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Found tulip bulbs in your garage? Will they bloom?

Spring tulip display at the MN Landscape Arboretum.
Photo: Mary Meyer, Extension Horticulturist
Fall gardening chores often pile up and before we know it it’s the dead of winter and we are dealing with snow, ice and the frozen north. Did you find a bag of unplanted tulips or daffodils near your snow blower?  What to do with them now that it is February? 

Temperature conditions make the difference

If your garage is unheated, the bulbs are dead, -25 0  F this year would kill them. But if your garage is heated, the bulbs MIGHT be able to be forced indoors.

If you have potting soil, plant the bulbs in a container with good drainage, water and place it in a cool location with good lighting. The bulbs will start to grow within two weeks if they are not dead. You may see just a small amount of growth or if lucky, you may end up with flowers.

What happens to tulip bulbs in the winter

Every day past Jan 1, unplanted bulbs are deteriorating. Ideally, they are planted in the fall, when roots form and exposure to cool winter temperatures causes the flower buds to form, which we see the following spring. Without planting the bulbs, they begin to deteriorate and die.

I have occasionally talked with someone who planted their forgotten bulbs in the winter and did see them flower. But for most of us, a cold garage is no place for a tulip, even though we call them ‘hardy’ bulbs.

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and UMN Professor

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