How do you stop tulip bulbs from sprouting prematurely?


 A pot of tulip bulbs kept in a dark cold cellar are sprouting. Should I bring it into the light and at what temperature?


Jonathan Foster, Community Education Assistant

Prematurely sprouting tulips is not an unheard of problem for gardeners overwintering bulbs, despite our best efforts at keeping things cold and dark

You’re correct that it’s way too soon to try dig the soil outside, but the foliage can withstand pretty cold temps. I would continue to keep the bulbs in as cool a place as possible (above freezing, but not too far from it) to try to return the bulbs to dormancy or at least slow the rate of growth until conditions are more favorable. If the leaves start to look yellow or sickly, or if they continue to grow larger, move them into some low to moderate light, but still at cool to moderate temperatures. Your goal is to slow things down while keeping the plants healthy until you can bring them out.

If all else fails, put them out in your house with light and warmth and enjoy unexpected house tulips.

It is possible that this could negatively impact their blooms this year, but it’s probably too soon to tell and you’ll have to wait until spring to know for sure. The bulbs themselves shouldn’t suffer permanent damage just from the early break in dormancy.