Note for Spring bulbs

bigorangevol(Nashville)September 18, 2008

Thought I'd pass this along for what it's worth:

Planting Tulips and Other Spring Bulbs in Warmer Climates

For many folks, Spring hasn't truly arrived until the first tulips and daffodils have begun to bloom. But despite the early springs in growing zones 7 and warmer, many spring bulbs don't do well in warmer climates without a bit of special care.

Tulips are native to Central Asia, although these days many tulip bulbs originate in The Netherlands. The long, cool springs in Central Asia and The Netherlands allow the tulip foliage to linger for a long time and provide the bulb with the energy it needs to grow larger and bloom again the next year. But in warmer climates, the heat causes the foliage to die back before the bulb can store enough energy to continue.

Tulip and daffodil bulbs also both need to undergo a winter chilling period before they will produce their beautiful spring displays.

In Zones 7b and warmer, tulips and hyacinths generally don't get enough of a chilling period to bloom well. Daffodils will perform well through Zone 8 but not so well in the southern growing zones of 9 and 10. Interestingly, daffodils do better in the western Zone 9 areas.

In those climates with mild winters, most spring-flowering bulbs will bloom for just one spring and should be treated as annuals.

Tulips and many other spring bulbs can be tricked into thinking they've gone through a cold winter by storing them in a refrigerator for 8-10 weeks prior to planting them out. The bulbs should be kept dry in the refrigerator and given plenty of air circulation. A mesh bag is ideal. Start this pre-chilling process in early October and plant the bulbs in December.

The general rule of thumb when planting bulbs is to plant them to a depth that is three times the height of the bulb. Plant your bulbs where they will receive at last six hours of sunlight each day. Avoid planting them near trees that will leaf out and shade the bulbs later in the spring. Bulbs can be lightly fertilized with a low-nitrogen fertilizer as soon as the shoots emerge in early spring.

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That's really interesting. Tulips are my favorite flower. I bought a couple hundred at my first house. Left them in, and only about 20% returned.

Since then I have been very keen on finding out exactly why they don't come back for me. I had a neighbor from Ohio who SWORE to me that they came back there, year after year, very reliably. Since the Great Tulip Failure of '95, I have treated them as annuals. :)

So, according to this article, it could be either that we don't have enough cold, or that the spring heats up too fast and doesn't let the foilage linger.

I'm not digging them up and putting them in the fridge. :P Although I have to say it's a little tempting, just for the sake of experimentation.

I was reading in Judy Lowe's book about Tennessee gardening last night (the name of the book escapes me right now). She said that the secret to having tulips return in this zone is to plant a foot deep. ?

I have about 200 ordered from colorblends this fall. :) They will be expensive annuals this time!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 12:01AM
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The real secret is to plant deep enough that the chipmunks don't dig 'em up and eat 'em! That's the only problem that I've ever had.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 3:06AM
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Really? So yours come back every year?

I guess I'll try planting these really deep and leave them in this year and see what I get next year. I would like to keep them, because I splurged on some I've always wanted this time (Greenland!)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 8:31AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

I have some come back in pots, but I never count on it. I've started buying Monsellas every fall -- my absolute fave!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 1:06PM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

Grape hyacinths do very well in my soils north east of Knoxville; they were some of the few 'gone wild' plants that came with this old farm house. Old daffodils also come back year after year.
Tulips have problems with winter drainage, even when it's cold enough. I do try some of the species tulips trying to find some with requirements more like my conditions and less like Holland.
Summer lilies are not happy here, or possibly the critters are just too hungry.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 6:56PM
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Anyone try the species tulips? I was excited after reading about them and how they are supposed to multiply and not fizzle out like the hybrid ones. I ordered some to try from Bluestone perennials. I took P. Allen Smith's advice and planted some in outdoor containers just for the joy of it. It was nice to see my containers filled and blooming early before the weather was fit for the usual perennials and annuals. I'll see if any return as I did not bother them.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 10:52PM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

You people are very bad.

Because of this thread, I ordered a bunch of amaryllis and tulips (yes, several species!) from Scheepers yesterday. Sigh. I'm so easy to influence!

And cottagegirl -- I love to plant bulbs in containers every year, along with violas. I plant them in the fall and let the violas bloom all winter, then they're still blooming when the bulbs get going. :-)

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 10:45AM
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