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February 17, 2018


I recently came upon a large batch of picked tulips at the children's library greenhouse. They were mostly purple and yellow and had wilted to extinction. The caretaker at the greenhouse cut off the bulbs of all and offered them up so I just took home a bag of 30 of them. I'm not a flower person and have no idea if these bulbs are still viable, whether they have to dry out for a year or even when to plant them. Many still have the remnants of what appears to be new growth on them. Can you shed some light?

AnswerI would add them to the compost pile.  Tulip bulbs that were forced (bloomed out of their normal season) are hard to get to re-bloom with good care. Bulbs need at least 6-8 weeks of green growth in bright sunlight after flowering to set a flower bud for the next year. Tulips are tough to re-bloom when planted in the ground and given full sun.  Since yours were wilted to the point of extinction immediately after bloom, there would be no flowers from these next year. Sorry.


February 1, 2017

QuestionWe purchased several containers of tulips for an event recently.  They bloomed beautifully and are now dropping the flowers.  My boss wants to keep the blubs in a container with soil until next year but I seem to remember you saying that these kind of forced bulbs rarely bloom the next year.  Is it worth the trouble?  

AnswerYou are correct; it is not worth the trouble.  Enjoy forced bulbs and then add them to the compost pile.  Tulips in particular are hard to re-bloom even if they are planted in the yard and when they get the proper amount of sunlight. If they are forced, rarely will they keep their foliage for the requisite six weeks after bloom and they don’t have enough space in the shallow containers or enough bright sunlight to replenish good flowers.  Treat them as cut flowers that last longer.  Enjoy them then toss them.



October 15, 2016

QuestionI recently purchased tulip bulbs I intend on planting in November.  Do they need to be refrigerated now before planting time?  



In Arkansas, tulip bulbs do not NEED to be pre-chilled, but if you don’t plan to plant for a month and you have an empty hydrator drawer in your refrigerator giving them extra chilling time would not hurt.  The more chilling hours a tulip gets the taller they grow.  Never freeze them, but chilling is fine, but not a requirement.  Don’t store them around other fruits and vegetables but by themselves.  

 December 19, 2015

QuestionI have some tulip bulbs to plant and I read an article that said to put petroleum jelly on the bulbs and the squirrels would not bother them.  Do you recommend doing this?



That is a new one for me.  When it comes to animal control, I do recommend that you try a variety of home remedies, since none of them are fool proof.  That being said, I can’t imagine how petroleum jelly would work.  I actually did a google search to see what others were saying about this and I found a number of hits.  Some recommend putting it on the bulbs themselves, but most said to put it on the foliage. I think that would be a mess, since anything that blows through the air would stick to the leaves if they were coated with petroleum jelly.  If you want to keep squirrels from digging up and eating the bulbs, you can plant them in wire cages, with a big enough gauge that the foliage can grow up through it.  Or plant daffodils which are poisonous and the squirrels leave them alone!  In my reading, I did find a use for petroleum jelly I didn’t know about. If you have a cloth napkin that gets a lipstick stain, you treat with petroleum jelly and put it in the washer, and the stain comes out! I will try that, but I won’t use it on my tulips—bulbs or foliage.   

November 21, 2015


It is bulb planting time again and I have a question for you. Last year I planted 36 tulip bulbs in the fall and this spring none of them came up.  Did I get bad bulbs or could they come up this year?  Is there something I should do differently to make sure they come up?


If you had firm, healthy bulbs, they should have come up this spring unless an animal ate them. Squirrels, moles, and deer all seem to like tulips—some in the bulb form, and some with the foliage.  You might try daffodils which are poisonous and the critters leave alone.

(May 2009)

QuestionA year ago November, I planted about a dozen tulip bulbs. Last year and this year, they have produced a sum total of three blooms (or whatever they are called).  Anyway, today I decided it was time to move them and try something different. But I don't want to totally give up on them. Is it too soon to dig them up? Also, I would like to try a planter or pot.  If I do dig them up, should I store them until the fall or can I pot them now?


AnswerI would toss those bulbs and plant fresh ones next fall.  Tulips are not the easiest bulb to re-bloom year after year in the south.  They are often one of the last bulbs to bloom and it often gets hot during their growth period, causing them to die back early.   I am not sure why they didn’t bloom well year one, but it is not uncommon to get smaller flowers or just foliage in subsequent years.  Daffodils and crocus will re-bloom great every season with little care. Hyacinths can return, but do like to be fertilized.  Since these bulbs didn’t do well even from year one, I wouldn’t waste much more effort on them.  For future reference, all spring bulbs need a minimum of six weeks of green foliage growth before you can remove the foliage, either by cutting them back or digging them up and storing for fall planting.

(June 2006)

QuestionThis was my first spring to that my planted tulip bulbs have come up.  Now that spring is over, all that is left is the  dead stems and leaves.  How do I properly trim them for next year?  Do I prune them, or just leave them alone to do their own thing?


AnswerTulips, as all other spring blooming plants, need a minimum of six to eight weeks of green growth following their blooming season. This is the time period when they are setting the flower buds for next year.  By now, most tulips have finished their  growth cycle.  Especially if the foliage is dying down or already dead, do some clean-up.  Cut the old foliage off slightly below the soil line.  You can leave the bulbs in the ground year-round, but they do not like excess moisture around them while they are dormant.  Be aware that tulips are not one of the best re-bloomers in Arkansas.  If you want to be guaranteed big, beautiful flowers every spring, plant new bulbs every fall.

