How to get your tulips to bloom again

How to Get Your Tulips to Bloom Again Next Year

Tulips are the tempermental stars of the spring garden. They put on a gorgeous show but then, if you don’t treat them just right, they disappear and you’ll never see them again. Treat them right and they’ll probably, but not always, bloom again next year. And maybe for years to come.

I’ve had some tulips come back every year for more than a decade. Most of the ones I plant come back for at least a few years, although sometimes they have smaller blooms than the first year.

These Princess Irene tulips have been coming back for years. I think there were probably 5 in the grouping originally. The one that disappeared either didn’t come back or was likely relocated (or eaten!) by squirrels.


This reduced vigor, and the way they look while you’re getting them ready to rebloom, is why a lot of municipalities and public gardens rip their tulips out right after they bloom and plant all new bulbs in the fall. I can understand this in a public show garden where the expectation is that there are entire beds that are bright and colourful and perfect all the time, but in a home garden I think it’s just a waste to not perpetuate your tulips.

It’s very easy to get your tulips to bloom again. In fact, I’m going to show you the most important and biggest task involved right off the bat. Are you ready? This is what you have to do as soon as the petals start to fall off your tulips:



Yes, you need to go to every expired bloom and snap off or cut off the tip.


Then leave the plant alone.


The science behind the practice:

What you’ve just done is stop the tulip from trying to make seeds (i.e. if you don’t snap off the tip the plant will use up energy to make seeds. You don’t want seeds as it would take years for a tulip seed to grow into a plant that produces flowers.) Instead, it’s going to now put all of its efforts into storing energy in its bulb. This stored energy is what will be used to make the tulip flower again next spring.

The tulip uses its leaves to make energy (remember photosynthesis from science class?), so the best thing you can do for your tulips now is to let them continue to grow. You can fertilize them the same way you do the rest of your plants, and keep them watered the same way. Do not remove the leaves while they are green. Also, do not try to “tidy them up” by braiding them or doing anything else that damages them or restricts their normal functioning.

The tulips will tell you when they’re finished

Eventually, they will complete their life cycle (i.e. sufficient energy created and stored in the bulb) and the leaves will die down. When they’re brown and wilted it means they’re no longer performing photosynthesis—they’re done—and you can remove them.  But you need to leave the leaves alone until they’re quite unsightly. Garden guru Marjorie Harris describes it this way: “Every bulb will have a longer life if the foliage is left alone and allowed to mature, that is turn into a yellow, rotting mess. This is feeding next year’s crop of blooms.”

When they’re well and truly finished the leaves usually come off with just a slight tug. If you pull them and they don’t come off easily, you could leave them until they do come off, or, if the look of the dead leaves is bothering you, you could just snip them off with your secateurs.


Planning Ahead

A common way to camouflage tulip leaves while they complete their life cycle is by planting them near other plants, like hostas, that will leaf out after they’ve bloomed, and eventually cover over the foliage. This requires planning ahead when you first plant your tulip bulbs. If you didn’t do that in year one, and now wish you had, once the tulip leaves fall off you can dig down, remove the bulbs, and plant them elsewhere.


The process, once more:


And that’s all there is to it. By snipping off the flower heads after the blooms are done, and then letting the leaves live out their days, you’ve set your tulips up to bloom again next year!



Now, there are some varieties of tulips that won’t come back, or will come back with just leaves and no flowers. As I wrote at the beginning of the post, tulips are a bit temperamental when it comes to blooming for a second year. Most will, but for those that won’t..well you tried. And isn’t it worth the small effort for good odds on having them return and bloom again next year?

There are no guarantees in gardening, but the gardener’s role is to do everything within his or her power to set their plants up for success. The rest is up to the plants and the weather (and squirrels…)

Daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs

The process for tulips is the same for daffodils/narcissus. Snip off the tips and let them be.

You don’t need to snip off the tips of scilla or crocus, but you do need to leave the leaves alone until they die off.

If you have a big patch of scilla in the front yard like I do, this can look pretty messy for a week or two, but I think it’s a worthwhile price to pay for the sea of blue blooms that precedes the mess.




  1. Nathalie on May 26, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Thanks Jennifer! I had no idea. Will snip off the flower head this weekend!

    • Jennifer on June 8, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      Great–glad to share something that’s new to you!

  2. James Rodriguez on June 5, 2018 at 8:01 pm


    • Jennifer on June 8, 2018 at 6:55 pm

      Yes, smaller varieties add a lot of interest, James. They do also seem to be more reliable at reblooming. Happy gardening!

  3. Bren gilstorf on June 13, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    I do this but I also fertilize just before they open with ultra bloom. I was told the roots suck up the nutrients and enrich the bulb for the next year.

  4. norma roberson on April 20, 2020 at 10:39 am

    will tulip bulbs bloom again in pots.

    • Jennifer on April 20, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      If they’re taken care of well (i.e. enough soil and water and fertilizer, leaves left to do their thing and die down naturally, and then pot put through cold treatment over winter) I can’t see why they wouldn’t, any more than if they were in the ground. Not all tulips will bloom again well, but it’s always worth a try.

