How to Arrange Tulips

Four Methods:Choosing and Preparing TulipsCreating Tulip ArrangementsCreating Single Tulip DisplaysCaring for Tulips

The right tulip arrangement can brighten any room. When making such an arrangement, you'll need to make choices concerning the color of your tulips, the size of the bouquet, and the type of container you wish to display it in. Tulips that are taken care of properly can remain vibrant for a little longer than one week.

Part 1
Choosing and Preparing Tulips

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    Determine how many tulips to purchase. The right amount will depend on the sort of display you want to create. Large arrangements require 8 to 12 tulips, but smaller arrangements may only need three to six. You can also display single tulips.
    • It may also help to know which vase or container you plan to use before purchasing your tulips. Ideally, the tulip stems should fit snugly inside the mouth of the container without being squeezed together.
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    Choose an ideal color. Tulips come in a fairly wide range of colors, and your arrangement can include one or more of these colors.
    • For home decor purposes, most people prefer to choose colors that coordinate well with the colors of the room. You can use tulips to draw out an accent color already in the room or to add contrast to the colors of that room. For instance, red tulips might look nice in a bedroom with red throw pillows and neutral walls. On the other hand, bright orange tulips can add a pleasant splash of complementary contrast to a room decorated in nothing but shades of blue.
    • Another option is to choose the color based on meaning. In the language of flowers, each tulip color carries a slightly different meaning.[1]
      • Red tulips are a declaration of love and mean "please believe me."
      • Yellow tulips once signified hopeless love but now state, "there's sunshine in your smile."
      • White tulips can symbolize forgiveness, heaven, novelty, and purity.
      • Cream tulips say, "I will love you forever."
      • Purple tulips symbolize wealth and royalty.
      • Pink tulips symbolize deep affection.
      • Orange tulips stand for energy, desire, and passion.
      • Variegated tulips state, "you have beautiful eyes."
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    Take tulips that are still closed. Your tulip arrangement will last longer if you start with tulips that still have closed buds with only a hint of color showing—just enough to let you see what color you're actually purchasing.
    • Tulips that have already begun opening can still create a nice display for a day or two, but since they're further along in their lifecycle, these tulips will not last as long in an arrangement.
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    Trim the stems under running water.[2] Use a sharp, clean knife to cut the bottom 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25 to 2.5 cm) of each stem. The cut should be made diagonally so that the stems can draw up more water.
    • As stems dry, they gradually close up, restricting their ability to draw in water. Making a fresh cut re-opens the stem and makes it easier for the tulip to drink.
    • You can lay the tulips flat as you do this, but cutting the stems under still or running water is recommended to prevent air from entering the fresh cut and blocking the water channels inside the stem.
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    Remove most of the leaves. At minimum, you should remove the bottom leaf of each stem. You can remove more leaves, as desired, to change the appearance of the arrangement.
    • When creating medium to large arrangements, you'll usually want to remove all but the top leaf from each stem. The single leaf provides just enough volume and greenery to make the arrangement look full, but too many leaves can distract from the appearance of the tulip blossoms.
    • Any leaves you leave behind should be inspected for dirt. Brush or wash away any hidden debris trapped along the inside of the leaves.
    • To remove the leaves, simply pull each leaf back and gently peel it off the stem.
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    Straighten them out. Before arranging your tulips, it can be a good idea to train the stems so that they stand strong and upright.[3]
    • Roll the bouquet of tulips in a snug newspaper or wax paper cone. The paper should rise above the tops of the tulips, but roughly one-third of the lower stems should be left uncovered.
    • Place the wrapped bouquet in a clean container of cool water. The water should be deep enough to cover the exposed stems.
    • Let the tulips remain in this position for one or two hours. Afterward, remove them from the paper cone and arrange as desired.
    • Note that you can also do this periodically throughout the lifespan of the tulips once they start drooping inside their arrangement.

