
- Tulips forced into early winter flowering indoors have shorter shelf life.
While tulip bulbs can’t be stored indefinitely, taking steps to provide proper post-bloom care and storage conditions allows gardeners to replant and enjoy their bulbs for several seasons.
Signs Tulip Bulbs Won’t Bloom After Storage
If tulip bulbs fail to bloom properly after storage, there are a few common causes to look for:
- Shriveled, soft bulbs indicate lack of moisture or bulb damage.
- Mold growth, rotting or discoloration means disease set in during storage.
- Lack of nutrients results in small, weak foliage but no flowers.
- Bulbs sprouting early in storage depletes energy needed for flowering.
- Insufficient chilling time can prevent flower formation.
- Bulbs may be too old and exhausted to bloom well again.
To avoid bulb dormancy issues after storage:
- Check bulbs for quality before storing and discard problem bulbs.
- Follow proper curing, drying and storage procedures.
- Replant stored bulbs as soon as possible in fall.
- Discard bulbs after several years of storage.
- Buy new bulbs instead of storing for too long.
With extra care taken after flowering, tulips can reliably bloom again for many years when replanted.
Can You Refrigerate Tulip Bulbs After Flowering?
Yes, refrigeration can be an effective way to provide the cool temperatures that tulip bulbs need for dormancy. Storing bulbs in the refrigerator over summer is a suitable alternative if an unheated basement or garage space is not available.
Follow these tips for refrigerating tulip bulbs after flowering:
- Allow bulbs to properly cure and dry first before refrigerating.
- Choose the crisper or a perforated plastic bag to allow air flow.
- Ideal refrigerator temperature is 40-45°F. Avoid freezing bulbs.
- Place bulbs in a single layer, not touching each other or walls.
- Store for 12-16 weeks for sufficient cold dormancy period.
- Check bulbs occasionally for mold or premature sprouting.
- Once chilled, plant bulbs outside in fall as soon as possible.
The relatively stable temperatures and low humidity of a refrigerator can effectively mimic the underground environment tulips need. Just be sure to provide air circulation and avoid condensation.
Can You Store Tulip Bulbs in Plastic Bags?
Storing tulip bulbs in plastic bags is generally not recommended. Tulip bulbs need dry conditions during dormancy and plastic bags can trap moisture leading to bulb rot.
However, perforated or breathable mesh plastic bags can work for bulb storage if used properly:
- Allow bulbs to fully cure and dry before bagging.
- Choose bags designed for produce storage with ventilation holes.
- To prevent moisture buildup, don’t pile bulbs or overfill bags.
- Store bulbs at the ideal temperature range if possible.
- Frequently open and check bags to allow fresh air exchange.
- Watch for any signs of condensation or mold growth.
For best results, use breathable fabric mesh bags or open crates instead of plastic. But perforated plastic can work if monitored carefully for adequate air circulation. Avoid non-breathable plastic bags or excessive humidity.
With proper post-flowering practices, gardeners can successfully store tulip bulbs after they bloom and replant them in future seasons. Allow foliage to die back before digging up bulbs. Clean, dry, and cure the bulbs thoroughly before storage in a cool, dry location. Ideal storage keeps bulbs dormant until planting time. Refrigeration can provide the needed chill time. Stored correctly, healthy tulip bulbs can flower again for a number of years, extending their beauty in the garden. Avoid damp storage areas and non-breathable containers that risk bulb rot. Monitor stored bulbs and discard any that show signs of disease. Tulip bulbs are ideal for reblooming when their post-flowering needs are met.
Storing Tulip Bulbs FAQ
Should you remove tulip bulbs from soil after blooming?
Yes, tulip bulbs should be dug up and removed from the soil after the blooms are finished. This allows you to properly dry, inspect and store the bulbs for replanting in fall. Leaving them in the ground over summer can damage bulbs from rot or rodents.
Do you have to dig up tulip bulbs every year?
No, you do not have to dig up the bulbs yearly. Tulips are perennials and will often rebloom each spring if planted in the right climate. But many gardeners choose to dig up bulbs after a few years to evaluate and store them for optimal performance.
Where should I store tulip bulbs in the summer?
The ideal place to store dormant tulip bulbs in summer is a cool, dry, dark location with good air circulation, such as an unheated basement, cellar or garage. Temperatures between 35° and 45° F are best. Avoid hot attics or sheds.
How do you keep tulip bulbs healthy after they bloom?
To keep tulip bulbs healthy after blooming: allow foliage to fully die back, lift bulbs carefully, remove excess soil, dry and cure bulbs thoroughly indoors, inspect for damage or disease, store bulbs properly in a cool dark place over summer. Healthy storage keeps bulbs dormant until replanting.
Can you save tulip bulb after it blooms?
Yes, you can save tulip bulbs after they bloom. Allow the foliage to die back before digging them up. Then cure and dry the bulbs completely. Store them in a cool, ventilated place over summer until planting again in fall. Stored properly, most bulbs can bloom again for 2-3 years. Gradually replace very old bulbs.
Do you have to store tulip bulbs before planting?
If planting tulip bulbs in fall for spring blooms, you do not have to store them over summer – you can plant them straight away. Storing is only needed after they have bloomed and foliage has died back. The post-bloom storage period keeps bulbs dormant until the next planting season.
How do you prepare tulip bulbs for storage after digging them up?
After digging up post-bloom tulip bulbs, remove soil and stems. Allow bulbs to dry out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks until skins are papery and insides sound hollow when tapped. Store cured bulbs in mesh bags or open crates for air circulation, in a cool 35-45° F location. Check periodically for mold or damage.
Do tulip bulbs need to be refrigerated before planting?
No, tulip bulbs bought in fall to be planted right away do not need refrigeration – you can plant them immediately. Refrigerating is useful for storing bulbs you have dug up after spring flowering to keep them chilled and dormant until fall replanting.
How do you know when a tulip bulb has gone bad?
Signs a stored tulip bulb has gone bad include mold, rotting, soft or shriveled outer skin, lack of weight and solidity, discoloration, scarred or damaged basal plate, or new sprout growth indicating premature awakening from dormancy. Bad bulbs should be discarded and not replanted.
Can you replant tulip bulbs you bought at the store?
Most tulip bulbs sold at garden stores in fall are intended for planting immediately, not for storing over winter. They lack the deeper chilling period needed to initiate flowering. It’s best to plant new bulbs bought each year for optimal blooms. Trying to store and replant bulbs bought at maturity risks erratic or no flowering.