As someone who has spent decades growing flowers outdoors in a warmer climate (Zone 9b), I know the struggle of trying to get tulip bulbs to bloom properly. I was always frustrated with the short stems and small flowers that my bulbs would produce when planted outdoors. If you found this blog post it most likely sounds like you do too? Some seasons were better than others when we had a longer colder winter. But more often than not the tulips were too short, produced blind bulbs or just plain didn't grow. Some I tried to perennalize and others I would grow as cut flowers harvesting bulb and all season after season. After years of frustration growing lackluster tulips in my outdoor spaces, I found a method that works in my warm climate: pre-cooled bulbs.
When I first started experimenting with pre-cooling I tried to chill my bulbs in my home fridge, I found that the temperature and humidity were too inconsistent to maintain, leading to fungal diseases, moldy bulbs, and ultimately poor quality tulips with short stems. Then I sourced wholesale bulbs from some of the largest suppliers in Holland that were allegedly pre-cooled at (5c or 9c). Some performed as they should growing beautifully but many did not. I found that these were also inconsistent in quality, usually a 20-30% loss in bulbs that didn't grow each year - YIKES! I wanted better quality and consistency so I could successfully grow and sell the same amazing double, parrot and speciality varieties that the greenhouse commercial cut flower growers were.
'Menton' tulip bulbs growing in a raised bed outdoors - zone 9b.
Disappointed with the pre-cooled options from Holland I knew there had to be a better way for me to have quality tulip bulbs that were pre-cooled and ready for warm climate growers like myself. I had several coolers I used for storing bare root roses sitting unused in the summer and early fall months so I set out to modify and make them the perfect location to cool my own tulip bulbs. This gave me the control over the entire process so I could ensure temperature, bulb viability and quality were maintained. Armed with my Holland Bulb Forcers Guide, research from old gardening books and consultations with the largest cut flower tulip growers in the country, I spent several years perfecting my pre-cooling method for each variety, so each bulb gets just the right time cooling time to grow successfully outdoors in a warm climate.
Every year I pre-cool my own bulbs and plant them in November for cut flower production spring harvest March-May. (Learn more in our post What Are Pre-Cooled Tulip Bulbs.) The tulips are a shoulder season crop before our farm's main crop, garden rose, season begins. A few years ago, I had some extra bulbs left over with no space to plant. I took to social media and asked if anyone would be interested in buying some of my extra pre-cooled bulbs. The response from warm climate gardeners was overwhelming. We sold out in a day and shipped them off to gardens all across the country. Come spring the sweet messages came rolling in along with beautiful photos of tulips thriving in locations like Coastal Florida, South Texas, Arizona and with Valleys of California along with a plea to sell them again next year. I quickly realized that warm climate gardeners had the same issues growing & cooling tulips I experienced but didn't have four large commercial cooling units sitting in their backyards like I did! So the next year I sourced bulbs from my partner growers Holland to cool and sell as part of an expansion of my plant nursery's offerings. (Check out everything our nursery offers here - including our speciality garden roses!) The rest, as they say, is history and now pre-cooled bulbs are part of our nursery seasonal offerings every year making it easy for warm climate growers to plant and enjoy beautiful long stemmed healthy tulips.
My kids always enjoy planting and harvesting tulips with me. They love the annual contest to see who can grow the tallest tulip!
My goal in expanding the nursery with a collection of pre-cooled bulbs was to make it easy for growers, home gardeners - and kids too - to achieve beautiful outdoor blooms without the hassle of consulting complicated bulb forcing guides, grow lights, greenhouse structures or daily monitoring of the temperature & weather. I don't want you to have the same bad experiences trying to pre-cool your own bulbs unsuccessfully or buying from a supplier that isn't as concerned about quality. All of our bulbs are quality checked, hand sorted by and packed by hand by our nursery team here at the farm. With my pre-cooled bulbs, all you have to do is plant them outside and watch them grow!
With my careful variety selection and years of experience growing outdoors in zone 9b, you can be confident that our pre-cooled bulbs will grow and bloom beautifully, in any climate even in warmer growing zones 7b-11. I'm thrilled to present my pre-cooled bulb collection to warm climate flower farmers and home gardeners. Get ready to level up your gardening game and give them a try. You can shop my entire collection of pre-cooled bulbs here & find my favorite planting supplies on and on my ! Let's light up your spring garden with colorful tulips!