How to maintain tulips?

annld(6B PA)July 16, 2006

I planted about 100 new tulip bulbs last fall because my two-year-old tulips really didn't put on much of a show last year. This year, the new ones were gorgeous. Does anyone have any tips on how to get them to come back as strong next year?



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From what I understand, tulips are really only "good" for one year. The following years they come in shorter and more sparse. They also can change color. Most people dig up their tulip bulbs after they bloom and throw them away. And then they replace with new bulbs in the fall.

If I grew tulips, I'd not throw them away but move them to another area in my yard where I could just let them do their thing in a naturalized type setting--and replace the showy area with new bulbs.

Sorry to break the news to you.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 9:16PM
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I quickly found a link that explains why tulips need replaced every year. It also claims that a certain type of tulip (species tulips) will bloom year after year and may even multiply like other bulbs.,,HGTV_3553_1391951,00.html

So I guess the answer to your question is to try to find a species tulip instead of a hybrid when you buy new bulbs this fall.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 9:22PM
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dirtdivarocks(z6 SW PA)

I stopped planting hybrid tulips a couple of years ago. I would only get one or two seasons out of them. By the third year only a few of them would show up. I blamed it on the chipmunks. (I guess I was wrong). The species tulips I planted, gave me a good 5 years. They are beautiful. They hug the ground and were multiplying for me until this spring.....only a few showed up. So I ordered more species tulips for the fall.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 11:45PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Ann, have you tried any of the Darwin hybrids? I have some that have been coming back for years without any attention.
Not all species tulips are the same.... just because they grow wild in one part of the world doesn't mean they will do well in your garden.

and...... if you really want to have your tulips return strong every year: fertilize well, allow the leaves to die back on their own, dig the bulbs up when it does, save only the largest bulb of each clump, replant in the autumn.
You can see why most people just leave them in and consider it a bonus when they reflower next year!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 9:10PM
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annld(6B PA)

Thanks for all the responses. My tulips were absolutely glorious this year, so I was hoping there would be a way to keep them going. Maybe they'll just be average next year and then I'll replace them. :-)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 10:13AM
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I never considered tulips as annuals until I started planting them in a soil that was heavy with clay. Tulips seem to need better drainage than some other bulbs such as daffodils. I've given up growing tulips on this property, though I have a very few hybrid tulips that have been blooming for over twenty years. I think of them as my token tulips, reminding me of what I might grow on the next property.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 11:16AM
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Pipersville_Carol(z6 Bucks PA)

I've had good luck with Darwin tulips coming back every year. They were in a sheltered location with excellent drainage and no pests. Most types of tulips only live for one season, though, as other posters have said.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 1:49PM
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karen_b(6a s.c. PA)

Pray for cold winters. I planted oodles of tulips 3 years ago expecting them to fizzle out after a year or two. They are still going strong, better than my daffodils, but from what I understand they need a cold dormancy and we sure have had cold winters. I also remove the mulch to make sure the cold gets to them.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 4:30PM
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Karen, Yours might do well because you might have species tulips instead of hybrid tulips.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 1:10PM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

I have good luck with the Darwin hybrids, too. Also, when planting, make sure they're 8-10" deep which helps to prevent them from splitting.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 7:45PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Tulips like good, fast drainage and very dry conditions during the summer. So they are not going to return very well in clay soil and/or in heavily watered flowerbeds. Plus the fact that the fancy hybrids have been bred for spectacular flowers, not for continued vigour. But the species and the Darwins do indeed have a better reputation for coming back.

Someday I hope to have a spot with suitable soil that I'll fill with tulips and drought-resistant annuals and perennials and I just won't water all summer. I can dream, can't I?

Janet's Garden

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 11:06PM
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dirtdivarocks(z6 SW PA)

I just recently read (on the bulbs forum I think) that tulips like a very dry summer. My tulips were always planted in beds that were watered a lot with our sprinkler system. And to think that I thought it was good for the

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 11:37PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Yeah, it was a bit of an eye-opener for me too when I first found out. Ya live and ya learn.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2006 at 10:55PM
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