Bone Meal for Tulip

Bone Meal for Tulip- Is it Really Necessary?

The necessity of bone meals for proper growth of tulips has been debatable for years. It’s seen that there are a bunch of different opinions regarding this issue all over the internet!

Many say that bone meals are an absolute necessity while others beg to differ.

So the real question is, Are bone meal for tulips really necessary?

Bone meal is only necessary to use if soil lacks phosphorus. If phosphorus is below 25 ppm, bone meal can be used. But, excess bone meal can cost essential parts of tulips to not grow.

Well, these were just the tip of the iceberg. They’re a bunch of other crucial factors that need consideration to illustrate whether bone meal should be applied or not.

We’ll discuss them in detail in our article. So what are you waiting for? Let’s dig in!

What is Bone Meal?

Bone meal is basically a mixture grinded animal bones and by-products of the slaughterhouse. 

Why is it so famous among gardeners? Well, that’s because it mainly contains high levels of phosphorus and calcium. Yes, you guessed it right, it is used as an organic fertilizer.

The sole purpose of adding bone meal to the ground is to meet the deficiency of phosphorus in the soil. There is no additional value that it brings apart from this one.

Here, you can check out some of the bone meals that are available online.

Mythbusting: Is Bone Meal Actually Needed for Tulips? 

No. Bone meal is not essential for tulips in general circumstances. However, this is only essential if your soil lacks phosphorus. When the Phosphorus level in your soil is below 25 ppm, you can use bone meal in order to increase phosphorus levels.

Using bone meal has been a tradition for decades as soil supplements. But buckle up to hear some unpleasant facts about adding bone meal.

Every other website suggests that bone meal is an absolute darling as soil supplements. They focus heavily on the fact that bone meals enhance root simulations to grow roots. And everyone seems to buy it.

However, this myth is a result of the presence of Mycorrhizal fungus. When there’s little phosphorus in the soil, the tip of the roots exudes organic acids. This in turn causes Mycorrhizae fungi to penetrate through these tips.

They, in turn, form a complex structure that helps the plants absorb minerals and water. 

But when phosphorus supplements such as bone meal are added, it increases the phosphorus level at extreme levels if not monitored. This hinders the Mycorrhizae fungi from penetrating and lessens the ability to absorb minerals and water.

This forces the plants to grow out roots to absorb water and minerals. But there’s a cost for this. The nutrients supplied to the roots are taken from some other prominent part of the plant. So, there’s less growth of the plants if excess bone meal is added.

So the bottom line is, you should use bone meal only if your soil lacks phosphorus. Not only this, the phosphorus level should also be monitored often. They should never ever exceed more than 50 ppm. Otherwise, there will be consequences.

When and How to Apply Bone Meal for Tulips?

Bone meal doesn’t add any nutritional value to the tulips. They will not have miraculous growth or the colors won’t become more vibrant upon using bone meals. 

But phosphorus is essential for the normal growth of tulips. So the soil must have an adequate amount of phosphorus in it.

Source: Twitter

Ideal Time to Apply Bone Meal

There’s a misconception that you should apply bone meal for tulips 3 weeks prior to planting bulbs.

But this is unnecessary for 2 reasons-

  • Bone meals take a minimum of 4 months to truly break down into the soil. So applying them 3 weeks before planting won’t do any good.
  • The first batch of tulip bulbs already come packed with everything they need to grow. So whether your soil lacks phosphorus or not, will not affect them.

So what is the ideal time to plant bone meals?

It is suggested that you apply bone meal in the next season of planting your tulip bulbs. This is given the fact that your soil is facing phosphorus deficiency.  

The bone meal won’t help much in the first season because it takes time to break down. Also, the first batch of bulbs already has enough energy to bloom.

So wait until the spring-blooming tulips have finished blooming and you can see the green leaves.

Ideal Quantity to Apply Bone Meal

Now that you know when to apply bone meal, you might be wondering what amount of bone meal to apply?

You should apply 0.25 oz of bone meal for a standard container pot of 18*15 inches. Keep in mind that excess bone meal causes an excess amount of phosphorus in the soil. And from what we discussed in the myth-busting segment, excess phosphorus is the last thing you need.

To apply bone meal, follow these steps-

  • In order to apply bone meal, scratch them in the soil. Do not apply them directly over the bulbs. This won’t do any good to them. 
  • As said earlier, apply .25 oz of bone meal for 18*15 inches of container soil
  • Turn the soil evenly before and after applying bone meal. This will protect the bulbs from having a chunk of bone meals at their disposal. Place them 3-4 inches under the bulbs so that the roots can gather the phosphorus from the soil while growing.

