The Q&A Archives: Problem with tulips

Question: I plant some tulip bulbs 3 years ago in the fall. The first spring they were beautiful. Last spring and now this spring the plants did not develop very well. Most did not bloom. The tops are all twisted and have browning along the edges. I fertilized them in the fall with bulb food. I would appreciate it if you could give me some info on what the problem might be and a solution for the problem.
Carl Ketron

Answer: Many varieties of tulips sadly just do not do well over time in the garden, they just do not thrive under home growing conditions so the bulb size decreases from year to year and their bloom display soon declines and eventually stops. For this reason most people replace the bulbs each year. (Exceptions to this would be the smaller cottage tulips or T. fosteriana, kaufmanniana or gregii tulips, for example. These should be long lived in a location with well drained soil and full sun.) Based on your description I am not sure if this is what has happened or if there was some weather damage, excess wetness, or if there is possibly a disease at work that would cause the twisting and browning. Some diseases would cause those symptoms and could live over in the soil to infect new bulbs. So I would suggest you consult with your local county extension to determine if there is a disease problem before you replant that area with tulips. I'm sorry I can't be more specific for you.

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