Can tulip bulbs be planted in spring? Or is it too late? Our experts advise

Is it too late to plant tulip bulbs? Our garden experts offer this advice for the best blooms

Tulips with bulbs on show near pots, gloves and trowels
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may have noticed shoots and early blooms beginning to be appear in your neighbors' yards and be wondering: is it too late to plant tulip bulbs in spring?

Knowing when to plant tulips is key to the fabulousness of the display you will get, and for the best blooms, tulips should ideally go into the ground in fall, though planting in spring isn't completely out of the question. 

'Tulip bulbs can be planted in the spring, however there is no guarantee of a beautiful display. The soil could potentially be too warm as the bulbs need a period of chilling to break dormancy and grow,' explains Drew Swainston, H&G's gardening expert. 

Gardening editor of H&G's sister title Amateur Gardening magazine, Ruth Hayes agrees. 'Tulips are usually planted in late fall and early winter, November and December being the prime time,' she explains. 'You can still get them in the soil now, but it is too late for them to perform their best this year, though they should flower next spring.'

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew started working as a journalist back in 2008 after gaining his National Council for the Training of Journalists qualifications. He also studied for a Level 3 horticulture qualification, and worked as a professional gardener for several years. Drew specialized as a kitchen gardener for the likes of Soho Farmhouse, and also produced year-round vegetables, microgreens, fruit and herbs for chefs at a prestigious restaurant. Drew has written a blog called Perennial Nerd for many years, talking about his life working in gardens. Drew is now bringing that same expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens

Can you plant tulip bulbs in spring?

dark purple and white tulips with green stems

(Image credit: Alamy)

You can plant tulip bulbs in spring, though you are unlikely to get generous blooms if any. 

'Ideally, tulip bulbs want temperatures below 50℉ for at least 14 weeks for a chance of blooms,' continues Drew Swainston. 'It is possible to recreate the cold vernalization by forcing the bulbs to bloom, storing them somewhere cold such as a garage for a period of a minimum of eight weeks.'

Instead, your best option may be to buy potted spring bulbs from a plant nursery that you can transfer to containers; that way you can be sure to plant tulip bulbs that will flower for you this year, and next. 

What happens if you plant tulip bulbs too late?

pink tulips in pot

(Image credit: Alan Novelli / Alamy Stock Photo)

The worst case scenario of planting tulips too late is that you will get a very poor show of tulips this year, whether fewer or smaller flower heads.

'However, even if you do not get blooms this year then the bulbs may spend the coming fall and winter in the ground building up the energy reserves they need to put out stunning blooms next spring,' advises Drew Swainston. 

'For best results when planting tulip bulbs, make a large hole and plant them twice the depth of the bulb and space them around 4-6 inches apart. If you are planting the bulbs in containers, then you can plant the bulbs closer together for a fantastic display,' he concludes.


What month do you plant tulips?

Tulips are best planted in November and December. That way, they can build up energy for a great spring show of blooms.

Lucy Searle
Content Director

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property and gardens since 1990, working her way around the interiors departments of women's magazines before switching to interiors-only titles in the mid-nineties. She was Associate Editor on Ideal Home, and Launch Editor of 4Homes magazine, before moving into digital in 2007, launching Channel 4's flagship website, In 2018, Lucy took on the role of Global Editor in Chief for, taking the site from a small magazine add-on to a global success. She was asked to repeat that success at Homes & Gardens, where she also took on the editorship of the magazine. Today, Lucy works as Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Ideal Home and Real Homes.

With contributions from