How to Grow Tulips From Seeds vs. Bulbs?

Tulips (Tulipa) are popular flowers that come in a variety of warm colors. They are produced from tulip seeds or bulbs and each propagation method has a vastly different result – tulips grown from bulbs will bloom the following spring after planting, while those grown from seeds may take two years or more to flower. The tulip is a herbaceous perennial that grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 10.

Growing Tulips From Bulbs
According to the National Gardening Association, tulips grow best in direct sunlight and slightly moist, adequately drained soil. Plant tulip bulbs in excavated soil, with each bulb 5 inches apart and 6 to 8 inches deep, with their pointed ends up. When planting bulbs in a group, bury them each at the same depth, so they sprout at about the same time. Mix the excavated soil with a low-nitrogen fertilizer and cover the bulbs. Pack the ground above the bulbs and thoroughly water the area, but do not water them again before they sprout, as too much moisture can cause them to rot.

After the plants flower, deadhead blooms but do not remove their leaves for at least six weeks, as they are still providing nutrients for next year's tulips. Once the leaves yellow, cut them off. To maintain fertile soil and healthy plants with vibrant future blooms, The Farmer's Almanac suggests applying compost to the area once a year.

Growing Bulbs From Seed
When growing tulips from seed, patience is key – a plant may take a few years to flower and its blooms won't look much like those on the parent plant. According to DenGarden, you can cultivate tulip seeds yourself by allowing an existing plant's flowers to go to seed. After accumulating tulip seeds and drying them, plant them in a cold frame in autumn and cover them lightly with moist soil.

You should see germination in March or April, but keep them in the cold frame throughout the spring and summer as they need time to create bulbs. Then, move them to the garden in autumn. Before planting, make sure the bulbs are healthy. They should have a dark brown hue and feel hard. You should see blooms the following spring.

Planting Tulips in Different Hardiness Zones
Tulips need cold weather to propagate, so take special care when planting in warmer climates. If you live in an area where temperatures rarely dip below freezing, such as USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10, chill your tulip bulbs for six to eight weeks before planting them by refrigerating them in a paper bag. Make sure to keep them away from ripening fruits, as fruit produces ethylene gas, which can kill the bulbs. Certain species of tulip, such as the lady tulip (Tulipa clusiana), the candia tulip ( Tulipa saxatilis) and the Florentine tulip ( Tulipa sylvestris) are better suited to warmer climates, according to the National Gardening Association.

The best time to plant tulip bulbs is when the soil is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This will occur at different times during the year in different areas:

Zones 4 and 5:
September through early October
Zones 6 and 7:
October to early November 
Zones 8 and 9:
November to early December
Zone 10:
Late December to early January

Pet-Safe Fertilizers: Benefits, Brands & Alternatives

Pets and yards are a bit alike – they both depend on their humans for many things, including safe, healthy food. If your pet is likely to encounter the great outdoors, using pet-friendly fertilizer for lawns and gardens is non-negotiable. Don't worry – this isn't nearly as complicated as it may seem. There are plenty of effective nontoxic materials that are safe for your beloved fur babies so you won't have to resort to using dangerous chemicals to feed your plants.

The Case for Pet-Safe Fertilizers
Nearly everyone who loves and tends to plants whether indoors or out knows the value and importance of fertilizing, or feeding them. Plants require nourishment, and if we keep them in captivity, they depend on us for most if not all of their nutrition. Loving your pets includes protecting them from dangers, such as seemingly benign fertilizers for your outdoor areas. Unfortunately, many traditional lawn and garden products contain a number of toxic synthetic chemical combinations that are dangerous and possibly fatal if eaten or inhaled by you or your pets. Hence, there is a need for appropriate fertilizers.

According to Canine Bible, synthetic fertilizers produced commercially are commonly blended with herbicides, pesticides, snail bait and other toxic substances. These products may contain harmful ingredients, such as ammonium (skin and lung irritants), calcium, copper, disolfoton (may cause pancreatitis and seizures), fungicides, iron, sodium or zinc, all of which can be toxic to dogs when large amounts are consumed.

Some dogs gobble up fertilizers with gusto because they seem to enjoy the taste – and don't forget about the habitual grass-eaters when you treat your turf with fertilizers. As you manage your lawn and planting areas, keep in mind the places where your best friend may come into contact with dangerous materials. Newly treated areas should be off limits to pets until the recommended time elapses following application according to the package instructions. Priority one for pet parents is to carefully manage home gardening products, including the use of fertilizer that is pet-safe.

Using Pet-Safe Fertilizer Alternatives
Terms such as “organic” and “natural” do not necessarily mean 100 percent “safe” when it comes to fertilizers. Both commercial and natural fertilizers can be dangerous to your pets. Kansas State Research and Extension advises that even nontoxic alternatives may upset your pet's tummy. Watch your buddy carefully after applying these natural alternative fertilizers. Dogs in particular may eat or roll in stuff that we deem repulsive if they think it smells nice.

