What do YOU do with tulips after?

doggonegardener(Wyoming, Zone 4)June 29, 2006

Hey All,

I love tulips in my garden. They are the first sign of spring around the corner. But, once they have bloomed it's downhill from there. Then all summer you are left with the ugly leaves. They just get worse looking as time passes.

I am in zone 4. My iris look great for the entire summer. Blooms or no blooms. But my tulips look like h*ll right now.

What do you all do with tulips after the bloom? Do you plant something slow growing around them so they are hidden? Do you cut them down (I would like to keep the leaves so they feed the bulb)? What?

Suggestions of what to do now are most welcome?

I am considering planting them in a container. Then I could remove it once they have done their thing.



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I leave them in the ground and just have other things that will grow up around them. Some of the things I've got are daisies, irises, daylilies (I think the lilies hide it the best) and yarrow. That way, they don't cover it completely, so they can still process the leaves, but manage to disguise it fairly well.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 10:39AM
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I usually just let the petals fall and by the time its "ugly" a lot of my other plants have grown to cover it like ferns and a burning bush.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 11:06AM
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jiggreen(zone 6b, carlisle PA)

i was watching a gardening show and they said to cut back the faded blooms, then fold the tulip leaves over several times and rubber band them...that way they are basically invisible but the leaves still feed the bulb.

i dont have tulips myself, but i use that method on other early blooming bulbs to disguise the foliage.

:) jiggreen

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 11:20AM
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Like the other members, I prefer to have plants like annuals cover them. By then, the unsightly leaves are not noticiable. I then remove the leaves when it starts to rot.

Another technique is to layer your tulips with alliums which produce late spring and early summer blooms.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 3:50PM
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mrmorton(z5 IL)

I leave them go until they turn brown, then go around and remove all the dead stems. At that point they are done feeding anyway, so why leave them there? I have enough things growing around them that the stems are mostly hidden while they dieback.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 4:38PM
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stormys_mom(Md 7a)

I let them be until they start looking ratty. Then I fold them over and either use twine or a rubber band to keep them in place. The key is what you plant around them to hide that ucky dying foilage.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 4:56PM
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doggonegardener(Wyoming, Zone 4)

Thanks for the various replies. They just aggravate me as they wither and blanche. Look so bad. I like the motto that "friends don't let friends buy annuals", however, this might have to be an exception to my rule. I have never purchased annuals of any sort. For me it has always been perennial or bust...might have to reconsider that notion.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 9:33PM
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moonphase(z7 Ga)

When My tulips start coming up,I direct sowed Poppies and Larkspur.By the time the tulips had finished blooming,the others were up and soon covered all the tulips.I also have perennials planted in the same beds,so now that I am almost ready to pull the poppy stalks and the larkspur plants,just a few more seeds to get,then I uncover my rudbeckias,autumn joy sedum and lots of others.So far,I have had continuous bloom in that bed.I am also adding some plants in the areas I am pulling by dividing my HOS plants and it is working very well.So no ugly foliage is seen.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 3:40AM
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I have read alot about this and wanted to chime in here. I find that the best year i have with my tulips is the first spring after i planted them, from there its all downhill. What the tree rats dont get just arent as nice as the first spring. I read an artical this spring about lifting the bulbs when they are done blooming. The theory behind it was tulips need to be planted at least 10 inches so they dont produce baby bulbs, which none of us do. Once they start producing babies the original bulb is spent and it takes years for the baby to bloom. The reccomended lifting the bulbs and drying them till fall and replanting. Sounds like alot of work i know, but i figured this ment i didnt have ratty spent bloooms all spring and every fall i was planting new bulbs anyhow so what did i have to lose. I cleaned them tossed out the tiny babies and they are in paper bags in a cool spot in the garage. Ive checked them for rot and they seem to be fine so this fall im gonna replant them and see what happens. Lets revisit this conversation next year at this time.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 6:40AM
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Fori is not pleased

People in warmer climates lift them so I guess it's possible...I always thought my grandma was a little nuts to mark her planting spots with stakes, then dig them up each year to refrigerate and replant.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 9:28AM
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i remove the leaves after they fade. i'd like to just leave them but wouldn't the spent leaves crowd out the other plants coming in (i plant my tulips thick)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 9:42AM
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I have to jump in on this one -- In the original White Flower Farm book published by Little Brown in the 1960s, they say you can dig up any tulip when the foliage starts to dull. Not turn brown, not turn partly brown, and not totally senesce, just dull. The likened the color to a dull olive green

I leave tulips in place for only *one week* after bloom, that is all the energy they seem to need. I pull tulip bulbs up (or dig the up, depending on the soil) and bag them in net onion sacks (or orange sacks) with the foliage and roots still on them. I was told by an oldtimer that the roots store energy and if they remain on the bulbs, the energy will go back into the bulb as they dry.

