Knowing how to dig up tulip bulbs properly will make them last a long time, so they will blossom every spring. Like other spring flowers, tulip bulbs have a growth span each season before they become dormant for the fall and winter. Removing the bulbs from the ground and storing them inside will also keep squirrels from digging them up and eating them.
Step 1 - Prune Tulips Before Bulb Removal
Tulips will continue to blossom through the summer months. Once they have started to die out, the green leaves and stems must be removed from the plant. Use a pair of garden scissors or shears to cut off the leaves and stems from the base of the plant, cutting as close to the ground as possible. Removal of the greenery will also help the bulbs grow more blooms the following spring.
Step 2 - Dig up the Tulip Bulbs
Use a hand garden shovel to dig out the bulbs. Don't try to lift the bulbs out of the soil using the shovel. Gradually loosen up the dirt with the shovel in and around each bulb. When the soil is loose enough, reach into the soil to locate the exact position of each bulb. Gently brush away the layer of soil covering each bulb with your hands. Always wear gardening gloves for this job.
When you have the bulbs exposed to the air, dig underneath each one using your fingers. Gather up the roots underneath and loosen it from the soil. This will prevent the roots from being damaged. Remove each tulip bulb slowly. Avoid yanking the bulbs, as this will cause damage to the roots.
Step 3 - Clean the Tulip Bulbs
Wash each bulb to remove excess dirt. The easiest way to wash them is in a large bowl of lukewarm water. Let the bulbs soak for an hour to loosen the dirt. Don't use a brush or any other object to remove the dirt from the bulbs, as this can damage the exterior and the roots. After an hour, remove the bulbs and place them in a colander. Use a light spray of water to remove any leftover dirt on the bulbs. Once the dirt is removed, they can be laid out to dry.
Step 4 - Dry the Tulip Bulbs
Set out the tulip bulbs on several layers of paper towels. With a pair of scissors, remove any remaining green foliage on the bulbs. Allow the bulbs to dry in a sunny place, either inside or outside in an enclosed area. Place the bulbs on a table or tray and dry them for a week.
Step 5 - Store Dry Tulip Bulbs
Once your tulip bulbs have dried, you can store them in a mesh bag. The tulip bulbs should be in good condition, but if any have started to rot, throw those out. Keep the tulip bulbs in a cool, dry place over the winter season.