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Tulip Bulbs as gifts for US citizens

We are going in and out of Amsterdam's airport in September and we would like to bring back Tulip bulbs as gifts. Can anyone comment on whether we need to buy them prior to Duty Free and if they are allowed by US customs? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Jan

Posted by
1167 posts

If you do a search for "US customs tulip bulbs" you will get a bunch of links to the info you need.

Posted by
408 posts

I've brought back numerous packages of tulips but I've always bought the ones that are "approved" to take to the US. I've never had any one look at them or seem the least bit interested in them when going through immigration/customs. They all bloomed and are beautiful. Be sure to keep some for yourself.

Posted by
11458 posts

You can bring them in but they must have a certificate proving they are pest free.

Don't forget to declare them or you could not only have them taken away but you could also be fined.

Posted by
3313 posts

Samuel said:

You'll find the "approved" bulbs all over the place. Its no problem bringing them back home with you.

It's a huge problem. You must absolutely declare that you have the bulbs to the agricultural inspectors at the airport when you arrive. This is not customs. It's a separate check station staffed by agents of the Department of Agriculture.

I've posted on this board on this subject many times because I don't think many Americans who live in our major cities or suburbs appreciate how big an issue this is. Alice Waters, the creator of Chez Panisse, has written about how clever she thinks she was because she smuggled foreign seeds past the agricultural inspectors.

Sure, no one will know if you fail to declare a few bulbs. But the potential consequence from invasive insects or fungi here can be huge. In Oregon, we have many wine growers who lose their plants to invasive pests and disease. It's not something to take lightly.

If you buy bulbs in the Netherlands, please declare them when you arrive. And don't be surprised if they're confiscated, notwithstanding any "approved" labels you might see when you buy them.

Sorry to be a downer, but this is a very serious issue for our farms and orchards.

Posted by
408 posts

Okay, I don't know if some people are being critical because they are worried about bulbs or the fact that they think that ian and Samuel are really Steve (which I do too)but the fact is that before I bought bulbs I checked which ones were okay to bring back just as I checked which cheeses were okay. I declared both of them as I entered the US and the only thing that they were concerned with was the cheese. The bulbs have obviously been cleaned and because of that I have heard that they would not produce flowers. They are planted right along side my grape vines and everything is growing quite well and this year and I have had tulips and grapes.

Jan - I would never want to bring anything into my yard that I thought would hurt my plants or anyone elses. Buy the ones that are approved for the US, declare them when you come back to the US and enjoy them along with the friends you give them to.

Posted by
100 posts

Hello from Maui-We will be traveling to Amsterdam in June 2011 and are interested in bringing back a couple "approved" tulip bulbs. Are they easy to find that time of year? Would you go to a florist to get them or are they available in regular gift/souvenir shops, etc.? Thanks in advance.

Posted by
8997 posts

The approved bulbs are sold in lots of touristy places throughout the city, and even inside the airport. The most popular place to get them is at the floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt)inside the city center:

map

Posted by
100 posts

Thanks, Michael! It sounds like an interesting place to check out, thanks for taking the time to post the tip!

Posted by
8515 posts

The rabbits and deer in our garden loved the tulips we were given as a gift also. mmmm

Posted by
1014 posts

If you want to give friends tulips from Amsterdam, then go to the market and have them ship them to your friends, or to you and you give them out when you get back. They will do bulb shipping from there. Saves luggage space and quarantine problems.

Posted by
4743 posts

I brought some tulips back from Amsterdam last year. I did not have to go through a separate agricultural check as Doug stated (I flew into Washington Dulles ... don't know if California is different). I simply listed them on my customs form. When I got to customs, they made me take the bulbs out of my bag and show the import certificate. You can find tulips for sale in Schipol. The key thing is to make sure that the tulip bulbs that you buy have the certificate that allows you to bring them to the U.S. To be honest, I don't think I would bother in the future. The tulip bulbs that I bought at my local garden shop turned out to be nicer than the ones I brought back from the Netherlands.

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks all. I appreciate your responses! I will let you know how it goes in about a month when I return. Jan

Posted by
11978 posts

The bad thing about tulips in California is you have to dig them up in the winter and put them in the freezer or they will only grow one year. Tulips need the winter to go dormant before starting a new growing season. The good thing is some California gardeners get multiple "seasons" each year by using the freezer as a short winter. As has been said, diseases carelessly brought into the country have caused millions upon millions of crop damage. Be sure to declare your bulbs so they can be checked and cleared.

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks Brad and all: I will only bring in bulbs that are approved and inspected. I have a sister in law in Arkansas who is a master gardener and another sister in law who lives in Half Moon Bay...They will enjoy them I know, even for one season. Appreciate your comments.

Posted by
552 posts

Please consider that the airport is the WORST place to buy flower bulbs, or cheese for that matter. Way overpriced! It's not as adorable as telling friends you've brought them home from your travels, but a great place to find top-quality bulbs at a good price is Costco. They even beat some wholesale internet prices on purchases of less than 200-300 bulbs or so. Also, do a little research as to the best variety for the climate zone. In Newport Beach, that means late blooming, long-stemmed cultivars like Darwin Hybrids. And of course, nine weeks of refrigeration and a New Year's planting is vital.

Posted by
38 posts

Bill, What great advice - especially about the kinds of bulbs as I am getting some for Arkansas and Half Moomn Bay. Thank you so much. 1 week and counting - can't wait for the trip. jan