moving flower bulbs

Moving Flower Bulbs: When To Do It and When It’s Best Not To

I get asked all the time about moving flower bulbs so here are the general rules of thumb.

potted tulips
Photo by Amber Maxwell Boydell on Unsplash

If The Bulb Is In A Pot

If the bulb is fully grown, in soil, in the pot, then it can be moved at any time. Take it out of the pot and plant it at the same depth as it was in the pot – in other words, the soil in the pot should be at ground level.

Do not do this if there is a danger of frost and your bulb has been greenhouse grown.  It will be “burned” by the frost.  Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting outdoors.

While growing it in the pot, give it full sunshine, feed at least once a week with a houseplant fertilizer and water whenever your finger comes away dry if you touch the soil.

Moving Bulbs In Your Garden

If the bulb is in the garden and you have an insane desire to move it (maybe you’re moving and want to take a few hundred tulips along for the ride) then the rules are slightly different.

(By the way, if you’re selling your house, you should check on your legal sales agreement before moving flowers, sometimes you can’t. If selling it is always a good idea to have it written into the agreement that you can move plants.)

Can You Move A Bulb If It’s In Bloom?

This is not a good idea – sorry to say. The flower will start to fade with the shock. And it will be a very sorry sight – very quickly.

Moving Spring Blooming Bulbs

You can move spring-blooming flower bulbs immediately after they bloom if you do it:

  1. carefully and
  2. replant them as soon as possible at the same depth as they were in the original planting spot.

They won’t like it but if you replant at the same depth, they will likely survive. They may sulk for a year (not throw a flower the following spring) but will then recover for subsequent years.

Moving spring bulbs before they bloom is a tricky operation because the bulbs are actively growing buds at this time and they’re usually quicker off the mark than you are.

You can do it but expect to lose more bulbs along with the flowers.

I have moved just about every plant in my garden out of season at one time or other and if you do it carefully, without disturbing the roots too much you can try. Just understand that you may lose spring bulbs this way.

Photo by Amber Maxwell Boydell on Unsplash

It’s a Waste of Time to Transplant Tulips

Let me inject a note of honesty here about moving tulips.

In general, it’s a waste of time to move a tulip   This bulb generally is a short-blooming bulb – 2-3 years in most gardens – so moving it shocks it and you won’t get many flowers from them.  Not worth the labor in my opinion.

And once a tulip stops blooming, it will not come back.

Moving Summer Flowering Bulbs

Moving flower bulbs like summer flowering lilies (or other summer flowering bulbs) follows the same guidelines. Dig them early enough in the spring. Again, they’re not pleased by this but they’ll survive and you’ll rarely lose a season’s bloom if you get them early.

If actively growing above the ground, it is best to wait until after they finish flowering and the leaves start to fade.

They can be easily moved in the fall when they are dormant.

There are more flower bulb posts here

Another Factor Not Many Folks Who Love Flower Bulbs Consider

The cost of bulbs is relatively low for the flowers they produce. In the course of moving, you have enough to do and worry about. And moving a few flower bulbs just wouldn’t be high on my list given the number of other things I’d need to do.

The cost to replace them with bulbs in your new garden is low.

And with a new garden, you get to experiment with new bulbs and flower opportunities.

You can get many of your flower bulbs questions answered here.

6 thoughts on “Moving Flower Bulbs: When To Do It and When It’s Best Not To”

  1. Your bulb advice was helpful. I’m having to move 2 huge flower beds due to essential house alterations. I’ve moved just about everything so far but left the tulips, daffodils and iris’s as I figured they would flower before the diggers arrive! I’ve found mixed advice on moving these. Some say move the daffodils after the flower and stem have died back. Recent advice on a popular TV show suggests cutting the tulip stem, dig up the bulb, leave in a cool dry place and replant next autumn. Not sure about the Iris though. It is a beautiful plant, has sentimental value so don’t want to lose it. Any advice?

  2. Assuming you’re asking about the common Iris (rhizome). Iris – can be moved easily in the early spring. Move to temporary bed in spring and move back to permanent bed in fall. But if you’re asking about bulbous Iris – the answer is the same as for other bulbs – walk away and leave them be.

  3. I live on a farm in the middle of thousands of acres in central, VA. I thought we were far away enough from most destructive elements of my new flower beds. On May 1, 21, a gigantic, loose dog, (from a far away farm), decided to pay a visit, he ran through a new bed of sprouting bulbs, breaking about a dozen+ of them. All breaks are clean and horizontal.
    About .5 to 1” stem remains above the soil, lilies, hyacinth, etc. May 1, 2021, the broken bulbs, were 2.5”-3” tall. Should I just leave them alone or, dig them out, dry, chill in fridge or freezer, replant in hopes they will regrow, this year? If I do nothing, (where they are), there will be blank spots in my awesome new bed of bulbs. I am not allotted any more money this year to buy more, bulbs, fences, etc. I put in over 150 bulbs of all kinds around the farm, (200+ veggie garden plants), plus soil, fertilizers, lime, etc. I bought 100 pieces decorative wire fences surrounding the other beds, (to keep my old cat from digging and or, pottying in). No fence is around this one bed, as it’s in the front of house where cat won’t potty in for her privacy issues. I know this seems petty to try to save and replant for this year, but it was all so much time, labor and $. I’d like to be able to help those poor baby bulbs, who through no fault of their own were molested by a, (Big foot), a Bouvier de Flanders. Thank you in advance for any advice.


  4. My .02 is to leave them alone. Digging and storing isn’t going to get more energy into the bulb to help it survive. Survival depends on the size of the bulb and how much energy it has. I’ve had this happen and the bulb come back to flower again. If you have tulips, they’re likely toast for blooming again but the ones you mention should be fine if they were a good size bulb to begin with. But yes, it’s a pain in the anatomy when this happens…

  5. My tulips were done with the flowering but because the squirrels (and other animals) keep digging up the bulbs, I plan to put some mesh on top of the flower beds. I had to dig up the bulbs to repair the garden. Can I put them back in the ground now or do I have to wait until the fall?

  6. My .02 is not likely going to be popular but if you dug up your tulips before the leaves turned yellow, they won’t flower again. They tend to stop flowering anyway in a regular garden setting after a year or two. I’d toss those and buy new ones next fall.

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