Storing tulip bulbs is easy. If you purchase bulbs before you want to plant them store them in a paper bag. Make sure that this bag is kept away from ripening fruit.
As fruit ripens it gives off ethylene gas which destroys the flower bud within the bulb. They can be stored anywhere that is dark, cool and dry. Moisture will cause them to rot. Good ventilation is also a plus.
If you wish to dig up bulbs from the ground and store them this is also easy. By following a few simple guidelines you will be able to successfully store and replant your bulbs.
When to Think about Storing Tulip Bulbs
The first thing to know is when to dig the bulbs up out of the ground. In order to locate the tulip bulbs, allow the leaves to remain on the plant after it’s bloom has ended. Otherwise you may forget where they are. These leaves should be completely brown before removing the bulbs from the ground.
After determining it is time to pull them out, use a spade or better yet a fork to gently loosen the bulb. Carefully lift out the mother bulb and all her babies. They should pull out easily.
Shake the loose dirt from the bulbs and roots while holding them at the base of the stem. Carefully separate the mother bulb from the offspring. Separate the bulbs from the roots.
Wash each bulb and lay to dry. This can be done outside in partial sun to avoid scorching. They can be spread out on newspaper or in the bottom of cardboard boxes. They should not be touching each other.
Where to Store
When dry they can be placed in a layer of vermiculite, dry sand or peat moss inside some type of flat container. They should not be covered up.
These storage mediums can retain moisture and this will cause the bulbs to rot. Make sure that the medium is completely dry and remains so for the duration of storage.
You don’t have to store them in any of the above mentioned materials. They can simply be wrapped up in newspaper or placed in a mesh bag. The most important thing about properly storing tulip bulbs is that they remain dry.
Be sure to choose an area that has good ventilation. Humidity also needs to be watched out for because, again, moisture will cause the bulbs to rot. Choose an area that is not accessible to mice and other rodents. They love tulip bulbs and you may find them gone come planting season.
Damaged bulbs may still be able to be salvaged by allowing them to dry completely and then dusting the damaged area with sulfur. Damaged bulbs should not be stored with healthy bulbs to prevent them from causing the healthy bulbs harm. Bulbs can be stored at just about any temperature above freezing.
If you live in the north there is no need to force the bulbs. Forcing is storing the bulbs at a controlled temperature to force them into a dormancy period followed by an early bloom. This is usually done for growing the tulips indoors. Forcing bulbs should be done for a period of fourteen to sixteen weeks.
They should be kept at a temperature of about forty degrees to get them to set a flower bud. This can be done in a vegetable crisper. Make sure to keep them away from any ripening fruit and do not let them freeze. After forcing plant bulbs indoors you can get blooms any time of the year as long as you plant them inside.
Type of Tulips
Species tulips grow everywhere and don’t need to be stored in the winter. The typical Dutch tulips do not do well in the south and must be dug up for the winter or planted as annuals and left alone at the end of spring.
There are early blooming, middle season blooming and late season blooming tulips. Which type you choose to plant should be determined by the climate zone in which you live.
Squirrels and chipmunks love to eat tulip bulbs so you may be disappointed when no flower sprouts up in the spring.
Photo by maureen lunn, Creative Commons Attribution