The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Valentines Tulips

Question: Today, Valentine's Day, I received a dozen gorgeous red tulips in full bloom, planted in a natural clay container. I would like to be able to transplant them to my outdoor flower bed. When should I move them outdoors? Will they grow and flower next spring? (Our last freeze is usually around the end of March.)

Answer: Since these plants have been forced into early bloom, they are not acclimated to the cold and can't be planted outside yet. Enjoy the blooms and then cut them off when they fade. Keep the pot in a very bright and cool (above freezing) location so that the foliage can continue to grow as long as possible. This is important because the foliage will be helping the bulb rebuild itself for next year. If the foliage is still healthy when the weather moderates, go ahead and plant the bulbs. The foliage will wither and dry naturally.

On the other hand, the bulbs may go dormant--that is, the foliage may mature and wither--while they are still in the pot. If this happens, save the bulbs in a cool, dry location and plant them next fall. Keep in mind that bulbs that have been forced have experienced unnatural stress, so it may take them a year to settle in before they bloom again. It is also possible that the variety you have is one that forces well but is not well adapted to the garden. In other words, don't be too disappointed if the flowers you get are not as big and beautiful as the ones you see now!

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