How to Care for Tulips

Tips for when they’re in the ground, potted, or displayed in a vase.

Photo by OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

The start of spring means the abundance of beautiful blooms, especially colorful tulips that appear everywhere from gardens and parks, to florist shops and grocery stores. If you’re looking to take advantage of peak tulip season or want to get ahead for next year’s crop, take note of these guidelines, which include tips for caring for tulips in a vase, in a pot, and in the ground.

In-Vase Tulips

  1. Choose the Right Vase
    “A good rule of thumb is to choose a vase that covers at least half the height of the tulip stems,” says Callie Bladow, production director at BloomThat. “Tulips love to stretch out and will typically grow upwards of two inches in height during their vase life—so it's best to let them stretch out in the vase and don't clump them on top of each other, which will reduce petal loss.”
  2. Cut Stems
    Be mindful that tulips grow after they’re in the vase when you’re cutting the stems. Bladow suggests holding the bouquet to the side of the vase first before cutting to make sure the blooms are the exact length you prefer. “Cut them on a bias (a 45-degree angle)—this creates a ‘straw-like effect’ and allows the stems to soak up the fresh water,” she says.
  3. Provide Plenty of Water
    “Tulips love water,” says Bladow. “Cold, fresh water is best. When you bring your tulips home and pick out your favorite vase, fill the vase up about three-quarters of the way, as tulips will drink a lot of water. We suggest changing the water every other day and giving the stems a fresh cut.” To keep your blooms happy, you can also add flower food, throw a penny at the bottom of the vase, or add lemon juice or half a teaspoon of regular cane sugar.
  4. Avoid Overexposure
    Since tulips are “photosensitive,” meaning they grow and open based on sunlight, you should avoid placing the vase in direct sunlight or heat, as they’ll wilt faster once the blooms open up. “In order to achieve maximum vase life, you want to receive tulips at an ‘early’ cut stage or ‘closed’ stage,” says Bladow. “The tulips will have a limited vase life once they reach the ‘open’ stage.” A little bending at the stems is natural for tulips as they “stretch” towards the sunlight, but if the stem looks “floppy,” that’s not a good sign.
  5. Choose Other Flowers to Add Carefully
    If you want to include other flowers in your arrangement, you should be mindful that tulips are very sensitive to other flowers. “Some common flowers that affect the tulip life cycle are daffodils or narcissus—they emit a substance that will make tulips wilt faster,” she says. “We include tulips in almost all of our floral arrangements with roses, kale, hydrangea, and never have issues.”