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How to Grow Tulips Indoors

Growing tulips indoors is a fun and easy project. Enjoy the bright colors of springtime during winter.

Forced tulips in a containerGrowing tulip bulbs in containers is easy. You only need to give the bulbs a drink of water and a place to chill out. The flower buds are already inside the bulbs.

Growing tulips indoors is called forcing. Start by selecting the biggest bulbs you can find.

Use a pot with a broad bottom such as an azalea pot. These are less likely to tip over when the plants get tall. 

Fill the pots with potting soil, setting the tips of the bulbs at the surface. Place the bulbs close together, no more than 2 inches apart.

The largest leaves of a tulip bulb emerge out of the flat side of the bulb. Plant the bulb so its flat side is against the inner rim of the pot and the leaves will cascade over the rim.

The bulbs need about 14 weeks of cool temps (40s) before they will send out sprouts. The basement refrigerator is an ideal spot, but you can grow them in an unheated garage. Water before cooling and keep the soil slightly moist but not wet.

When they start sprouting, place them near a sunny window at room temps. In a few weeks the blooms will be thrilling!

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, October 15, 2014. Updated in September 2020. The photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: Peter Kemmer.

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