Answer: Don't worry, Matt -- I don't think you were at fault here. Here's what I suspect happened: bulbs that don't get enough chilling (for tulips, about 12-14 weeks of temperatures between 32 - 40F) often don't blossom, or are malformed when they do emerge. To try and extend the life of your tulips, clip off the dried flower buds and allow the foliage to grow. Don't tie it up or cut it back, just let it naturally fade. As the foliage grows, it builds up the bulb, and a healthy bulb will produce flowers next year...if it gets enough chilling. One thing you can try to prevent early emergence of the foliage is to mulch over the tulip bed after cold weather sets in. Mulch should help maintain an even soil temperature, and prevent early warming. Feed your tulips this spring with a fish emulsion or other liquid fertilizer mixed according to label instructions. Also, sprinkle some compost or composted manure over the area to build soil fertility. These practices will also help the bulbs bulk up.
If your tulips still don't perform well next year, replant with varieties that are known to be well adapted to your area. Your extension service Master Gardeners (ph# 929-6034)can probably make some recommendations, or you can get in touch with Wayside Gardens in Hodges, S.C., and they can help you out: http://www.waysidegardens.com
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