Premature Bulb Bloom - Knowledgebase Question

Huntington Beach, CA
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Question by Magic_15
February 22, 2000
In mid-late November I planted several spring-flowering bulbs; Hybrid Darwin and Lily-Flowered tulips, Daffodils, Asiatic lilies, and hyacinths in sections of a raised bed. Several of the tulips and hyacinths are blooming before they are even 6" out. The tulips are suppose to grow between 21-24" tall and "bloom" in Spring. They were all planted at the same time and I had hoped to have a showy display of them in bloom together? At the rate things are going (growing), the majority are going to be finished before Spring even gets here and though pretty, they're too short. Where did I go wrong?

Answer from NGA
February 22, 2000
Except for planting just a tad too early, you really didn't do anything wrong at all. Bulbs begin to grow when soil and air temperature are just right. In your southern California garden they got an early message that spring had arrived so they grew. Warm weather accelerated their growth and the stems and blooms had a hard time developing fully before they opened. Some gardening years are like that. If you leave the bulbs (except the tulips) in the ground all year they should adapt their internal clocks to California time and bloom a little later next year. Cut the spent flower stems down but leave the foliage alone. When it yellows and dies back naturally you can cut it off at ground level. The foliage will provide the bulb with energy to produce next year's bloom. Tulips should be dug and stored until replanting. They'll need a special chilling period (6 weeks in the refrigerator) prior to planting in late December or early January.

Hope next spring is a really colorful one in your garden!

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