How to Plant Seeds From Tulip Pods
Planting tulip (Tulipa) seeds is a laborious process and won’t yield a flower for at least seven years, as the majority of tulips are grown from bulbs. However, if you have patience and just want to experiment, plant the seeds from the tulip pods and wait for the bulb to develop.
Tulips are cold-weather flowers and produce colorful displays in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 10, with each zone having different in-ground planting months. The National Gardening Association gives a good layout for when to plant in which zone; however, growing from seeds is more an indoor task for at least one year.
History of the Prized Tulip
Originally grown wild in the Chinese region that borders Tibet, Afghanistan and Russia, tulips traveled the Silk Road and arrived in Istanbul by early 1055, as noted in Smithsonian Magazine. By the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire’s sultan had so many tulips growing in his gardens that he required 920 gardeners to tend them, and today the tulip is the symbol of the Ottomans. The tulips of Holland are the most famous because of its ideal growing conditions.
Tulips like mild winters and summers that are not too hot. The maritime conditions of North Sea Holland are just right, as the temperatures provide the right range during the bulbs’ growing season, and the proximity of water allows the tulip bulbs to convert the starch inside the bulb into sugar, thus giving it energy. The average annual temperature in these coastal areas is 48 degrees Fahrenheit, creating the ideal climate for the tulips, reports Tulip Festival Amsterdam.
Planting Seeds From Tulip Pods
Once your tulip plant has flowered, allow it to dry out and wither. When the pods turn brown, remove them from the plant. Open the pods and remove the seeds and place them in a dish for about a week to dry out. Then move the seeds to a plastic bag surrounded by a damp paper towel. Keep the bag in the refrigerator for several months, creating a dormancy period prior to planting the seeds.
Remove the seeds from the bag and plant in individual small pots filled with well-draining compost. The Garden of Eaden recommends topping off the seed with no more than about 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) of soil and setting the pots out in the sun or a south-facing cold-frame (think incubation box). It may take several months to a year for the seeds to germinate in temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees F. Be sure to keep the pots watered and add a dose of slow-release liquid fertilizer. When the seeds have grown at least two leaves, they are ready to move to the garden.
Moving Seedlings Outdoors
Once the seedlings have matured to the point where they can grow outdoors in the ground, they can be gently transplanted. The process to this maturity takes anywhere from 12 to 15 months. The root systems of the seeds are delicate and must be handled with care. Touch the new bulb and be sure it’s brown and firm; plant the young bulbs in the autumn.
Check your hardiness zone to be sure that the newly planted bulbs are exposed to cold weather over the winter. Bulbs meant for zones 8 through 10 may need additional refrigeration before planting into ground. Don’t plant the bulbs unless the ground is under 60 degrees F. The big surprise is when the tulips flower – and what comes up is not at all like the plant from which you harvested the seeds. Some tulips are hybrids, as opposed to specific species varieties, so get ready to be surprised.
- Smithsonian Magazine: There Never Was a Real Tulip Fever
- The National Gardening Association: Planting Tulips
- Tulip Festival Amsterdam: Why Do Tulips Grow So Well in Holland?
- The Garden of Eaden: How to Grow Species Tulips from Seed
A versatile writer, Jann enjoys research as well as doing the actual writing. A career in television writing, as a magazine editor and celebrity interviewer, Jann adapts to her environment, having traveled the world, living overseas and packing and unpacking her treasures for a new location over 30 times.
How to Plant Seeds From Tulip Pods. Tulips (Tulipa spp.) are most often grown from bulbs, though they can also be started from seed. The process of starting them from seeds is a long one, and the tulips will not bloom for four to six years from the time they are sown. When collected from hybrid tulips, the seeds will …
How Do Tulips Reproduce With Seeds?
Distinctive looking bold-colored blooms in late spring and summer make the tulip a popular flower to grow in the garden, in pots or in containers. Most gardeners grow tulips from bulbs, but you can grow this flower from seed too. You generally won’t get an exact replica of the parent plant from tulip seeds. Planting from seed, though, is a great way to discover new colors, scatter tulips across a field or fill in a large garden area with blooming tulips.
Bulbs vs. Seeds
Tulips self-propagate in two ways — from seed or from bulbs. Bulbs form around the base of the plant’s main bulb and grow to be clones of the parent plant. These bulbs lack genetic diversity, but make up for it in reliable self-propagation without reliance on a pollinator. Bulbs give home growers the advantage of reproducing an identical replica of the parent plant, which is desirable when you require certain characteristics in the tulips.
Seeds, Pollination and Genetic Diversity
Seeds form after the flowers have been pollinated and have faded. Tulips that grow from seed have the genetic information from two plants. When honeybees and other pollinators alight on one tulip plant, their legs are coated with pollen. When they travel to another plant, some of the pollen falls off. Growing tulips from seed allows you to maintain genetic diversity in the garden, and sometimes it leads to the discovery of exciting new colors in the tulip bed.
Seeds in the Wild
Tulips reproduce with seeds in the wild by scattering the seeds at the end of the flowering season. The seeds scatter naturally, falling on the ground around the base of the tulip plants. Wild tulips also reproduce from bulbs. Having two methods gives the plant a backup plan. If rain, picking or lack of pollinators fail to create viable seeds, the bulbs come up again in the spring. When seeds do germinate and grow, the population is strengthened by the genetic diversity in the colony.
Seeds in the Garden
Growing tulips from seed in the garden is simple. Just gather the seed heads after they ripen and dry on the plants in late summer and fall. Break open the seed heads and scatter them in the areas where you want new tulips. Scatter the seeds in garden beds, or in grassy areas for a naturalized look. Growing tulips from seed is less labor intensive than planting bulbs, but not as reliable either. Scatter lots of seeds and see what comes up. You might get some exciting new colors when the tulips grow in the spring.
- Science Daily: Tulips! Tulips! Tulips!
- North Dakota State University: History of the Tulip
- The Telegraph: How to Grow Tulips
Eulalia Palomo has been a professional writer since 2009. Prior to taking up writing full time she has worked as a landscape artist and organic gardener. Palomo holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University. She travels widely and has spent over six years living abroad.
How Do Tulips Reproduce With Seeds?. Distinctive looking bold-colored blooms in late spring and summer make the tulip a popular flower to grow in the garden, in pots or in containers. Most gardeners grow tulips from bulbs, but you can grow this flower from seed too. You generally won’t get an exact replica of the …