How do you store tulip bulbs for next year?

Tulip bulbs need proper storage over the summer months in order to bloom again next spring. With the right conditions, you can keep your bulbs alive and have gorgeous flowers year after year.

When to Dig Up Tulip Bulbs

The timing of when to dig up tulip bulbs is important. You’ll want to allow the foliage to die back completely before removing bulbs from the ground. This allows the bulbs to fully mature. Typically, you’ll dig up bulbs 6-8 weeks after the blooms have faded.

Look for these signs that indicate it’s time to dig up the bulbs:

  • Foliage has turned yellow or brown
  • Stems break off easily when bent
  • Foliage pulls away easily from the bulb

If you dig up bulbs too early, they won’t store well. Leaving them in the ground for too long can lead to bulb rot.

How to Dig Up and Handle Tulip Bulbs

Use a garden fork or shovel to gently loosen the soil around the bulbs. Carefully lift them out of the ground. Be sure not to damage the bulbs by hitting them with tools.

Allow bulbs to dry in a shady, well-ventilated area for 1-2 weeks. Place them in a single layer on trays or screen, protected from direct sun and rain. The papery skins will continue to dry out and protect the bulbs.

Once dry, you can start inspecting and preparing bulbs for storage. Sort through them and remove any damaged bulbs or those with signs of rot. These will not store well and can spread disease to healthy bulbs if left in.

Carefully remove any excess soil left on the bulbs, but avoid washing them if possible. Washing removes the protective papery coating. Use a soft brush to lightly clean off dirt when needed.

Storing Tulip Bulbs

Tulip bulbs require a dry, cool, dark storage space over the summer. These conditions mimic their natural cycle and allow them to go dormant until replanting in fall.

Ideal Storage Conditions

  • Temperature between 35-45°F
  • Humidity around 50-60%
  • Good air circulation
  • Complete darkness

The most common storage methods to achieve these conditions are:


Storing bulbs in the refrigerator is a simple solution. Place bulbs in a perforated plastic bag, then put in the vegetable drawer or bin. This provides cool, dark conditions.

Check bulbs occasionally for mold or rotting. Make sure air can circulate around the bag. Add some holes if condensation builds up inside.

Ventilated Cellar or Garage

An unheated basement, cellar, or garage can provide suitable storage if temperatures remain cool. Space bulbs out in boxes or trays for air circulation.

Monitor the temperature during summer months. Move bulbs to the refrigerator if needed to keep them below 45°F.

Bucket or Can

Burying bulbs in an outdoor container mimics in-ground conditions. Place bulbs in a plastic bucket or metal can filled with slightly moist peat moss, vermiculite, or sand. Store the container in a shady spot.

Make sure the container has drainage holes in bottom and that soil mix doesn’t get soggy. Check bulbs occasionally for any rotting.

Storing Different Types of Bulbs

Most spring-blooming bulbs can be stored together under the same basic conditions. But a few varieties have particular storage needs:


Keep tulip bulbs dry at 35-45°F for best results. Discard soft or damaged bulbs that may rot.


Daffodils are less prone to rotting and can tolerate slightly warmer and more humid conditions. Ideal storage is 45-60°F.


Hyacinth bulbs require the coolest storage around 35-40°F. Keep them especially dry.


Many lilies can be stored like other bulbs. But Oriental, Asiatic, and LA hybrid lily bulbs require cooler and more humid conditions.

Storing Bulbs in Peat Moss or Vermiculite

Some gardeners recommend mixing bulbs with slightly moist peat moss, vermiculite, or sand before storage. This can help retain some moisture and mimic soil conditions.

If using this method, choose containers with drainage holes. Use just enough moisture so mixture feels lightly damp, not soggy wet. Store containers in a cool location away from direct sun.

Check bulbs occasionally and remove any spoiled ones immediately. Replenish moisture if mixture is drying out.

Treating Tulips with Fungicide

Tulips are susceptible to a fungal disease called tulip fire or botrytis blight. To help prevent it, you can treat bulbs with a fungicide containing Thiram before storage.

Follow package instructions to soak bulbs after cleaning. Use caution when handling fungicides and store treated bulbs separately from other bulbs.

While not a cure, this treatment can help reduce the chance of disease problems. Always remove and discard any soft or diseased bulbs.

Storing Bulbs in Pots or Trays

Another option is storing bulbs loose in trays, crates, or pots. Place a layer of barely moist peat moss, vermiculite, sawdust, or sand in the bottom to retain some humidity.

