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How to get Years of Bloom from your Tulips

Triumph (L) and Kaufmanniana (R) Tulips

One way to enjoy tulips is to treat them as annuals.  That way you choose any type you like, and have the fun of a trying a new color scheme every year.   And that’s what I did before deer made their way to my neighborhood and I had to give up tulips altogether.

This tulips-as-annuals strategy worked for me because I only had space for 30 to 40 of them, so it was a fairly affordable little extravagance.  And even deep-planting of the bulbs each year was super-easy because the beds they were destined for were filled with pure compost. But if you’re like most people, who really want tulips to bloom again the next year, follow these tips and there’s a good chance they’ll  do just that.

Waterlily (L) and Emperor (R) Tulips
Waterlily (L) and Emperor (R) Tulips


The Right Types of Tulips

If they’re labeled as “perennializing” or “naturalizing,” that’s a good bet but especially if the bulbs are of these types:

Darwin Hybrids
Darwin Hybrids
  • Tulipa kaufmanniana or “waterlily tulips” and their hybrids. They’re hardy in Zones 4-8 and according to Ilene, reliable rebloomers.
  • Emperor tulips (T. fosteriana) and their hybrids, which are also hardy in Zones 4-8.
  • Greiggi tulips (T. greigii) and their hybrids. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
  • Darwin Hybrids, Single Early, Double Early and some Triumph tulips also perennialize.

What to Do with Them

  • Good drainage is KEY to tulip survival (to prevent disease and rot). To improve drainage, add organic matter like compost, or coarse sand to the soil.
  • Plant in mid to late autumn (in November here in Maryland), plant the tulips deeply — like 8 to 10 inches deep, measured from the base. Water immediately after planting.
  • After the blooms fade, remove flowers but allow the foliage to die naturally.
  • A low-nitrogen fertilizer at fall planting time and each fall thereafter is suggested, too.

Foiling Squirrels
Here’s what I used to do and it worked, I tell you! Just add some red pepper flakes in the planting hole, more or less on TOP of the tulip bulb. With the use of pepper flakes I achieved 100 percent bloom from tulips in my squirrel-filled garden, so I know there are some frustrated critters out there.  Power to the gardener!

Written by Susan Harris

Photo credits:  Triumph and Darwins; Kaufmanniana and Emperor; Waterlily.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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