The Q&A Archives: Spring Flowering Bulbs

Question: Hi,

I live in Zone 7 of Eastern Shore of Maryland and this winter we had a very Mild Winter we haven't had snow more than 6 in. and not enough cool weather for my flowering bulbs. This April as soon as the bulbs such as Tulips, Daffodils, etc... Didn't flower this year just some of them..they're not over crowded and last year we had a very cold winter they bloomed freely but this year they didn't...What happened is that a Warm Winter we had that didnt give them the right amount of chill?

Thank you.

Answer: There are several possible explanations for poor repeat performance. While a shorter chilling period could conceivably have an effect, if your neighbors plants are doing well then that would not be the problem.

Probably the most common problem is that the foliage was not allowed to grow and mature long enough the previous year. This process is critical to rebuilding the bulbs strenth so they can bloom again. It is best to allow the foliage to grow and wither and dry up before you remove it, even though this can be a bit ugly during the process. Failure to do so will reduce the ability of the bulbs to bloom.

Another common problem is planting varieties that do not perennialize or naturalize well. For example, the larger hyacinths and most of the taller varieties of tulips do not rebloom well after the first year. For reblooming you would want to plant the little rockgarden or cottage tulips and for hyacinths, the little grape hyacinths will usually thrive. Crocus are another good bulb for increasing from year to year.

Another problem can be watering, both too much and too little. During the time the bulbs are dormant, many bulbs truly prefer to be left high and dry during the summer. Then in the fall when it is time for them to wake up and root, they need moisture. They also need moisture in the spring to keep them growing actively. We have had drought all fall and now again this spring so the plants are showing some of the effects by blooming less extravagantly and in some cases the buds are shriveling before opening; the heat wave has also caused blooms to fade very fast or fail to open correctly.

All in all, this has not been such a great season for plants in general. I hope they will perform better for you next spring.

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