Spread bulbs out in a single layer without touching. Cover bulbs with more of the loosely moistened planting medium.

Store containers in a cool, dark place. Check moisture levels periodically and sprinkle in a little water if needed.

Natural Refrigeration Methods

Before refrigeration, gardeners had to rely on root cellars, cold frames, or unheated sheds to store tender bulbs over winter. These ideas can still work today if temperatures remain cool enough:

  • Root cellar – Maintain 35-45°F and 50-60% humidity.
  • Cold frame – Sink a frame with airtight lid into the ground. Ventilate on sunny days.
  • Unheated shed – Choose a shed that maintains cool, above freezing temperatures.

Monitor conditions closely if using these methods. Watch for rotting, mold, and freezing. Add insulation or move bulbs if needed.

Storing Bulbs in the Ground

In very cold climates, you may be able to leave tender bulbs in the ground over winter. But this method has risks.

Mulch heavily after the ground freezes to prevent frost heaving. Consider covering beds with leaves, straw, or other organic materials. Avoid plastic sheeting that can lead to rotting.

Check bulbs in early spring to make sure they weren’t damaged or pushed out of the ground. Discard any rotten bulbs.

Leaving bulbs in the ground works best in regions with consistent winter ground freeze. Further south, bulbs may start growing too early when temperatures fluctuate.

Storing Bulbs in Pots

You can dig up bulbs and store them over the summer right in their pots. Reduce watering as foliage dies back and add mulch over the soil surface to prevent evaporation.

Place pots in a shady, protected spot outdoors. A cold frame or unheated garage also works well. Make sure pots don’t freeze solid in winter.

Check soil moisture levels 1-2 times per month. Don’t let pots dry out completely. Watch for any sprouting or mold growth.

Storing Bulb Foliage

Don’t dispose of the foliage when you dig up bulbs. The leaves contain nutrients the plant will take back to produce next year’s blooms.

Tie leaves loosely with a rubber band or piece of twine. Hang foliage bundles upside down in a cool, dry, airy space. Wait until leaves turn completely brown and crispy before removing bands.

Once dried, break up foliage and add to compost or directly into garden beds. The leaves will break down and feed the soil.

Storing Bulblets

Some bulbs produce bulblets or bulbils on the stem. These are genetically identical daughter bulbs you can save and plant.

Bulblets may not flower the first year after planting but will continue to mature and multiply underground.

Allow bulblets to mature on the stem after harvesting the main bulb. Then carefully remove and store them following the same methods used for full-sized bulbs.

When to Plant Stored Bulbs

In the fall, stored bulbs will be ready to replant for the next flowering season.

Ideally, plant bulbs after a good soaking rain when soil temperatures reach 60°F. This timing encourages root growth before freezing winter temperatures arrive.

Planting too early in warm soil can cause bulbs to sprout tops. Delaying planting until the ground freezes will inhibit root development.

Those in cold climates can pre-chill bulbs for 4-6 weeks before fall planting. Store bulbs at 35-45° in damp peat moss or vermiculite. This treatment mimics warm soil conditions and satisfies dormancy requirements.

Check Stored Bulbs in Early Fall

Inspect your stored bulbs in early fall, looking for these signs of health:

  • Appear plump and firm
  • Intact outer and inner skins
  • No evidence of mold, rotting, or disease

Discard any bulbs that are soft, shriveled, or show signs of fungus or rot. These can decay quickly in storage or the ground.

If a bulb looks diseased but still firm, try removing just the infected portions. Disinfect your pruning shears after each cut to prevent spreading disease.

Tips for Storing Healthy Bulbs

Follow these tips to successfully store bulbs for replanting next year:

  • Allow foliage to die back before digging up bulbs
  • Dry bulbs completely before storage
  • Store bulbs in cool, dark, and dry conditions
  • Provide good air circulation during storage
  • Check bulbs occasionally for rot or mold
  • Remove and discard any diseased bulbs immediately
  • Avoid washing bulbs before storage if possible


With proper post-bloom care, tulip bulbs can be stored successfully over the summer and rebloom for years to come. Dry bulbs thoroughly after digging them up in early summer. Store bulbs in a cool, dark place with good air circulation until replanting in fall.

Monitor storage conditions and bulbs closely. Discard any that show signs of rot or disease to prevent spreading to healthy bulbs. Ideal storage keeps bulbs dormant until they are ready to grow again next season.

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