(June 2008)

QuestionI saw on TV last fall that you can plant tulip bulbs in dirt in pots.  I thought that was a neat idea and I did that.  I had tulips blooming everywhere in them in April/May.  What should I do with them now?  I potted geraniums and other plants on top of them for the summer.  Is that okay.


AnswerTulips are not one of our best repeat bloomers when they are planted in the ground, so I am not going to hold my breath as to how well they will come back in your containers. The main concern I have is moisture. Tulips are best planted deep in the ground which keeps them drier in the summer months.  In containers with plants on top, you will be doing regular watering and the bulbs are going to stay awfully moist. If you try this again in the future, consider letting the foliage grow for the requisite six to eight weeks after flowering, then lift and dry the bulbs for replanting the next fall. For best show with spring tulips it is often best to use new bulbs every season anyway.

(April 2005)

QuestionMy tulips are beautiful this year but I have received so many conflicting stories of what to do for them to be pretty again next year. I have been told to remove the flower but leave all the foliage in place until it dies or to remove the flower with stem to the foliage so that they will not go to seed instead of setting the bulbs for next year. Also to leave the bulbs in the ground and to take them up and let them dry out before planting again in the fall. Right now I am totally confused as to what action to take. Can you help me?

AnswerThere are many different theories on tulips, but a lot can depend on what type of tulips you are growing.  Many of the newer cultivars are quite showy in one season, but are not nearly as pretty the following year, regardless of care.  Some are good repeaters, some are not.  It is best to remove the flower stalk—not the leaves.  Tulips and hyacinths often set large above ground seed pods, which does take energy away from the developing bulbs underground.  The foliage needs to be healthy and green for at least six weeks following bloom to set flowers for next year.  Fertilization helps, but I often recommend applying it when the flower buds begin to appear, to have the nutrition ready when the plants are finished.  A light application now will also help.  There are two schools of thought on tulip bulbs being lifted in the summer.  Tulips are native to a season with cold winters and dry summers. If you  water the beds regularly during the growing season for other plants in these beds,  tulip bulbs can rot.  If your beds are fairly dry, lifting and storing is not needed, but if drainage is an issue, you may want to lift and replant the following fall.  Many gardeners replant new tulips every season to be assured of large spring blooming tulips.

(May 2010)

QuestionI live in Hot Springs Village and just received container of 20 yellow blooming tulip bulbs. I have no idea what kind they are but their stems are about 12-15 inches tall. I'd like to plant them as a cluster in my garden. Can I do that now or must I wait till next fall? Also can I buy or make a cage to prevent squirrels and chipmunks from eating the bulbs?


AnswerYou aren't going to like my answer.  Once tulips are forced into bloom and grown like yours are in a container I usually recommend you simply toss them after you have enjoyed them.  Chances are better than good that they won't bloom next season.  Tulips, as with all spring blooming bulbs, set their flowers for the following season in the period following bloom.  They need a minimum of 6 weeks of good sunlight to create enough energy to set flowers.  Inside, they probably won't get enough light for this to happen and outside, the heat will cause the foliage to die back.  If you still want to try, fertilize and keep the foliage green as long as possible.  Once the leaves die back, store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until next fall when you replant outdoors.  You can build a cage out of a large wire mesh--enough to let the bulbs grow through, but small enough to keep rodents out.

(Feb. 2010)

QuestionI have tried applying straight Roundup to kill a bed of Monkey Grass, with no result.  Can you possibly tell me what if any application will rid me of the Monkey Grass problem? I want to create a bed for tulips and other flowers after the Monkey Grass is eradicated.


AnswerThis is one of those situations where if you didn't want to kill the monkey grass (liriope), the Round-up would damage it, but since you do, it looks like nothing is happening.  This time of year the plant is not actively growing so damage to the plant from a glyphosate product (i.e. Round-up) will be very slow.  I would try to dig up as much as possible, or take your lawn mower or weed eater and cut it back to within an inch of the ground and then spray with Round-up.  One application won't give you total kill.  Removing as much of the roots and crowns as possible and treating what emerges after that will help.  Tulips can't be planted until next fall, so you have some time to work on it!

(February 2005)

QuestionIs there still time to plant tulips?  And, if not, where could I find "a lot" of pink tulips?  And is it advisable or not to plant them at an eve of a house where when it rains it somewhat pours?  That's where I would like to plant them because I think they would be pretty there.  And it's on the north side of the house, will that be okay for them?  Thank you!


AnswerI would hope you can't still find tulip bulbs this late.  The peak planting season is from October through December.  Planting as late as mid January is not bad, but by now you are a bit past time.  If  you found some bulbs you bought but haven't planted, that is one thing, and I would say go ahead and plant--they won't last another season any way.  But I doubt you would find any bulbs now.  As for future planting, planting at a spot that gets heavy water run-off is ok, if the soil is well drained, and the water doesn't sit, or erode away.  If the spot stays waterlogged for days afterwards, I would look for a drier spot.  Most florists and garden centers often have forced tulips in bloom now, or as cut flowers.


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