Questions & Answers

 

Q. When should I plant tulip bulbs?

A. Tulips don't root until later in the year when the weather turns colder. Most tulips in the Midwest need to be planted in late fall, just after the ground reaches below 60 degrees and is still workable. In some north Midwest zones you plant them in mid September to early October, and other areas you may not plant them until November, December, or even January. It all depends on when the ground begins to freeze. If you have mild winters in your area you would refrigerate the bulbs for a few months before planting. The bulbs must lay dormant for a couple of months to bloom properly.

 

 

Q. How deep and how far apart should I plant my tulip bulbs?

A. Generally, tulips are planted about 6 inches below the soil surface and about 4 inches apart.
Rule of thumb – Plant bulbs 3-4 times as deep as the bulb is wide. For example a 2 inch bulb should be planted 6-8 inches deep. The deeper they are planted the better chance of getting perennial flowering. They should be planted 2-3 times the width of the bulb apart.

 

 

Q. What kind of soil is best for growing tulips?

A. Generally speaking a loose, sandy soil is best for tulips. Your tulips should be well-drained to ensure proper growth. Tilling the soil with peat moss and / or sand is helpful to create the right conditions. This will help the water drain from the tulips more properly. Although tulips like lots of moisture during the growing season they cannot tolerate having their roots standing in water. If you use a bulb planter, work the soil to make sure you haven't compacted it, which could cause water to sit in the bottom of the hole.

 

 

Q. Which side of the bulb goes up at planting time?

A. Be sure to identify either the root plate and face it downwards, or the point which points upwards. Use the pyramid example or the Hershey Kiss example with the flat side down and pointed side facing up.

 

 

Q. How much sun should my tulips get?

A. Most of your tulips need quite a bit of sun. However, planting them in a lightly shaded area-but not away from the sun-will help keep the bulbs chilled during the winter. They need to heat to ripen next year's flower buds. In too much shade, they tend to diminish from year to year. In this case, tulips need to be lifted, stored over the summer, and replanted in the autumn.

 

 

Q. How do I plant and take care of my tulip bulbs?

A. Some of the most important tips for properly caring for your bulbs include making sure you plant them deep enough (6 inches under the ground), make sure they receive enough water (one time per month before bloom, one time per week after bloom is recommended). You also may need to add mulch for extra insulation for the winter months or a fertilizer that contains Nitrogen, Potassium, and other necessary plant ingredients. Make sure you do not fertilize them after they have begun to bloom, however, because they could develop a fungus or other disease.

 

 

Q. How do I prune tulips?

A. Tulip foliage needs to die out naturally. When the tulip flowers are gone, snap off the heads by hand or with a pruning shears. Leave the rest of the foliage intact. Cutting the flowers away will prevent the formation of seed which can weaken your bulbs and prevent them from returning the following year. Leaves should be left in place until they're completely yellow, about late June. It should separate easily from the bulb with gentle tugging. If you remove the foliage too early, the bulbs will not flower next year. The foliage is making the food for next year's flowers. If the leaves are unsightly, you could tie them together loosely and plant annuals in between.

 

 

Q. How do I store tulip bulbs?

A. Wash soil off the bulb and place as a single layer in a basket that has enough air movement through it. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry area until autumn when you can replant them directly in the ground or into pots.

 

 

Q. Can tulip bulbs be transplanted?

A. Tulip bulbs can be replanted once they've begun sprouting. Replant the sprouting tulip bulbs about the same depth you would plant a bulb in the fall (around 2 bulbs lengths deep). Fertilize with an organic fertilizer and water well. If the leaves start withering simply cut them off about half way along their length.

 

 

Q. When should I lift tulips?

A. Once the foliage has discolored it can be removed and the bulbs should be lifted and allowed to dry naturally. Typically, you will get one decent sized bulb and one or two insignificant offshoots. The bulbs should then be stored somewhere cool and airy (an onion sack is ideal). It is important that air can circulate around the bulb until planting next autumn. After flowering, your tulip petals should be removed and the foliage allowed to discolor naturally. The best way to nourish your tulips is to lay down a top dressing of bone meal in the autumn to enrich the soil. The poorer your soil is, the more bulblets you will have. Likewise, the richer your soil is, the bigger the bulb you lift will be.

 

 

Q. Do I have to lift tulips even if I have many that keep coming back year after year?

A. Usually, unless you have very well drained soil. The reason for this is tulips root late in the year and can tend to rot if left planted in the ground. The reason we see so many red and yellow tulips everywhere is because they are Darwin Hybrids, which are a cross between Darwin tulips and fosteriana tulips - a tulip species that has the ability to grow back year after year, having inherited their parents' good traits.

 

 

Q. Should I buy new tulip bulbs every year?

A. The tulip bulb already contains within itself all the essential ingredients (the embryo flower bud and the fleshy inner scales that store food) to provide next years flower. The bulbs are all graded to size to ensure a uniform flowering display. Unless you have ideal conditions and the facilities of commercial growers, your tulips will always produce their best show in the first year. Decline is expected after two to three years. Where tulips are used as a focal point in the garden we would always recommend purchasing new bulbs. Plan some sort of rotation using previous year's bulbs for less prominent positions in the border or even consider setting aside part of your garden to grow the tulips for cut flowers. Certain varieties of tulips may last much longer than two to three years, but they often need to be dug up and spaced every three to five years to maintain their blooming vigor.

 

 

Q. How and when should I fertilize bulbs?

A. Fertilize in fall and spring. For those who treat tulips as annuals - as many gardeners do with great success and satisfaction - no fertilizer is necessary. Healthy Dutch bulbs (which are not seeds, but living plants), have more than enough food stored up to ensure a vigorous bloom the first season. But if a come-back performance is desired, low nitrogen fertilizer such as well-rotted cow manure, or special bulb fertilizer is recommended at fall planting time and each fall thereafter. If you did not fertilize in fall, in spring, as the shoots first appear, you can add a high nitrogen, fast-release fertilizer which will help promote future performance.

 

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