How To Start Your Own Tulip Seed

So you want to know what to do with tulip seed?

Your tulip has developed a swelling seed pod and you're curious about what this means for your garden.

In general, a seed is a seed is a seed. Tulips are relatively easy to germinate and grow up to bulb form.

If the seed pod is allowed to stay on the stalk, it will eventually turn brown and begin to crack open. The small flat seeds will be exposed.

How to Treat Tulip Seed

Treat tulip seed as you would almost any perennial seed as they do tend to germinate better if given a single 90 day treatment of cool temperatures.

tulip lilac wonder

Small singles such as this 'Lilac Wonder' are more likely to self sow than larger hybrids.

Cold Treatment

I do this by putting the tulip seed in a baggie with a very small pit of damp vermiculite and putting the baggie in the crisper of the frig. This small bit of dampness prevents the seed from drying out (and dying) and the crisper won't let the seed freeze but will give it the cool temperatures it requires to get the seed growth hormones working. I leave the baggie in the frig for 90 days.

Sowing in Pot

*Then I sow the tulip seed in a pot of good peat-based artificial soil and cover the seed approximately one-quarter inch deep.

The seed is sown so each seed is at least half an inch from its neighbour.

Germination is usually quite good with tulip seed so do not crowd them.

I keep the soil dampish and at room temperatures. The seed will germinate faster if the soil is warm (using a seed starting mat) but will eventually germinate at room temperatures.

Use warm water when watering the soil.

Resulting Seedlings

The small seedlings are quite fragile - single spears of green and almost hair-thin.

Gradually increase the amount of sunlight they receive until they are in the full sun.

Start feeding the seedlings with a very dilute (one quarter strength at the most) house plant food.

They'll continue to grow and start getting fatter.

When the plants throw a second leaf, you can either transplant them into their own pot or allow them to remain where they are for growing on.

Once you Have Two Leaves

The trick is to grow them until the leaves begin to yellow.

Do not worry if this happens (always assuming you're feeing and watering them properly) as this simply means the bulb is going dormant.

When the leaves have withered away, dig up the small bulb and transplant it to your garden.

If there is no small bulb then you've killed the bulbs rather than put them into dormancy. (Try again next year!)

Will the small bulb produce a bulb like its mother?

As with any garden hybrid, there are going to be some that resemble the parent bulb but many will be different colors, sizes and even shapes depending on the genetic heritage of the parents.

It will take several years of full sunshine and fertile ground to produce a flowering bulb from tulip seed.

Book cover spring bulbs

Can you simply leave the seed pod to mature and then sprinkle the seed in the garden to grow?

Absolutely. You'll lose some to mice and ants but the survivors will likely grow quite nicely next spring.

You have to weed and care for them but yes, direct sowing works well for tulips.

Some species tulips will self-sow if happy and can become a little weedy if all the new plants are left to grow. So go out there and start your own tulip seed. Spring will never be the same!

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