Tulips are a harbinger of spring, with their bright blooms appearing in the garden in April or May. It may seem counterintuitive to new gardeners, but the best time to plant tulip bulbs is in the Fall.
Tulip bulbs need to be in the ground before the first frost, so check an almanac or ask your local extension service or nursery for the best planting dates in your area. With careful choices, you can plant tulip bulbs that will provide garden color at various times throughout the spring and extend the blooming season for up to two full months.
Choose firm bulbs, with no splits or signs of rot. Also avoid bulbs with black spots that may be fungal mold. Choose a sunny spot with well draining soil and till to a depth of about twelve inches. Amend the soil with organic matter or compost. Plant your bulbs 2-1/2 times as deep as the bulb's width, and space them four to eight inches apart.
Field mice, voles, gophers, and other rodents find tulip bulb appealing, especially in the winter when other food is scarce. If these creatures are a problem in your garden, get some hardware cloth and create a small cage around your tulip bulbs when planting. Place the tulip bulb in the hole with the flat side down and tip pointing up. Water the bulbs lightly after planting, and then ignore them until the leaves appear in the spring.
After your tulips finish blooming, you can dig up the bulbs and save them for the following fall's planting. However, repeatedly using the same bulbs can lead to low production. For best results, buy new tulip bulbs each year.