PennState Extension cautions gardeners to follow the packaging instructions carefully when applying fertilizers of any kind. Store unused product in secure containers, such as five-gallon buckets with lids, and label them accurately with the date and contents.

Fertilizer poisoning in pets may produce abdominal pain, breathing difficulties, burns on paw pads (from walking through chemically treated areas), diarrhea, lethargy, gastrointestinal tract ulceration, redness on the skin, redness and tearing of the eyes and/or vomiting. If you believe your pet has eaten, inhaled or touched fertilizer, seek veterinary attention immediately. Symptoms and complications are typically much more serious if large amounts of the product have been ingested, and they increase in severity as time progresses, so do not wait.

Pet-Safe Fertilizers Available to Consumers
The Intermountain Pet Hospital recommends using some of the effective pet-safe fertilizer alternatives, such as manure, whenever possible. As one of the best-known fertilizers in history, manure may smell offensive to you, but your pooch would relish this tasty snack if the material hasn't aged long enough. Used correctly, manure provides cheap, effective and nearly odorless fertilizer once it has composted for several months.

Compost, an excellent all-purpose fertilizer, often contains food scraps, such as citrus, onions and garlic, that can be unhealthy or even dangerous for your pets. Secure the bin to prevent them from eating compost. Grass clippings provide lawn turf with nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and some essential trace nutrients, and the material is free.

Commercially available products, such as organic, EPA-certified lawn fertilizers, are typically pet-safe as long as you follow the instructions carefully. Potash, also known as fertilizer potassium, is available commercially as a liquid or as granules. Pet-friendly and rich in potassium, you can safely combine it with bone meal to provide extra nitrogen for your plants.

How to Propagate Tulips

Tulips (Tulipa spp.) come in dozens of types and colors ranging from sleek cup-shaped blooms to frilly, striped varieties. They thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 8, according to Missouri Botanical Garden, where they are a much-loved addition to springtime flower beds.

Tulip bulb division is the most common method of tulip propagation, although tulips will also grow from seeds. However, tulip propagation from seeds is seldom used as it may produce a sterile plant that doesn't resemble the original, according to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Tulip Propagation From Bulbs
Tulip propagation from bulbs is a simple process, but it must be done at the right time of year and under the right conditions to produce healthy plants. Autumn is the best time to propagate tulips from bulbs because the bulbs require a lengthy chilling period before they will bloom. In warmer climates where winters are mild, such as in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 10, gardeners may need to store the bulbs in the refrigerator for six to 12 weeks to induce blooming the following spring, according to Johnny's Selected Seeds. Avoid storing tulip bulbs near ripe fruit because the ethylene gas released by the fruit may cause the bulbs to fail.

Prepare a planting site once soil temperatures dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime air temperatures fall to between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose a sunny garden bed with fast-draining soil. Tulip bulbs should be spaced 1 to 6 inches apart in garden beds, so choose a planting location with enough space to accommodate all of the bulbs you intend to plant. Closer spacing – between 1/4 and 1/2 inch between plants – is best for growing tulip cut flowers.

Loosen the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and amend it with a few inches of compost, if the soil is poor. Tulip bulbs must be buried deep in order for them to bloom, so dig an 8-inch-deep planting hole for each bulb. Nestle the bulbs into the planting holes with the pointed end facing the sky and the broad base pressed against the soil. Water well. Watch for growth in early spring.

Tulip bulbs will eventually stop performing well as they become overcrowded in their bed. The bulbs need to be divided and re-propagated every three to five years to keep them blooming.

Tulip Propagation From Seeds
Growing tulips from seeds is uncommon. Tulip plants hybridize easily, and their seeds typically don't produce flowers that resemble those of the parent plant. However, if you're looking to experiment or perhaps discover a whole new variety of tulip, then tulip seed propagation could be a worthwhile project.

Gather seeds at the end of the blooming season once the tulip's oblong seed pod has dried out. Tulip seeds need cold to germinate and should be stored in the refrigerator during the summer months to chill before planting them in autumn. Keep them in a plastic bag with a slightly moist paper towel inside to keep them from drying out.

Start the tulip seeds in autumn, as recommended by Fine Gardening, once nighttime temperatures fall to between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It's best to start tulip seeds in pots so you can better control their growing environment. Use 6-inch nursery pots with drainage holes at the base and rich potting soil. Prepare one pot for every five seeds you want to start. Fill the pots with soil. Sow the tulip seeds at a depth of 1/2 inch. Space them a couple of inches apart and water deeply. During the winter months, place the pots outdoors near a lightly shaded south-facing wall and water whenever the soil feels dry just below the surface. Watch for the first sprouts in spring after daytime temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seed-propagated tulips can take up to five to seven years to bloom, so you'll have to wait a long time to see what color and shape the flowers will be. Grow the seedlings in their pot for one to two years, during which time they will produce small bulbs. Transplant the bulbs into a sunny garden bed in autumn of their second year.

