How does the tulip grow

How does the tulip grow?

The tulip is a beautiful flower, which is available in many different colors and heights. From April to the end of May the Dutch tulip fields are in bloom, this wonderful picture attracts a lot of attention, every single year. The tulips also contribute to tourism and the worldwide reputation of Holland as a flower bulb supplier.

But what does the growth process of a tulip actually look like?

When are the tulip bulbs planted?

Tulips belong to the group of autumn bulbs. This means that these bulbs will be planted in fall: October and November. The tulips bloom in the early spring. The earlier the tulip grower plants the bulbs, the faster the tulip bulbs will develop into "sprouts". The soil is still fairly warm in the fall. When planted early, the bulbs will be more resistant to the coming period with frost. If the frost is already in the ground, or the soil is still very wet, it is wise not to plant tulip bulbs, chances are that the bulbs will not survive and rot.

Which tulip bulbs will be planted?

The tulip bulbs are sorted from small to large, the grower decides what size bulbs he wants to plant and which part of his bulbs are sold. For example, tulip bulbs from size 4 to about size 10 go back to their own soil. The larger bulbs, from size 10 to 13, the better they are for sale. Or these large bulbs will be used to grow a tulip in the hatchery during the winter.

How is the tulip bulb planted?

The grower plants the tulip bulbs about 15 centimeters deep. This depth has also been chosen to protect the bulb from frost. If the bulbs are not planted deep enough, there is a chance that the frost will reach the tulip bulbs and that the tulip will not have enough strength to grow out of the soil during its flowering period. But the frost also brings something good. The cold period ensures that the tulip bulbs develop strong roots. For a good root, it is important that the soil is airy and does not stay wet for too long. Too wet soil causes the bulbs to suffocate and then rot.


The tulip bulbs are planted in nets. This is a well-functioning system to easily get the tulips out of the ground when they are ready. The tulip grower scatters extra nutrients (fertilizer) on his soil in the winter. This gives the plant sufficient nutrition to allow the tulip to bloom fully in the spring.

Spring has arrived

The winter is over, the first tulips emerge from the ground in March. The tulip grower starts fighting fungi for which the tulip is susceptible. Fighting these fungi is crucial. If this does not happen and one of the tulips becomes infected with the fungal infection, it can go very fast and infect a large proportion of all tulips. The tulip grower is also starting to select preventively for viruses. The weaker plants, or plants that already have a virus, are removed. These plants are recognized by a lack of leaves or flowers.

Headding the tulips

The headding of the tulips usually start at the end of April. The tulips are now fully grown and have made enough crop to pass on the energy to the bulb. This is what the tulip grower is waiting for, because, when the tulip is headed, only the stems and leaves are left on the field. This is where the food is made for the bulb. The stem provides nutrition from the sun (called photosynthesis) to the tulip bulb. From that moment on the tulip bulb needs a lot of water to grow well. The process, in which the tulip bulb is supplied with food from the stem and fully grown into a beautiful large bulb, takes about 6 weeks. The stem that has supplied the bulb with nutrition in recent weeks will turn yellow and dies quietly.

Picking up tulip bulbs

The moment is there. The tulip bulb is ripe enough, the tulip grower starts taking the bulbs out of the ground, "grubbing up." This happens always between mid-June and the end of July. The harvested bulbs are driven to the shed and will be dried and cleaned. The tulip grower also removes the young bulbs from the bigger bulbs. That cleaning is called "peeling". The large bulbs, if sold abroad, are washed so that no bacteria or fungi are left behind.

The smaller balls are stored, so that they can be planted in the ground again when Autumn falls. The tulip grower has gained a lot of experience over the years and has created the ideal climate in his shed in which the tulip bulb is best preserved.

Sales and exports

The large tulip bulbs are sold to trading companies that package the bulbs and then sell them to garden centers, hardware stores and chain stores. You can buy them there to plant in your own garden.

The largest part of the tulip bulbs is exported and goes around the whole world. There are many tulip lovers in America, Asia and the Middle East who enjoy these Dutch tulip bulbs!

A hand full of deheaded tulips at Tulip Tours Holland
Scroll to Top