The Q&A Archives: No Tulip Blooms

Question: For several years I have planted tulips and only the leaves appear in the spring. Thinking I was planting the bulbs too deep, I tried shallower planting (I have always used the regular bulb tool to plant and have always planted pointed end up), but then the animals dug up the bulbs. Could there be any other reasons for this problem?

Answer: Assuming you are working with newly purchased, good quality, good sized and healthy bulbs which have been properly handled and stored and assuming you are planting them promptly in the early to mid fall into a moderately rich, well drained soil in a sunny area .... I have no immediate explanation.

Since they survive the winter and do produce foliage, my guess is that a critter is eating off the buds just as they emerge from the ground. (The deer do this at my house if the rabbits don't get them first.) The only other possibility I can think of is you are using an inexpensive bulb size too small to bloom, in which case they may build up enough strength this year to bloom for you next year.

It is also all too common to find that many tulip bulbs simply do not bloom well for more than a year or two. An exception to this can be some of the little Greigi kaufmanniana hybrid tulips which perennialize quite well.

The rule of thumb for planting is this: loosen the soil a foot deep, add compost or dried manure, add some balanced granular fertilizer, then work that all in. For each bulb, dig a generous hole. It should be three times as deep as the bulb is tall (that would be 8 inches deep for a bulb 2 1/2 inches tall), plant (pointy end up) and then water thoroughly and finally, mulch. Some gardeners report success deterring squirrels and the like by using commerical repellents, and some use wire mesh laid over the planting area.

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