As wacky as only one week after bloom might sound to you, can you imagine any kind of photosynthesis working when the foliage is folded over and tightly banded?

I store over summer where they will be HOT and DRY. This is really important.

I replant them at first frost when I dig the dahlias that are in the same spot over summer.

Needless to say between years of tulips and dahlias and mulch, the soil is very friable and I actually pulled up most the tulip bulbs this year, like harvesting carrots or something! I noticed today the foliage is still a little green on them, even though they were pulled in April.

Just thought I would post my method for you to consider. BTW, I don't have huge success with Parrot Tulips -- about 50%


    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 3:08AM
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I like the idea of planting them where the dahlias have been and vice versa. Mine are drying down in my greenhouse and im kinda anxious to see how this works out next spring.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 11:14PM
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After mine have finished blooming, I give the a top feed of bone meal, then leave them alone. I have lots of perrenials growing up around them, so the foliage isn't too noticable. When they start to decline in vigour, you can add more bulbs (I usually add 100 or 200 each fall). You can also 'kick start' them with an added dose of bonemeal. I have some tulips that have been in the garden for almost 10 years, still producing beautiful blooms.

And, btw, I think that parrots are heavy feeders!!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 10:23AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

I leave them in the ground. After the flowers fade, I remove the flowers but leave the green leaves. The leaves store energy in the bulbs for next years' growth.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 2:16PM
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doggonegardener(Wyoming, Zone 4)


I like your plan. I had wanted to plant them among something that would come up later and bloom into fall but hated to plant them among a true perennial because I would eventually want to dig the perennial and split or move it. That's part of my trouble now. I work my beds a lot and am always ending up accidentally digging up the tulips. If I plant them among the dahlias then I would be able to dig them up intentionally. Makes sense to me...I think I'll try it.

Historically, I have always cut the foliage off of my tulips about a week after the flower is gone. I HATE the look of the foliage after the bloom is done. My iris are vibrant and I like their fans hanging around in my gardens after their bloom is done but not the same for my tulips. I LOVE tulip flowers and would hate to be rid of them entirely. I usually cut them off and have a nice bloom and aparently healthy bulbs but was concerned about that idea that they needed to feed. The more I read the more I doubt that.

Thanks all for the info. I'll continue to check this thread to see if anyone has any other thoughts.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 10:57PM
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Rene and all,

Another thing you can do, and I got the idea from the bulb garden curator at MOBOT, is to plant tulips 12 inches deep and leave them down. Then plant annuals or perennials over them. If you use 2 inches of mulch, you count that as part of the 12 inches. There are a few rules that go along with this plan, so it's not something you can just haphazardly do.

Rule one is the tulips need to be planted in very friable soil and have friable soil above them.

Rule Two is the annuals or perennials you put over the top of them cannot be ones which will form massive clump-forming plants.

I tried this with pansies and it does work, BUT it looks very messy instead of cottagy. Pictures from Holland showing bulb combinations often show this, but the pansies grow big even before the tulips bloom and it just looks bad.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 9:57AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I have my tulips and daffs planted with perennials to mask the foliage. Daylilies, ferns, ornamental grasses. I have many more daffs than tulips. I just am not going to take the time to dig up and store anything. I shove the foliage behind the perennials and grit my teeth and bear it if it is ugly. The perennials soon fill in.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 12:57PM
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It is July 6th and I still have a few green tulip leaves lying on the mulch --- grrrr! I am leaving them all in the ground and, since this time I planted them in just two small areas, I could put nice rusty obelisks on top of them with annual vines. I have no faith that the tulips will come up again in the spring (never have before this year) but we'll see!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 5:32PM
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