Tulips enjoy cool winters and require a chilling period to form flowers, which is why they grow so well in Michigan.
Within the state’s hardiness zone 4 to 6, you can plant tulip bulbs in the fall from September to early November so that cool temperatures push them into dormancy before blooming starts in spring.
Read on for more tips on when to plant tulips in Michigan.
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Best Time to Plant Tulips Bulbs in Michigan
As stated above, the ideal planting calendar for tulips is in the fall, around six weeks before the first frost. This time frame means your bulbs will be less susceptible to pest damage from chipmunks and rodents who eat them.
Plus, the cool weather in fall allows tulips to form roots and prepare for winter. Growing them too early in the summer means excess heat will keep the plants from establishing, and the water you provide to combat the heat may lead to disease.
So, purchase your bulbs in September and put them in the soil when night temperatures have measured 40 to 50℉ for two weeks straight. In Michigan, this timing would be September to early November, though it’s best to finish planting by late October if possible.
You can direct-sow the bulbs instead of refrigerating them, since Michigan’s winter is cold enough to facilitate natural dormancy. Only in zone 8 or higher will putting tulips in the fridge be necessary.
That being said, there are times when you may want to put your plants in a cooling unit.
- The first is when you plan to force tulips to bloom indoors in late winter. In other words, rather than flowering in Michigan spring as in our recommendation above, your tulips will blossom around January.
Opt for this method by refrigerating the bulbs in ventilated containers with potting soil under 35 to 48℉ for twelve to thirteen weeks, then removing them after to put the bulbs under indirect sunlight in a cool location.
You can start the cooling process around September to November and use your basement or garage instead of the fridge, so long as the temperature there is low and consistent enough.
- Another scenario in which refrigeration is recommended is when growing tulips from seeds instead of bulbs. In this case, remove the seeds from your tulip plants, dry them for a week, then put them in the fridge under the same temperature required for chilling the bulbs.
Instead of potting soil, however, you should use peat moss or a damp towel. After chilling the seeds for three months and keeping them in these mediums, transfer them to pots containing compost with 0.5 inch of soil.
The seeds should be in cold frames until they form flower bulbs for fall planting.
So, in short, the tulip growing season for this method goes like this: Chilling in autumn (November) → seeding in cold frames (February) → germination (March or April) → outdoor transplanting when bulbs appear (eighteen months after, in autumn).
Suffice it to say, it’s easier to follow the Michigan bulb planting guide rather than using seeds. Seeds take a long time to sprout, and unless you have species tulips, you cannot be sure how your flowers will turn out, particularly if they’re hybrids.
Where Do You Plant Tulips?
Aside from the tulip bulbs planting time, remember these criteria for their planting location:
- Full sunlight
- A pH of 6 to 7 with adequate drainage and loamy If you plant in pots, look for drain holes.
- Sufficient space to sow the bulbs six inches deep and five inches apart
- A garden plot with no disease or contamination within the past three years
- With eight inches of fencing if deer are a concern
Best Tulips to Plant in Michigan
The following varieties are ideal for planting tulips in Michigan.
- Triumph tulips
These are 16 to 22 inches tall and resistant to wind damage. They bloom mid-spring but also suit indoor forcing.
- Darwin tulips
Darwin tulips bloom ten days later than Triumph types. They make for great cut flowers and bloom in multiple colors, from red and pink to yellow and white.
- Parrot tulips
Parrot varieties stand out since they resemble cabbage leaves. These are excellent choices if you want tulips that bloom in late spring.
- Double-late tulips
These flowers look like peonies and come in a wide range of shades, such as purple, orange, and even a mix of pink and ivory. They need protection from the wind, however, unlike Triumph tulips.
Caring Tips for Tulip Bulbs
Take care of tulips by giving them an inch of water per week or two inches if the weather is very dry. You should water the soil after planting and whenever there has been no rain for three days, but cease irrigation during the plant’s dormancy.
Speaking of dormancy, I recommend protecting tulip bulbs with two to three inches of mulch to help them survive winter.
In addition, fertilize tulips with compost at sowing time and once more during spring with a balanced 10-10-10 formula, preferably a slow-release one at half strength. You may also opt for something high in phosphorus with lower amounts of other nutrients (like a 4-10-6) to encourage blooms.
After flowering ends, wait until the leaves and stems die to remove them. This rule will help your tulips come back strong next year, which is important as these plants are perennials.
Frequently Asked Questions
When do tulips bloom in Michigan?
At what time of year do tulips bloom? You can expect them to flower in April and May, though some varieties will bloom earlier than others. Triumph and Foster tulips, for instance, will show up around late April and early May, while parrot and species tulips will blossom in mid and late May.
Is it too late to plant tulip bulbs in Michigan?
You should plant them outdoors by November at the latest. Otherwise, it’s possible to force tulips to bloom indoors up until early December.
What summer bulbs can I grow in Michigan?
When planting summer bulbs, Michiganders can opt for camas, Michigan lilies, daylilies, and pineapple lilies. These grow well during spring or fall and will bloom in summer.
Tulips are among the best spring bulbs Michigan residents can grow, being in the same category as snowdrops, daffodils, and hyacinths. Knowing when to plant tulips in Michigan will help you produce beautiful blooms in your garden without wasting time and money.
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