Why Won't My Tulips Bloom The Next Year?
Tulips are an iconic spring flower. We love the pictures of giant fields of tulips in beautiful colors, each with the perfect bloom, and assume that anyone can grow them. In our dreams the wind never blows the blooms away, the rain never knocks all the petals off, the squirrels never steal the bulbs and our tulips come back every year with no fuss. Easy right? Our dreams were dashed when someone on our Facebook page asked, "Why won't my tulips bloom the next year?" That question started me researching and asking the experts I know all about growing tulips in this climate. In this article, I'll share what I've learned so you can have success growing tulips in the deep South.
Tulips are originally from the Anatolian and Southern Russian regions of the world where the soil is sandy and the winters are really cold. Tulips are classified as a perennial, but have been so hybridized over the centuries that the bulbs have mostly lost their ability to come back year after year. Today, most gardeners treat them as an annual and plant them every year. I talked to one of the amazing plant experts I know and she tried to dig her tulips and save the bulbs last year and only about 1/3 of them grew again. And if she can't do it....just sayin'.
So what can you do if you love tulips in the South?
Here are a few tips for your best tulip success:
· Plant them in December. Since we don't have a cold winter here, if you plant them too early they will grow too soon and you won't have good Spring blooms.
Plant them in well amended, well draining soil. Heavy clay soil or soil that stays too wet will
rot the bulbs.
· Plant them in partial shade. In their native climate, they like full sun, but in the South they just
perform better when planted in partial shade with only morning sun.
· Plant at a depth three times the bulb height. So if the bulbs are 2" tall, plant them 6" deep.
· Fertilize them with a good bulb fertilizer or a fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number on the plant food bag) for your best blooms.
· Treat them as an annual in the South. If you want to dig the bulbs to save, wait until the leaves
have died back to dig them. Dry them on newspaper and store in a cool, dry place.