Terrific Tulips and Tulip Troubles

Terrific Tulips and Tulip Troubles

Recently I sat on my deck and watched the first hummingbird of the season visit my trough of tulips. For the entire month of April the developing tulips have made me smile. Elsewhere in the yard their cheerful flowers bloom red, yellow, pink and purple, complementing the daffodils and other spring flowers. Tulips are terrific.

Some people have trouble with tulips, however, so here are a few tips about possible tulip problems.

  • Our customers ask: “I got some flowering tulips this spring – can I plant them outside?” Yes! Place them in the ground asap. Bury the bulb down about 6″ however – you’ll see that you’ll be burying part of the leaves, but that’s OK. It’s better for the bulb to be at the proper depth. Don’t cut the leaves or stem off – leave these in place, and after watering well apply some liquid fertilizer to help boost the strength in the bulb. Wait to remove the stem and leaves until after they’ve turned yellow.
  • “I planted tulips last fall and the squirrels dug them up!” Squirrels are curious when they sense disturbed soil. They think there might be a tasty nut or some other treasure there, so they dig the bulb up and toss it aside. To prevent this in future years, water the area well after planting bulbs to settle the soil and then apply a layer of animal repellant over the surface after watering.
  • “Something snapped the heads off my tulips!” This is the most frustrating thing! You just begin to enjoy the cheerful tulip colors and something either breaks them or eats the flowers. Deer and woodchucks eat tulip flowers. Occasionally a rabbit will nibble the tulip bloom but they don’t usually eat the entire flower at one sitting. Use a deer and rabbit repellant in the future, spraying the entire plant early as the tulips just come up. If the flowers are left lying on the ground, that’s most likely the work of squirrels. No, they aren’t just being vandals…they are drinking the water that flows up the stem! Sprinkle new tulips with red pepper or spray with a repellant that contains cayenne pepper.
  • “My tulips stopped flowering. I only have foliage now.” Some tulips are more prone to returning for several years, and others might only last two or three seasons. For the longest lasting tulips, look for Darwin hybrids. Even these tend to peter out after four years, however. For the best tulip displays, plant some every fall. Additionally, when the tulips have finished flowering leave the stems and foliage in the garden and fertilize with the liquid fertilizer of your choice. The stem and foliage will be building up strength in the bulb for next year.
  • “I put tulips in my containers in the fall and they rotted.” To have bulbs last over the winter in a container, use a very large pot or box and fresh soil. Be sure that there is at least one drainage hole. Used soil doesn’t drain well because the roots of the plants that formerly grew there prevent the water from moving through the soil quickly.
    Tulips attract hummingbirds to the spring garden. They are good cutting flowers, and are a cheerful sight in the landscape for at least four weeks.

    Tulips attract hummingbirds to the spring garden. They are good cutting flowers, and are a cheerful sight in the landscape for at least four weeks.

    Tulips that grew in pots can be transplanted into the yard and garden. Leave the green foliage on until it turns yellow.

    Tulips that grew in pots can be transplanted into the yard and garden. Leave the green foliage on until it turns yellow.

4 Comments

  1. Peggy J on May 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Something has been chewing off the leaves of our crocus right to the ground. We do have a very friendly little bunny in our yard. Could he be the culprit? What will deter him?

    • CLFornari on May 8, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Peggy,
      It is most likely a rabbit. You can spray with a rabbit repellant – we have a couple here in the store. You might want to spray your emerging hosta if you have them as well, as bunnies like fresh hosta shoots!

  2. Yvonne Finne on May 30, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    I received a pot of tulips and daffodils from a flower delivery service for Mother’s day. The tulips grow stems to about three inches and then break and die. Should I dispose of them or is there a treatment for the problem?

    • CLFornari on May 31, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      Toss the tulips out….they aren’t reliably perennial anyway. There is a disease that hot-house tulips get that causes this behavior. (You might take a photo and send it to the delivery service?)

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