The Q&A Archives: Bulbs

Question: I searched about 150 FAQs from this website about caring for tulip bulbs and I now I am all mixed up. My case is, that I planted some tulips in containers last fall and they bloomed just fine, and now its time for us to move to Texas. I kept watering the foliage, so maybe thats why the leaves the still green. Please tell me how to take my tulip bulbs along with me to Texas? Should I stop watering them, and wait for it to dry, so I can get the bulbs out? And can I store them in paper bags with some holes in them? Will I get the bloom next year?

Answer: It must have been frustrating to read through so many questions and answers and still not find what you're looking for!

The short answer to your question is "yes". But, here are the conditions - bear with me... The tulip bulb is a storage organ and the foliage provides energy for the bulb to store so it can grow roots and leaves and a flowering stem next spring. If you cut the foliage back before it ripens on its own, you'll be reducing the amount of nutrients and energy to the bulb. That's why it's important to allow the foliage to wilt on its own before removing it.

If the foliage is still green, it's still manufacturing important nutrients for the bulb. Watering will not keep the leaves green beyond the time when the bulb has stored enough energy for next year's bloom and signals the leaves to wither away. However, a lack of water will make the foliage wilt prematurely, resulting in puny performance next year.

So, the best advice is to allow the bulbs to remain where they are for as long as possible. When you absolutely, positively have to pack them up - if the foliage is still green, dig the bulbs, leave the foliage attached and place them in paper bags or in a cardboard box with newspapers between the layers. Don't overcrowd or the moisture in the foliage will rot the bulbs.

When you get to your destination, cut back the dead, shriveled foliage and store the bulbs until it's time to plant in the garden. Digging and storing in this way should allow all the nutrients left in the leaves to be transported to the bulbs, resulting in good performance in your garden next spring.

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