If You Want Spring Tulips, Now Is the Time to Plant

Some of us are bracing for snow soon – which, by the way, is not unheard of in October. This impending taste of winter may be something you are dreading (or loving).

And with this talk of cold and snow, we may be running out of time to get those tulip bulbs planted into the ground.

What You Need To Know

  • Spring flowering bulbs should be planted in fall
  • Tulips can come in many different colors
  • Planting bulbs is a straightforward process
  • Albany has a long history with tulips

Despite these crazy times we’re living in, you have to admit we had quite a summer full of beautiful blooms around every corner of the Capital Region. And so far, it sure has been a rather nice looking fall foliage season. Maybe you are left with fleeting memories of warmth and sunshine as you brace for cooler weather ahead and leaf piles mount on neighbors’ yards.

Never planted bulbs before? I hadn’t either, so let’s try this bulb planting thing together. Read on and you may find out that planting perennial bulbs is not as hard as you think.

What You’ll Need

  • Packages of tulip bulbs
  • Soil and fertilizer
  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden spade

You can buy spring flowering bulbs in farm stores, home and garden centers, big box stores, online, and sometimes at grocery stores.

Why You Should Plant Now

The reason we plant bulbs in the fall and before it gets too cold is so the roots have time to settle into the earth. Once the ground hardens, the bulbs have less success. The best time for us to plant is from late September through the middle of November. 

The planting timeframe varies across New York, so take a look at this map to see when your area hits the planting deadline.

Albany’s Tulip Festival

It’s always a nice little surprise after a long, cold winter to anticipate our spring tulips. With a rich Dutch history here in Albany, we hold these spring blooms close to our hearts. We love tulips so much that we celebrate their arrival with our annual Tulip Festival.

Our tulips come from a rich history. The festival has been held since 1948, after Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands — in gratitude for Albany’s assistance in rebuilding the city of Nijmegen following World War II — sent Albany a shipment of tulips that were planted in Washington Park.

Here are some more insights from a recent Tulip Fest. And here’s a clip from a past Tulip Fest where head gardener Jessica Morgan talks about what type of weather conditions make for a decent tulip crop come spring.

Dos and Don’ts

It’s best to plant bulbs in generously sunny areas and in well-draining soil. Tulips do not like super wet areas.

Soil works best if it’s neutral to slightly acidic. A bit of fertilizer mixed in with soil will benefit the plants greatly and keep the bulb healthy for years to come.

Tulips don’t like a crowd, so be sure to plant them a distance of four to six inches apart and typically as deep as four or five inches below the surface.

Although these are tried-and-true tulip planting methods, there are new ways of planting introduced in recent years. Some studies show how you can get away without having to do all that digging. Check out this Cornell University blog that shows a less labor intensive method called top planting

You’ll find that much of gardening success comes with trial and error. You have to get to know your soil type and how plants will react to it. With subtle adjustments to planting, your blooming rewards can be enjoyed for many springs to come!

For more tulip tips, visit the experts at Cornell University.

If you are just too busy to plant right now, don’t sweat it. You can still get those bulbs in the ground during early December if it’s not too cold. It’s possible that the tulips may not sprout as large as earlier plants, but at least you’ll still have some.

If your bulbs don’t bloom, don’t fret. You can dig them up and replant them for another go around for the next year.

I am eager to try the shallow bulb planting method this year and see how it works out. I’ll check back in the spring and let you know how it went!