The ideal range of NPK(Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) analysis in bone meal varies from 0-12-0 to 3-20-0. It adds no level of potassium in the soil, rather an abundant amount of phosphorus.

Here’s our recommendation for bone meal packs you can apply-

Are There Benefits of Applying Bone Meal in Tulip?

We’ve discussed the long-term harmful effects of applying too much bone meal for tulips.

But, that doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely no benefit to having just enough bone meals( phosphorus, calcium) for their natural growth. 

Remember that having just enough phosphorus in the soil is essential for the growth of tulips. And bone meals have the sole purpose of doing that.

Benefits from Calcium

Calcium is an essential component for the proper growth of tulips. It helps the formation of the cell membrane of the new cells. It also keeps the existing cell membranes strong and healthy.

Bone meals being a ground mixture of bones and waste products, are rich in calcium. So it helps in the normal growth of tulips. However, if your plants facing calcium deficiencies only try out these calcium supplements.

Benefits from Phosphorus 

The benefits of phosphorus in the soil require no additional addressing. It is the key element for having the normal growth of tulips.

But it’s to keep in mind that this won’t help the tulips in an unnatural way. The required amount of phosphorus in the soil will help in the normal growth of tulips.

In addition to this, phosphorus plays a vital role in photosynthesis, seed production, flower production, energy transfer, and others. 

Can Bone Meal Harm Your Tulips?

Well, an excess amount of bone meals will surely harm tulips in the long run. Excess bone meal means excess phosphorus. An excess amount of phosphorus is indeed harmful.

Most people say that an excessive amount of phosphorus won’t harm the tulips. However, this is not right. 

Excess phosphorus causes the roots to grow at an abnormal rate. 

How is this possible? 

The nutrients that would have helped excel other parts of the plants like the leaves are used up in the roots. 

So this is a cost to be paid for using excess bone meal. In order to keep the phosphorus level below 25 ppm, you need to do weekly soil tests.

Here’s our recommendation for phosphorus testing kits you can use at home-

You can either choose the digital or the manual test kit as you please.

What to Do When Excess Bone Meal is Applied?

It’s possible that you have applied bone meal in the soil for a long time due to a lack of knowledge. Although this is harmful, don’t panic yet.

Bone meal, compared to rock phosphate and other fertilizers, is an excellent one. But excess of it is bad for obvious reasons. You can know if your soil has an excess amount of bone meal applied by checking the phosphorus levels. If you see only a little bit more phosphorus than required, simple discontinuation of bone meal will do the trick.

However, if you see that phosphorus levels are a lot higher( way above 50 ppm like 70/80), you can use certain fertilizers to tie it down. 

These fertilizers include-

In addition to this, you can also use nitrogen-fixing plants in order to increase nitrogen levels. This won’t increase phosphorus but will take the soil back to normal levels

Best Season to Plant Tulips

The best season to plant Tulips is fall. Tulip bulbs need a chilling period to bloom. 

So, the soil needs to be cooled after the summer season before you can plant tulip bulbs. In addition to this, the temperature should be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thus, if the soil temperature does not go below 60 F, you need to buy pre-cooled bulbs.

It’s widely suggested that the best time to plant tulips is October. By the time they bloom, it’ll be around May. This gives the roots enough time to grow before the soil freezes. However, if the soil doesn’t freeze, you can plant them in late November/December.


Now we’ll be discussing some of the most commonly asked questions regarding bone meals.

Is Bone Meal Good for Tulips?

Bone meal is good for tulips when there’s a lack of phosphorus in the soil. Bone meals are an excellent source for increasing the phosphorus levels to the required amount. In addition to this, phosphorus helps in photosynthesis, seed and flower production, transport of essential minerals and others.

Can You Give Plants Too Much Bone Meal?

No. An excess of bone meals in soil will harm the plants. Excess bone meal accounts for excess phosphorus. And an excess amount of phosphorus will take nutrients from essential parts and transfer it to the roots. This will enhance the roots but with a cost to be paid.

How Fast Does Bone Meal Work?

Bone meal needs a minimum of 4 months to be broken down in soil. However, this fact differs. Some say that it needs an entire year for bone meals to work whereas some say that it needs ⅔ years.

Will Bone Meal Attract Animals 

Yes. Bone meal attracts a great deal of animals into your garden. This includes raccoons, dogs, and other carnivores. Bone meal being a ground mixture of bone and waste products attract these animals to intrude.


We hope we’ve been able to enlighten you on the necessity of bone meal for tulips.

To sum up, bone meals are only necessary if you find that the soil is lacking phosphorus. The hack here is to check the phosphorus levels often. Also keep in mind that under no circumstance the phosphorus levels exceed the required amount.

Thank you for staying with us till the end. Let us know if you have any queries in the comment section!


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