Techniques for Dividing Tulip Bulbs

Dividing tulip bulbs is a great way to extend the life and coverage of your spring blooming investment. Tulips can be the workhorses of your spring garden, producing blooms in a rainbow of colors. As a tulip bulb matures, it creates lateral bulblets, which turn into new bulbs called offsets.

As offsets grow, they compete with the mother bulb for water and food. This competition can lead to more plants, but fewer blooms, as the bulbs have fewer resources to work with. Dividing tulip bulbs that have multiplied allows the individual bulbs a chance to thrive in their new locations.

Dividing Tulip Bulbs-Some Pointers

  • Timing is everything. The best time to lift tulip bulbs is about six weeks after they've bloomed. After blooming, the tulip stores energy in its bulb for next year's growth. When the leaves of a tulip begin to wilt and turn brown, it's time to lift the bulbs. You'll want to get the bulbs back in the ground in the early fall and before the ground begins to freeze.
  • Keep things clean. After you've lifted tulip bulbs, brush away any dirt still clinging to the bulbs. Gently separate the bulbs, keeping the largest bulbs and discarding any that look damaged or rotten.
  • Safe storage. Store the bulbs by wrapping them in a paper towel or covering them with dry sand or peat moss. Place the bulbs in a paper bag or in the individual sections of an egg carton. With your bulbs dry and well protected, find a place to keep them that is dark and cool. A basement or an unheated closet can make a good bulb storage area.
  • Give them a good home. When it comes time to replant your tulip bulbs, return about half to their original bed. Find homes for the others, taking care to plant them at about the same depth where they were discovered.
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