Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Yard & Garden Planning

Wildflower Tulips (page 2 of 3)

by Becky Heath

Care and Maintenance

Most species tulips naturalize-when unaffected by rodents-via seeds, underground stems called stolons, or daughter bulbs. The new plants are usually identical to the parent plant, but beds of seed-grown plants may produce some flower-color variation.

Encourage the bulbs' multiplying tendencies by leaving faded flower heads attached so that seeds can mature and spread. Don't remove leaves until they begin to turn yellow and fall over. Bulb plants use the extra time in leaf to continue photosynthesis and store nutrients for the next year.

Every fall, apply 4 to 5 pounds of the 9-9-6 fertilizer called Holland Bulb Booster per 100 square feet over the tulip bed. If you prefer organic plant food, I recommend Bulb Mate, a 5-10-12 mix of cricket manure, rock phosphate, bonemeal, blood meal, dolomitic limestone, granite meal, and compost. Apply 8 pounds of it per 100 square feet.

Water the growing plants in spring if the garden doesn't receive about 1/2 inch of rain weekly. Species tulips are dormant in the summer and prefer dry soil then, but most kinds adapt to garden situations (the exceptions are noted below).

Insects or Other Pests

If you have rodents such as voles or gophers (or what my husband and I call "underground bulb monsters") in your garden, adding a handful of sharp gravel to the hole on the tulip bulb will discourage them from eating it. Don't mulch where rodents are a problem, because they love to nest in mulches. Wire or fabric baskets protect bulbs from rodents, and repellents are available that help deter these pests. Of course, a good cat or two is the best control of all.

Forcing Early Bloom

You can force species tulips to bloom indoors. In cold-winter climates, pot the bulbs and cover them with about 8 inches of mulch, or store them in an unheated, ventilated basement or garage for about four months beginning in the fall. Move them to a sunny place when shoots appear. In warm climates, store the pots in a cool location, but check for root growth after 8 to 10 weeks, then move them to a warmer location.

Where to Buy

Several of these wild tulips have been hard to find in the past, and some still are. All are available via mail-order suppliers, and most garden centers also stock species tulips in the fall.

Most commercially available species tulip bulbs are nursery-propagated and grown, but check with your supplier to be sure they were not collected from the wild.

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