The genus, Tulipa, represents a wide array of flowering bulb plants. They can cover a long blooming period in the spring with early, mid and late season types.

Tulips, like all bulb plants, store the energy they need for the next season's plant within the bulb. Therefore, bulbs planted in the fall need nothing more to develop a plant and bloom the next spring. So, even though they would prefer full sun, tulips can be successfully grown in the shade...for the first season. In order for them to bloom the second season, however, they must receive enough sunlight long enough to rebuild their bulb. This may not occur in shaded sites or where the temperatures get hot and the foliage dies back before the plant has had time to replenish the bulb.

The general rule of thumb is that bulbs should be planted at a depth of about 2 to 3 times their height. This means that a 2 inch high bulb should be planted in a hole 4 to 6 inches deep. In heavier, clay type soils, 4 inches is best while in loose, well-drained soils, 6 inches might be better.

Tulips are one of those plants that need to experience a certain number of days of cold temperatures before they will bloom. For most tulips, it takes a 13 week exposure to temperatures below 40 degrees F to make them form flower buds. This why it may be difficult to grow tulips in the Southern United States where winter temperatures don't allow for proper chilling every year.

If you plan on having your tulips around for future years of bloom (as opposed to situations where you dig them up and discard them after the first year's bloom), you should add some fertilizer around the plants as soon as the leaves emerge. This allows time for the nutrients to moved down through the soil to the area of the roots. The old recommendation of fertilizing when the tulips are in bloom is no longer valid.

The most important factor to future success with your bulbs is to keep the foliage on the plant as long as possible into the growing season. The leaves, of course, are the site of photosynthesis where the tulip captures the energy of the sun and stores it in the bulb. Once the leaves turn brown or you cut them off, growth of the bulb is done for the year. If it has not reached a certain size by then, the next year's crop will be either bloomless or produce a much smaller plant.

Generally speaking, tulips don't have a lot of serious problems. Bulb rot can be a problem in poorly drained sites and occasionally, fungal leaf spots may attack the foliage.

Tulips should stay in the ground over the winter if you expect to have a crop of flowers the next spring. You do not need to routinely pull them out in the fall.

However, if you need to move them or want to redo the bed or border, they may be moved to a new location and "healed in" temporarily. To do this, dig a trench about the same dept as the tulips are planted. Dig up the entire bulb and foliage and move it to the trench where you bury it. Be sure the foliage is kept on the plants since this must produce energy for expanding the bulb.


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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