The Q&A Archives: After the bloom

Question: How long do I need to wait before I cut the tops off tulips and similiar type bulb plants. Also, should I dig up the bulbs every couple of years to give them more room. What is the procedure storing them over the winter. Thanks

Answer: Although you can cut back the spent flowers and flower stems, you should allow the foliage to yellow and die before cutting it off. The leaves transport carbohydrates to the bulb for storage; this stored energy is what the bulb uses to produce next spring's floral display. After the leaves turn yellow, you can cut them off at soil level. Most bulbs naturalize an area if they're left in the ground. Once they become overcrowded, they may fail to bloom so digging and transplanting them every 4-5 years is recommended. If you wait until after the foliage dies and the bulbs are dormant, you can dig, divide, and transplant them back into the flower bed. It isn't necessary to lift and store them out of the ground (unless you live in a warm winter climate).

Best wishes with your garden!

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