Part 2
Creating Tulip Arrangements

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    Choose a container. Tulips can look great in wide range of containers. You can use a traditional vase or experiment with a recycled option.[4]
    • Keep the size in mind when selecting a container. Large arrangements do best in containers that are tall and wide, while smaller arrangements are best when constrained in short or narrow containers.
    • Consider using a crystal, metal, or opaque ceramic vase.
    • If you'd like something more rustic, reuse a container once meant for something else. A few good options include large mason jars, tin cans, pitchers, plastic tumblers, and teapots.
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    Clean the container. Clean your chosen container with hot water and soap, then rinse it well to remove any residue.
    • Bacteria can significantly shorten the lifespan of cut tulips, so it's crucial to start with a clean container if you want your tulips to live past a few days.
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    Fill with lukewarm water. Roughly three-quarters of the container should be filled with mildly cool to lukewarm water.
    • The stems draw lukewarm water up more readily than ice cold water, so if you want to keep the tulips healthy, room temperature water is your best option.
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    Trim the tulips for height, if necessary. For the vast majority of tulip arrangements, you should trim the stems so that roughly two-thirds of the stem height remains constrained by the vase.[5]
    • This height makes use of the natural arc of the stem.
    • For large arrangements, you'll want the tulips to hit about 5 inches (12.7 cm) above the rim of the container. For medium and small arrangements, you'll need to keep about 4 inches (10 cm) above the rim.
    • As before, trim the stems under running water with a clean, sharp knife.
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    Line the border.[6] Place two-thirds to three-quarters of your tulips around the perimeter of the container.
    • You can situate the stems so that they are standing straight up, or you can crisscross them in the basin of the container to create an interlocking web that will hold the stems in place. The former will keep the tulips upright while the latter will cause the tulips to tilt outward.
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    Fill in the center. Use the remaining tulips to fill in the space at the center of the container. Space them apart as evenly as possible.
    • If the outer tulips are angled, the inner ones should be placed at a slight angle, too.
    • Likewise, if the outer tulips are straight and upright, the inner ones should also be upright.
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    Give the arrangement a twist. If you placed the stems in an upright position, grab the portion just above the mouth of the container with both hands and rotate the top of the stems slightly to one side.[7]
    • Doing this will cause the tulips to fan out gently without bending the stems. The effect will be less dramatic than stems placed at a crisscross, though, which means there will also be less stress on the stems themselves.

Part 3
Creating Single Tulip Displays

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    Pick a container. Single tulip displays can work well in a range of containers, too, but the containers either be very narrow or very short.
    • A single bud vase would work well as a more traditional option, or you can look for a tall, narrow cylinder vase that extends above the height of the entire tulip. Make sure that the vase is skinny enough for the tulip to fit snugly; otherwise, the flower will flop around inside.
    • Glass bottles with narrow mouths can be a good option if you want to go the recycled, rustic route. Teacups, baby food jars, and tiny tin cans are a few other options.
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    Clean it thoroughly. Use hot, soapy water to thoroughly clean out any dirt and debris from your chosen container. Rinse it with clean, running water when done to remove any soap residue.
    • Bacteria in the vase or water will cause the tulips to die significantly faster than they would in a clean vase.
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    Fill the container with water. Fill the container with enough water to cover anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of the tulip stem.
    • The height of your chosen container will somewhat determine how full you can make it.
      • Tall, skinny containers should be filled to cover roughly three-quarters of the tulip stem.
      • A short, wide container may not extend that far along the height of the stem, but you should try to keep at least half of the stem submerged to avoid dehydrating the tulip.
    • Use lukewarm water since tulips are able to draw it up more easily than ice cold water.
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    Trim the stems down further, if necessary. The exact stem height you'll need for your single tulip display will depend on the type of container used.
    • When using a tall, narrow container meant to enclose the entire tulip, a longer stem will look nicer than a shorter step. The idea is to keep the tulip under the rim of the container without having too much empty glass above it.
    • For standard, narrow bud vases, keep two-thirds to three-quarters of the stem constrained by the vase.
    • If using a wide, short container, the depth of the container should be no less than half the height of the tulip stem.
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    Sit the tulip inside. Place the tulip inside the container and adjust as needed.
    • Tulips will always droop a little, but this drooping should be minimal if you are using a tall, narrow container.
    • When using a wide, short container, position the tulip so that the stem crosses diagonally from the bottom of one side to the top of the opposite side. The soft stem will droop some, but that is usually part of the appeal in this type of display.

Part 4
Caring for Tulips

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    Consider adding plant food. There is some debate regarding how helpful floral preservatives are when arranging cut tulips. While some argue that tulips do not need powdered plant food, there is no evidence to suggest that this preservative will hurt the flowers, so you can add it as a precaution if desired.
    • Floral preservative can be purchased at nearly any floral shop. Some may even come with your tulips when you buy them.
    • Sprinkle the preservative in the water and let it dissolve before arranging your tulips. Add more preservative each time you change the water.
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    Place the tulips away from sources of significant heat. This includes direct sunlight, radiators, stoves, lamps, and television sets.
    • Heat can cause the tulips to run through their lifespan at a more rapid pace. As a result, your arrangement will not last as long as it otherwise could.
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    Refill the water. Tulips are heavy drinkers, so you should check the water level twice a day and add fresh water at least once a day.
    • To improve the health of your tulips, it is wise to completely change the water every three or four days. Changing the water as soon as it starts to look cloudy minimizes the amount of bacteria in the water, thereby increasing the overall lifespan of your flowers.
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    Trim every few days. Each time you change the water, you should also trim the bottom 1/4 inch (6 mm) of the stem using a sharp, clean knife.
    • Regularly trimming more off the bottom of the stem removes decayed stem that could otherwise block the rest of the healthy, active water uptake channels. As a result, the stems can draw water up more easily and for a longer period of time.
    • Keep the stems submerged under water while cutting them.


  • Do not place tulips in arrangements containing daffodils or other flowers of the Narcissus species. These flowers produce a sap that can clog the water uptake channels of your tulip stems, thereby causing the tulips to die quicker.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 to 12 tulips
  • Sharp, clean knife or scissors
  • Newspaper
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Vase or other container
  • Floral preservative (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Flower Arranging and Floral Art