  5. Carol Ligouri on April 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    My tulips have only leaves no flowers now for 2 years what should I do?

    • Jennifer on April 20, 2020 at 6:18 pm

      I would try fertilizing them this spring, and following the instructions above for leaving the leaves alone until they die back naturally. If they don’t bloom next year then I’d say they’re a variety that doesn’t rebloom well, and I’d remove them and plant new bulbs in the fall. I’d buy and plant some new ones beside them this fall, just to ensure you get some tulip blooms next year (I don’t think you can ever have too many spring blooming bulbs, so I plant a new package or two every fall)

  6. Liz on May 25, 2020 at 8:34 am

    I’ve just discovered your site & love all your insight. Can Hyacinths be treated the same way? I purchased a blooming pot of Hyacinths & the leaves have died back completely. I am wondering if I can plant now or pull bulbs for fall planting.

  7. Elisa Griscom on March 2, 2021 at 9:10 am

    I have a pot of tulips received for my birthday last year. I let them die back naturally, and noticed recently that they are sprouting! Should I fertilize them, and if so, what should I use? Should I put them in a window for light?
    I have never had this happen before, so I really don’t know how to best give them a chance at new life this spring.
    Thanks for your time, love the site!

    • Jennifer on March 3, 2021 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks for your question Elisa. Tulips need a cold chilling period in order to produce new flowers. If you had the pot outside and have just noticed the growth now, then sure, you can bring them in and treat them like you did when you first received them last year. No fertilizer is required at this stage–the time for fertilizing is after they flower, before the foliage dies down. If the pot has been inside this entire time and the bulbs didn’t get a chilling period I’m afraid you’re just going to have leaves but no flowers.

  8. Meena Kharade on May 20, 2021 at 2:22 am

    Such clear and helpful advice.THANK YOU

  9. Larissa on April 14, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks a lot! So helpful!

  10. Barbara on April 26, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    we have moved to a home and quite a few tulip plants have leafed but this year (our second) the plants do not have a bloom. sdhould we dig up the bulbs and plant new ones?

  11. Tracy on May 11, 2023 at 6:10 am

    I have a lot of tulip bulbs that the leaves have been removed immediately after flowering by mistake. Are they likely to flower next year?
    Is there anything I can do to help them flower please?
    Or store them?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Jennifer on May 31, 2023 at 8:03 am

      Without leaves there is nothing to feed the bulbs. They are not likely to flower again. I suggest leaving them in the ground to compost and feed the soil (you may get some leaves showing up next year) and plant new bulbs in the fall.

  12. Ruth Trainor on May 30, 2023 at 11:42 am

    Hi Jennifer! I should have read this earlier. I cleaned up the foliage too early. Should I remove the bulbs (most did not bloom this year) and replant? Or is there a way to save them?

    • Jennifer on May 31, 2023 at 8:02 am

      Without foliage there’s nothing to feed the bulbs, so they’re done I think. I would leave the bulbs in the ground so that they can compost and feed your soil. But then plant new bulbs in fall.

  13. Mary Carmichael on April 1, 2024 at 10:06 am

    Ok so 1) snip off the flowers after they die
    2) leave the leaves u til they are wilted and dead, then pull them up… then what? Do they stay inside or outside u til time to plant. They were outside when bought and now have been inside for just a day. Should I put the potted plants outside? Once they are all pulled up they go in a brown paper bag in a cool spot (indoors) through the summer ?? Thanks

    • Jen Arnott on April 30, 2024 at 8:20 am

      You could leave them in the pot and tuck it somewhere out of the way, as long as it doesn’t get soggy (the bulbs will rot if they sit in water for a long period). Outside is fine. Once the leaves die back you can pull the bulbs up and put them in a bag as you suggest, ready to plant again in the fall.

  14. Reader on April 6, 2024 at 2:58 pm

    What is a “cold chilling period”?
    And how and when is it done?
    Thanks. 🙂

    • Jen Arnott on April 30, 2024 at 8:11 am

      Winter (if you live in a place that gets cold temperatures in winter). Plant the bulbs in the fall and they will experience a cold chilling period

  15. Vicky Mayer on April 7, 2024 at 5:26 pm

    After years of spotty blooms or no blooms at all this spring I have gorgeous tulips blooming everywhere. Especially surprising are the the bulbs I planted 8 years ago that never did much. What happened?

  16. TRex on April 19, 2024 at 8:16 am

    It’s 2024 and I still have the tulips my grandma planter in 1994 come up every spring. The stems are getting too long so the life cycle is fairly short . But I will try the recommendations here and see what results they yield. My grandma planted 4 . Now I have a dozen.

  17. Diane on June 22, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    Just wondering if I plant the small bulbs that have developed attached to the main bulb, how many years before they reach flowering size ?

  18. Lana Masocato on July 9, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    I discovered your website by accident and I am really glad I did. You are so helpful and will help my garden look great

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