How to care for your tulips

adrem tulips

I grew up in a small farming town about half way between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. The area is known for the wonderful produce that is grown there, including all the delicious berries in the summer, but is probably best known for the hundreds of acres of tulip fields that bloom each spring (I have previously shared photos of the tulip fields here and here. Isn’t it so pretty?!)

My father and his brothers are tulip farmers and run what is now one of the biggest (bulb) flower farms in the world, shipping flowers to people and businesses all over America (you can read a little bit about the family business here). I grew up on the tulip farm and remember how exciting it was every spring to watch the surrounding fields fill with colour. Our spring break from school always fell in the middle of tulip season and my dad always put me straight to work in the flower stalls selling tulips. I think, by the time I was eight, I knew all the different names for every tulip variety and I could answer any tulip question, no matter how random. (Of course I have since forgotten all those different varieties! My dad would be so disappointed.)

Every year at this time, as the flower stalls around London fill with tulips, I’m reminded of my childhood and the tulip farm back home. I spoke to my dad over the weekend and he told me that the tulips are blooming really early this year due to a really mild winter. So, now that it’s tulip season I thought I would share some tulip tips I’ve learned from my dad over the years. (Please forgive me if you’re a long-time reader. I posted a similar post back in 2008, but thought it was worth re-posting since it’s been so long!) Here are some handy tips for buying tulips and keeping them alive as long as possible:
tulip tips
cutting tulip stems

  • Try to buy the freshest tulips. Don’t buy tulips that are limp; make sure the stems are thick, plump and strong. (In general, the bigger the stem–the bigger the bulb– the healthier the flower).
  • Make sure the leaves are tight and curled inward toward the stem. If they are already bending outward, they are not very fresh.
  • The bud should be closed and on the tighter side, but you should still be able to see the color of the flower.
  • Cut ½ an inch from the bottom of the stem and place immediately in cold water. (Remember that the stems will continue to grow in the vase, so you can cut them down to be a bit on the shorter side).
  • If the tulips came in plastic wrap, you can leave the plastic on for the first couple hours. This will encourage the stems to stay straight instead of bending over. (As soon as you cut the bottom of the stem, the tulip ‘comes back to life’ and will begin to respond).
  • Leave the vase in a cool spot (not in direct sunlight or near a radiator). You can even place the vase outside during the night (unless it is freezing) for even longer ‘vase life’.

*Don’t ever mix daffodils and tulips in the same vase. The daffodil juice taints the water and will ‘poison’ the tulips!

And apparently all those silly things we’ve all been told about putting a penny in the water or adding sugar really don’t work!



Comments (20)

March 23, 2015

Thanks, Courtney, this post goes straight to my heart, I grew up as a daughter of a flower shop owner and at the peak seasons I also helped behind the counter and delivering flowers on my bike: fond memories.
I would like to add one more trick: if you don´t want your tulips to grow a lot and stand for longer, always put only a little bit of water in the vase so the stems are just covered at the very bottom, be careful though that they don´t dry up.
Our house is filled with tulips at the moment, so beautiful!

March 23, 2015

Hi Courtney! Thanks for the tulip tips – perfect timing as i’m sitting looking at some sad Tulips that are all bent over! You’ve given me a good excuse to buy some more and try out your tips : ) Have a good week Sarah xx

March 23, 2015

Just curious … I always thought you were suppose to cut the ends on an angle. Is this not the case for tulips?

Courtney in London
March 23, 2015

Hi Jennifer,
I believe it doesn’t really make a difference with tulips. With harder stems like peonies, I think it’s better to cut the ends on an angle to increase the bottom and the stem’s drinking potential. But I haven’t researched any of this – it’s just what I’ve learned from my family. (I suppose it doesn’t hurt to cut an an angle?)

March 23, 2015

Oh no! I have a vase with tulips and daffodils at home right now. Was wonderinging why the tulips looked a little limp. Thanks for the tips!

March 23, 2015

Purchased my first Washington Bulb tulips of the season this weekend! Beautiful way to ring in Spring … and they are quite the conversation piece with our 3 year old ‘why are they called two-lips mom? I don’t see any lips on those flowers!’ 🙂

Courtney in London
March 24, 2015

That’s so funny! Two lips. Haha! xx

March 23, 2015

Great post…and the links back to your previous tulip posts just make me in awe of those colorful fields all over again. Incredible.

March 23, 2015

Thank you!

March 23, 2015

Thank you for the tips! I love tulips, they are my blooms of choice together with miniature roses, because they are lovely and affordable!

March 23, 2015

dear courtney,
can’t find your instagram account anymore, is it gone?
thanks for an answer and best regards, charlotte

Courtney in London
March 24, 2015

Hi Charlotte, no it’s still there: @courtneyadamo . x

March 23, 2015

going to the tulip festival brings back so many memories! my dad moved to washington in ’95 (he lives on a ranch along the skagit river) and that was the first time i went. the skagit valley is so beautiful. my family and i have moved to california, so i really miss our annual drive to see the tulips.

Kelsey (@mrsandmrking)
March 24, 2015

We live in the city (Seattle) and it’s always such a hooplah around here once the tulips begin blooming up north. Grateful for your pro tips!

March 24, 2015

I’m leaving on Friday to visit my family in Seattle, and I have been looking forward to seeing the tulip fields. I am thrilled to learn the tulips are blooming early so we will definitely catch them on our way to Whidbey Island. Now I will make Roozengaarde a stop!

Courtney in London
March 24, 2015

What perfect timing! Oh, please do stop by Roozengaarde on your way to Whitby Island. (Try to do so on a weekday as the traffic can become crazy on the weekends.)
Lucky you getting to spend time on Whidbey! It’s so pretty there. xx

March 25, 2015

I’m so surprised to find out you grew up in Mount Vernon, WA. I’m currently in Lynnwood, but I grew up in Federal Way. My aunts live by Deception Pass so we passed by the tulip fields on our way there and of course have been to many Tulip Festival.

Courtney in London
March 25, 2015

Betty, how cool that you live in Lynnwood – so close to my ‘home’. Lucky you! It’s such a beautiful part of the world. Deception Pass is one of my favourite places! xx

March 25, 2015

I love tulips, my favourite flowers! I always put a copper at the bottom of the vase and the tulips seem to stay straight for days!

Kellie from Australia
March 25, 2015

Hi Courtney,
Off topic but I am also unable to access your Instagram account @courtneyadamo. It has been showing a message “Page not found” for a couple of days. Strange!


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