The Q&A Archives: Tulip buds dried up and never opened

Question: Last year my tulips formed nice flower buds, but the leaves started to twist and curl, turning purple. Then the buds dried up and never opened. What happened? R.N. Alden, MN

Answer: Cold killed the flower buds and caused the foliage to deform and turn purple, says Richard Zondag, president of McClure Zimmerman, a flower bulb grower and supplier in Friesland, Wisconsin. Last year we had a mild February, which thawed the ground.Then just as the tulips began to break the soil surface, a cold snap hit with temperatures in the low 20s, explains Zondag. To avoid the problem in the future, mulch your tulip beds with six to eight inches of hay or straw. If you have sandy soil, plant your tulips deeper (to a depth of about 10 inches) than normal, says Zondag. The mulch and the deeper planting will delay the emergence of the bulbs. You can also plant varieties, such as Aristocrat and Red Sensation, that will naturally come up later in spring, he adds.

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