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October is ideal time to plant tulips for next spring


Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480

Published: Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Story source:

David H. Trinklein, 573-882-9631

COLUMBIA, Mo. - October makes most gardeners think about checking their pumpkin patches, but it is also time to plant your tulips for next spring, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"October is an ideal time to plant them for a colorful spring next year," said David Trinklein.

Tulip cultivars usually are categorized into one of 23 different groups, depending on flower morphology. Some of the more popular ones that do well in Missouri are Darwin hybrids, Lily-flowered, Rembrandt and Triumph types.

Whatever the group or cultivar, tulips perform best when grown in full sun. They tolerate a wide range of soils as long as drainage is good.

Before planting tulips, the soil should be spaded/tilled to a depth of about 12 inches and amended with organic matter. Bulbs are usually planted 2 1/2 times as deep as they are wide and spaced 4 to 8 inches apart, depending on the cultivar.

One warning: tulip bulbs appear to be a favorite food of field mice, voles, gophers and other rodents, particularly through the winter months, Trinklein said.

"To guard against damage, some gardeners go to the trouble of planting each bulb in small mesh cages made from hardware cloth or welded wire," he said.

Tulips do not thrive in hot climates and do not naturalize in Missouri as readily as some of the other spring bulbs.

Tulips are frequently planted in beds for early spring color with the intent of replacing them with a summer annual for color for the remainder of the growing season.

Tulip bulbs may be saved from year to year, but they usually decline in vigor and bloom quality each year. For this reason, many gardeners treat tulips as annuals and purchase new bulbs each fall, he said.