Can I Plant Tulips In February?

After the cold, gray days of January, everyone is looking for a serotonin boost, and gardening is a great way to uplift your mood. Flowers, especially, make people happy, and one of the most loved flower varieties in the world is tulips, which were once more valuable than diamonds. Tulips are known to symbolize love, cheerfulness, encouragement, and many more positive feelings, and as an early spring flower, they can be seen as the promise of sunshine on the way. However, as a spring bloomer, tulip bulbs are generally planted in the fall. But can tulips be planted as late as February? The good news is that yes, you can, but some conditions must be met for them to bloom.

Tulips grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 7, but some more northern locations are far too cold in February to have workable soil. If you're fortunate enough to live in a more temperate climate where the February temperatures are no longer freezing the ground, it's entirely possible to plant tulip bulbs. That first season, expect mostly greenery from your tulips, and then full flowers when the perennial blooms the next spring. However, if you want to see flowers this year, there's a workaround that promises beautiful blooms within weeks, thanks to a technique called forcing.

Forcing tulips

Tulips bloom from hardy bulbs, which require 14 weeks or more of cooler temperatures to activate their germination process. There aren't many places that have forsaken frost by February but don't see highs above the 50s throughout May and into June, so it's unlikely you'll be able to plant your tulips in the ground and get them to bloom that same season without a little help. That help is called "forcing," and it means artificially chilling your tulip bulbs indoors to get things started. Otherwise, it could be a year before you see tulip blooms.

The best way to go about growing forced tulips is to purchase pre-chilled bulbs from a reputable seller. If you don't have these, you'll have to force the bulbs yourself indoors, which ultimately saps the flowers of their vitality and stamina and makes it hard to ever transplant them into the ground. Plus, it still takes the requisite 14 weeks, so if you wanted to plant them in February, you'd have to start forcing them sometime in November. If you purchase pre-chilled bulbs and conditions are right in February, place them pointy side up in well-draining, slightly acidic soil and full sun, about 4-6 inches apart so the bulbs have room to offshoot and multiply. Then wait and watch your tulip garden grow.