How to Plant Seeds From Tulip Pods

Planting tulip (Tulipa) seeds is a laborious process and won’t yield a flower for at least seven years, as the majority of tulips are grown from bulbs. However, if you have patience and just want to experiment, plant the seeds from the tulip pods and wait for the bulb to develop.

Tulips are cold-weather flowers and produce colorful displays in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 10, with each zone having different in-ground planting months. The National Gardening Association gives a good layout for when to plant in which zone; however, growing from seeds is more an indoor task for at least one year.

History of the Prized Tulip
Originally grown wild in the Chinese region that borders Tibet, Afghanistan and Russia, tulips traveled the Silk Road and arrived in Istanbul by early 1055, as noted in Smithsonian Magazine. By the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire’s sultan had so many tulips growing in his gardens that he required 920 gardeners to tend them, and today the tulip is the symbol of the Ottomans. The tulips of Holland are the most famous because of its ideal growing conditions.

Tulips like mild winters and summers that are not too hot. The maritime conditions of North Sea Holland are just right, as the temperatures provide the right range during the bulbs' growing season, and the proximity of water allows the tulip bulbs to convert the starch inside the bulb into sugar, thus giving it energy. The average annual temperature in these coastal areas is 48 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the ideal climate for the tulips, reports Tulip Festival Amsterdam.

Planting Seeds From Tulip Pods
Once your tulip plant has flowered, allow it to dry out and wither. When the pods turn brown, remove them from the plant. Open the pods and remove the seeds and place them in a dish for about a week to dry out. Then move the seeds to a plastic bag surrounded by a damp paper towel. Keep the bag in the refrigerator for several months, creating a dormancy period prior to planting the seeds.

Remove the seeds from the bag and plant in individual small pots filled with well-draining compost. The Garden of Eaden recommends topping off the seed with no more than about 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) of soil and setting the pots out in the sun or a south-facing cold-frame (think incubation box). It may take several months to a year for the seeds to germinate in temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees F. Be sure to keep the pots watered and add a dose of slow-release liquid fertilizer. When the seeds have grown at least two leaves, they are ready to move to the garden.

Moving Seedlings Outdoors
Once the seedlings have matured to the point where they can grow outdoors in the ground, they can be gently transplanted. The process to this maturity takes anywhere from 12 to 15 months. The root systems of the seeds are delicate and must be handled with care. Touch the new bulb and be sure it’s brown and firm; plant the young bulbs in the autumn.

Check your hardiness zone to be sure that the newly planted bulbs are exposed to cold weather over the winter. Bulbs meant for zones 8 through 10 may need additional refrigeration before planting into ground. Don’t plant the bulbs unless the ground is under 60 degrees F. The big surprise is when the tulips flower – and what comes up is not at all like the plant from which you harvested the seeds. Some tulips are hybrids, as opposed to specific species varieties, so get ready to be surprised.

How Do Tulips Reproduce With Seeds?

Distinctive looking bold-colored blooms in late spring and summer make the tulip a popular flower to grow in the garden, in pots or in containers. Most gardeners grow tulips from bulbs, but you can grow this flower from seed too. You generally won't get an exact replica of the parent plant from tulip seeds. Planting from seed, though, is a great way to discover new colors, scatter tulips across a field or fill in a large garden area with blooming tulips.

Bulbs vs. Seeds
Tulips self-propagate in two ways -- from seed or from bulbs. Bulbs form around the base of the plant's main bulb and grow to be clones of the parent plant. These bulbs lack genetic diversity, but make up for it in reliable self-propagation without reliance on a pollinator. Bulbs give home growers the advantage of reproducing an identical replica of the parent plant, which is desirable when you require certain characteristics in the tulips.

Seeds, Pollination and Genetic Diversity
Seeds form after the flowers have been pollinated and have faded. Tulips that grow from seed have the genetic information from two plants. When honeybees and other pollinators alight on one tulip plant, their legs are coated with pollen. When they travel to another plant, some of the pollen falls off. Growing tulips from seed allows you to maintain genetic diversity in the garden, and sometimes it leads to the discovery of exciting new colors in the tulip bed.

Seeds in the Wild
Tulips reproduce with seeds in the wild by scattering the seeds at the end of the flowering season. The seeds scatter naturally, falling on the ground around the base of the tulip plants. Wild tulips also reproduce from bulbs. Having two methods gives the plant a backup plan. If rain, picking or lack of pollinators fail to create viable seeds, the bulbs come up again in the spring. When seeds do germinate and grow, the population is strengthened by the genetic diversity in the colony.

Seeds in the Garden
Growing tulips from seed in the garden is simple. Just gather the seed heads after they ripen and dry on the plants in late summer and fall. Break open the seed heads and scatter them in the areas where you want new tulips. Scatter the seeds in garden beds, or in grassy areas for a naturalized look. Growing tulips from seed is less labor intensive than planting bulbs, but not as reliable either. Scatter lots of seeds and see what comes up. You might get some exciting new colors when the tulips grow in the spring.

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