How Deep to Plant Tulip Bulbs for Your Healthiest Flowers

Published March 24, 2022
Woman picking up flowers

Planting tulip bulbs at the right depth is important, both in terms of how well they grow, but also how well they'll bloom. There are a few simple tips to keep in mind to make sure you're planting them deeply enough.

How Deep to Plant Tulips

A simple guideline for how deep to plant tulip bulbs is that they should be planted two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. So, for example, if the tulip bulb you're planting is two inches tall, you'll want to plant it four to six inches deep.

In general, smaller species tulips do best when planted around four inches deep, and larger varieties do best when they're planted six or even eight inches deep.

Spacing for Tulip Bulbs

Hands of senior woman planting bulbs outdoors

While depth is important for optimal growth and blooming, so is plant spacing.

  • Smaller bulbs (such as those that are an inch to two inches in diameter) should be planted two to three inches apart.
  • Larger bulbs (two or more inches in diameter) should be planted three to eight inches apart.

You'll want to check the label or planting instructions for your particular variety, but if you don't have them, these are good guidelines to follow.

Problems Related to Incorrect Tulip Planting Depth

There are a few problems that might arise from planting tulip bulbs too deeply or too shallowly, and they can affect overall plant health as well as how well the plants bloom, if at all.

  • Tulips planted too shallowly can be more easily dug up by squirrels and other rodents. They're also less likely to come back year after year, because they might dry out too much in the heat of summer or not have a long enough cold period to store up energy for the following year.
  • Tulips planted too deeply might not bloom at all, using all of their available energy to get leaves to sprout in an attempt to store enough energy for the coming winter. This is especially an issue if you're trying to grow tulips as perennials.

In either case, the solution is to dig the bulbs up in the fall and then plant them at the proper depth.

How to Make Sure You're Planting at the Right Depth

There are a few tricks to make sure you're planting tulip bulbs at the right depth, which is important regardless of which type of tulips you're growing. You can eyeball the depth, of course, but if you're unsure, there are a few more exact ways to get the depth right.

  1. Measure the height of your tulip bulb.
  2. Multiply that number by three. This is how deeply you should plant.
  3. Dig your hole, either individually or a larger hole for several bulbs. Use a ruler, tape measure, or a stick on which you've marked the correct measurement to gauge whether the depth is right.
  4. Once you have the depth right, place your bulbs (setting them in the hole with the pointy side up) and then cover with soil.

Some garden shovels and bulb planters have measurements marked on them already, and this definitely comes in handy. But if you don't have that feature, these tips should help you get the right depth for planting tulips.

Easy Tulip Planting

Once you've planted a good number of tulip bulbs, it'll be easier to estimate whether you're planting at the right depth or not. As with anything else, gardening skills come with practice and experience. The good news is that even if you've planted too deeply or too shallowly, it's easy to fix it for better tulip growth next year.

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How Deep to Plant Tulip Bulbs for Your Healthiest Flowers