Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

Getting Started With Tulips (page 3 of 4)

by Michael MacCaskey

Care After Bloom

If you planted one of the naturalizing tulips (a type that comes back year after year), it's important that you allow leaves to ripen" thoroughly before cutting them off. This means letting leaves grow, mature and wither naturally. These growing leaves supply the bulb with energy for next year's bloom. Tulip bulbs that you do not expect or want to bloom next year can be pulled and discarded anytime after bloom. In fact, it's much easier to do this before plants wither than after. If you leave these bulbs in place, they will produce at least a few straggling tulip leaves the next spring.

Tulips as Cut Flowers

Cut tulips early in the morning. Look for flowers with tight buds that show color in the upper two-thirds of the exposed petals. For longest stems (and if you're growing them as annuals), pull the stem at the base. Indoors, recut stems and soak them for two or three hours in lukewarm water treated with commercial preservative solution. Wrap flowers with newspaper (kept dry) while stems soak.

Problems

The main reason tulip bulbs fail in the North is poor root growth prior to severe cold. In order to survive severe cold, the bulbs must have extensive root systems. If tulips are planted very late in the fall shortly before severe cold or if they are planted in very dry soil, they become susceptible to frost damage. Less commonly, extreme soil conditions, such as very low or very high pH, and poor water drainage will inhibit bulb growth and cause the bulbs to rot.

Pests

Aphids colonizing leaves, buds or flowers are a nuisance and cause a general weakening of the plant. If they appear in your garden, wash them off with clear water; if that isn't effective, try soapy water. Rodents of various kinds love tulip bulbs. Sprinkle fine, sharp gravel around each bulb to discourage voles. Or shake bulbs in a bag containing cayenne pepper prior to planting. The only sure remedy, though, is to plant bulbs in individual wire baskets, and protect plants with lightweight covers or netting.

Tulips to Combine with Other Tulips

These combinations match colors, bloom season and height to maximize impact.

Early
'Showwinner' (red) with 'Candela' (yellow)
'Showwinner' with 'Red Emperor')
'Stresa' (yellow and red) with 'Plaisir' (red and white)

Midseason
'Boccherini' (maroon) with 'Hibernia' (white)
'Burning Heart' (ivory with red) with shorter 'Ice Follies' (ivory with pink)
'China Pink' with 'Parade' (red)
'Esther' (pink) with 'Shirley' (white with purple)
'Golden Apeldoorn' (yellow) with 'Apeldoorn' (red)
'Golden Parade' (yellow) with 'Parade' (red)
'Negrita' (purple) with 'Esther' (pink)

Late
'Angelique' (pink) with 'Mount Tacoma' (creamy white)
'Grand Style' (dark pink) with 'Queen of Night' (maroon)
'Menton' (pink) with 'Maureen' (white)
'Menton' with 'Black Parrot' (dark maroon)
'Pink Supreme' with 'Black Parrot' 'Renown' (rose) with 'Blue Heron' (lavender)

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