When to Plant Tulips in Chicago

When to Plant Tulips in Chicago

Gardening in Chicago during the month of October entails planting spring flowering bulbs. On these chilly days we dig holes and submerge bulbs and cover them with soil. For many gardeners this may be the last gardening chore of season. Then is it a matter of waiting until spring when the ground warms up and they emerge to display their colorful blooms in the garden. Below is some information on where to buy tulip bulbs in Chicago, what kind to choose and how to plant tulips.

Prices of spring bulbs in Chicago vary depending on where you shop. Independent garden centers and nurseries in Chicago, big box garden centers and even places like ALDI, Costco and Sam’s Club all carry tulip bulbs.There are even Chicago tulip bulbs like tulipa ‘Maggie Daley,’ named after our Mayoral First Lady. Tulips look best in mass plantings and buying tulips bulbs in bulk is the most affordable way to recreate the look of the tulips planted along Michigan Avenue and in the parks. If your garden is more natural-looking consider planting some species tulips like the ones seen at the Lurie Garden. Species tulips are the grandparents of the fancy hybrid tulips we gardeners as consumers seem to favor.


Species tulip planted in Chicago’s Lurie Garden

Tulips can be planted in the ground in Chicago until the ground freezes and is no longer workable. Container gardeners are at an advantage, when it comes to planting tulips, because even after the ground freezes they can still be planted in large planters. One year I planted tulips in a small container and left it in the garden. The following spring the bulbs were nothing more than mush. Small containers should be planted in protected spaces like attached garages or basements where the soil and bulbs will not freeze into a solid block. Alternately, I’ve grouped small pots of tulips and mulched them heavily and that has seemed to work.

Whether you choose species tulips, named hybrid tulips– or take your chances with bulk and boxed tulips–you can’t go wrong. Tulip bulbs are some of the easiest ornamental flowering plants you can choose to add to your garden. If you’re starting a garden tulips (and other spring flowering bulbs) are the first thing you should think about planting. It is easier to find them a home in your garden when there is nothing else planted than trying to add them later after you’ve planted perennials, trees and shrubs. Trust me on this one. A good book on bulbs is Bulb by Anna Pavord. See my review of Bulb by Anna Pavord and my post on getting a chance to speak to the author last winter at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. 

Related post: Care of Tulips after Blooming.


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  • It's a bit late here in Toronto, but I have a bag full of bulbs to get in the ground, hopefully within the next couple of days... Thanks for the reminder!

  • In reply to Jay3fer:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Make sure you don't forget to put them in the ground before the ground freezes up. Thanks for stopping by.

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    Can I transplant tulip bulbs in the spring?

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