Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2007
Regional Report

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Tulips will thrive for many years with proper care.

Make Your Tulips Last Year after Year

The tulips have been absolutely tremendous this year. They were a welcome sight after all that snow we had over the winter. It won't be long before these glorious blossoms will start to fade, soon to be forgotten. This would be a good time to take some pictures of some of your favorite varieties.

Why do some tulips come back year after year while some just seem to run out of energy and fade away? This question often puzzles the average gardener, so let's dig right in to some of the fundamentals of tulip care after bloom.

Tulip bulbs are miraculous storage systems that need little care other than watering. When they have finished blooming, you can either snip off the flowering stem or deadhead the spent flower. However, it is imperative to allow the leaves to die naturally. The leaves are necessary for manufacturing food energy and translocating this energy back to the bulb.

What about that technique of braiding or tying up the leaves before the foliage yellows? Avoid this practice as it is more harmful than beneficial.

Water Wisely
Tulips need ample moisture, especially from fall -- when the roots are developing and growing -- until they finish flowering in the spring. If the soil is on the dry side at planting time, be sure to water thoroughly after planting. Watering can be curtailed after the bulbs bloom, but don't let the soil get overly dry. This will allow them to naturally ripen and prepare for their rest period. Too much water after the blooming cycle is often the cause of the bulbs rotting and disappearing. Removing the fallen flower petals from around the plants will help prevent the spread of any diseases.

Bulb Feeding
Fertilizing tulip bulbs is also helpful. Apply a balanced bulb fertilizer (10-10-10) not only at the time of planting but also during the spring growth period. Fertilizer will provide essential nutrients to keep the tulip bulbs growing strong for the next blooming cycle.

Mark the Spots
If you like to interplant annuals or perennials with tulips, you can mark your tulip beds with colored golf tees or river pebbles to remind you not to dig too deeply and harm the tulip bulbs or set plants over them that would impede their growth and development.

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