How to take care of tulips in a vase – 5 easy tricks experts swear by

Wondering how to take care of tulips in a vase? The best florists and garden experts offer top tips to inject life into your spring blooms

A bunch of tulips in a vase
(Image credit: Flower Council)

When it comes to gow to take care of tulips in a vase, if you do it well, you'll extend the lifespan of these beautiful flowers. These seasonal blooms are a tad delicate, and so can wilt sadly over the sides of your vase if not tended to properly. 

'Tulips love sunlight, so be sure to place them in a sunny spot if growing them indoors,' says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. 'Do not overwater them, but instead keep lightly moist as they start to sprout.'

Light apart, these blooms need specific care in terms of watering, vase shape, and location. To know more, take a look at these tips by top experts for one of the best flowers for cut floral arrangements

1. Choose the right vase

A bunch of tulips in a multicolored, large vase

(Image credit: Flower Council)

Vases aren't all about aesthetics. Sure you want a vase to look lovely, but they also have to provide the right environment for your flowers. For the longest lasting flowers, you want to choose a vase that is at least half the height of the flowers to support them. You don't want it to be too narrow either so the vase is crowded. Ensure each stem has enough room and the leaves aren't getting crushed.  

'My preferred vase shape for tulips is slightly tapered inward toward the top which gives some added support to the stems before they billow outward with their lovely blooms,' says Kat Aul Cervoni. 'Behind that inward taper, various shapes such as round, oval, or even a pitcher-style vase will work beautifully. Keep in mind that your tulips will continue to grow after they've been placed in their vase, so it should be deep enough to support the added length they’ll take.'

2. Trim your tulips and give them a long drink

Tulips placed in a glass vase, placed next to a window

(Image credit: Alamy)

'My tip for tulips is to provide them with a really good environment before they are placed into a vase – often by the time you receive your tulips/bring them home, they will have been out of water for a number of hours and might be a little droopy,' explains florist Philippa Craddock. 'When decorating with flowers, you want to carefully unwrap and remove any damaged leaves, place back onto the same paper, ensuring each stem is straight, wrap back up tightly, and cut approx. 2cm of the base of the stems. Plunge the wrapped bundle into a bucket of deep tepid water. Let them drink ideally overnight, or at least for a few hours.'

This is a great trick for how to keep cut flowers looking fresh. 'As the tulips rehydrate, they will draw water up their stems and become rigid, retaining the shape they are in, hence straightening the stems before their drink,' says Philippa. 'Once fully hydrated, they are ready to arrange into a vase. Ideally, select a vase with a slightly tapered neck, as this helps to support the stems.  Enjoy your tulips as they continue to grow (they are one of the only cut flowers to continue growing once cut) and take on dance-like shapes, with the stems twisting and turning. Refresh the water and clean the vase, every other day.'

3. Move your vase around to keep tulips straight

A living room with tulips in a vase

(Image credit: March Kirsten Francis)

Tulips also make for wonderful window box decor, but the main issue (or beauty?) with keeping tulips inside is that they are one of the very few plants that continue to grow even after they have been cut from their bulbs – meaning they move. 'Tulips are one of the very few flowers that grow in length,' says Kielly Blackman-Young, director of Floristry at Lavender Green Flowers. 'With that in mind, always cut them shorter than you think when you arrange them in your vase otherwise they will look messy as they grow.'

'Location makes a difference,' says Kat. 'Tulips will grow and lean towards the sun, so keeping them away from strong sunlight will help. Rotating them will also help them straighten up. Cut their stems at a 45-degree angle before placing them in their vase. Keep water fresh and cold, which will help them last longer.'

4. Try the penny trick

Colorful vases with tulips inside them

(Image credit: Flower Council)

This might sound a little unbelievable but for a while it was a tried and tested trick for keeping cut flowers looking fresh. By dropping a penny into the vase, people would ensure the flowers always looked fresh and stood up straight. The science? Copper is a natural fungicide, capable of killing bacteria build-up in water which can make your flowers die quicker. By placing a penny (or another material containing copper) into your flowers' water, you can help keep them fresher for longer. 

Sadly though, this ingenious technique is no longer practiced. Only coins produced before 1982 contained enough copper to keep your flowers in bloom, as this was the year that the US mint started to make them out of copper-plated zinc instead of pure copper. But the sustainable plant pot brand POTR's co-founder, Andrew Flynn has come up with a solution. He's designing a self-cleansing, flat-pack vase with a copper rod to improve the lifespan of your floral arrangements.  The POTR copper stem can be kept with the flower stems, and it acts as an antimicrobial rod, utilizing the natural fungicidal properties of copper to extend the life of your flowers.

'For the process to work, a pure grade of copper is required to effectively neutralize bacteria,' says Andrew. 'The Copper Stem is engineered from 95% pure copper ensuring the anti-microbial process works effectively.'

5. Store your tulips in a darkened room 

'Because tulips keep growing in their vase, you’ll find they playfully move around in the water. It’s part of their charm and nothing to worry about!' explains Caroline Grimble, lead florist at Bloom & Wild.

'But if you want your tulips to stand up straight for a dinner party or special occasion, I recommend taking them out of their vase, tightly wrapping them with newspaper into a cone shape, popping them back in water, and keeping them in a dark room overnight,' says Caroline. 'When you unwrap them in the morning, they’ll be perfect! Then remember to rotate your vase throughout to prevent them growing one way towards the light.'

How long do potted tulips last?

If you're keen to keep your tulips in pots and vases, do keep in mind that these take 8-10 weeks to bloom and last for 15 to 30 days after blooming. If well taken care of, they can last several weeks to several months. 

How often do you water tulips in pots?

For your potted tulips, it's best to water them once per week for the first month after planting. During springtime, leave these be till the leaves appear, and then start watering them again.

Do tulip bulbs multiply?

They do, but the tulips will need a full year's growth to start multiplying and spreading. This will ideally happen during their first bloom, and the baby bulbs will sprout from the main tulip root.

Hebe Hatton

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.