tulip bulbs

casi(5)February 19, 2011

Could someone please tell me if the bag of tulip bulbs I didn't get in the ground last Fall are still plantable? I live on the Iowa Missouri state line. We are having a warmer day and I think I can get them in the ground sufficiently. Will they be okay? They have been in an unheated outbuilding. Thanks for the help.

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

If the bulbs are still firm, not soft, they will grow. There is no reason for keeping them, not planted, until they do get soft. Al

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 7:40AM
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If they are soft are they ruined?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 8:26PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have never had any luck with tulips planted after the bulb has softened. Al

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 7:04AM
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Yes. Soft bulbs either indicate rot (bulbs will be mushy) or that they have dried out (air pockets that collapse when pressure is applied). Both are indicators that the bulbs are no longer healthy and beyond growth.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 10:28AM
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Calistoga, the writer lives in a zone 5 and is undoubtedly buried at the present by inches, possible feet of snow.
Never mind that snow is no deterrent to planting in the ground...it can cause though the ground to be frozen and makes it difficult to get down far enough for the bulb to properly be protected. Tulips should be put minimum 6" down, 8" preferred.
All this of course if the thing you are planting will grow.
In order for a true bulb, like tulips, to grow, they require a cooling period in order for their roots to form.
Its the temperature of the soil....why we plant in the fall...that determines whether roots will form.
No roots, no plant. Its that simple.
And roots cannot grow in freezing ground...its too cold and they don't have a winter coat until they form roots.

You cant just say....a tulip is tough...it'll grow anywhere you put it into the ground.
If that were true then we wouldn't have to buy the bulbs in the fall; we could buy and plant them in the spring...and get them into the ground at that time.

Now a tulip, given a cool period, needs weeks to grow their roots. Put a bulb into the ground in October, it will acquire roots maybe in November...and the ground's coolness will make it happen.
Once a tulip bulb has roots....no matter what Ma Nature throws at it it will survive...down even to 40 below zero.
Without roots, it cannot stand up to 20 degrees above.
We have to water the bulb in...and water freezes at 32.
The ice that would form around the bulb then begins to work on it....and as soon as the temperature comes up...it begins to rot.
Such is the story of why tulips should be put into the ground WHEN YOU BUY THEM.....IN THE FALL.

Casi, your tulips cannot be planted....it would be a waste of time and energy. Sad lesson you have hopefully learned....now take the bulbs, take a knife and cut them vertically in half. All that is the plant is inside that bulb...the stem, the leaves, the bloom...its all in there.
You can see it. It takes roots to make them come out.
And roots cannot form unless it is given a ground that suits it.

In warmer climes, such as California, they pre-cool the bulb at the dealer or supplier and the buyer is then required to finish the period of coolness. Without the cooling period the bulb cannot grow roots and without roots, its a useless hunk of tissue.

As far as storing them, the tulip bulb, if given a place where they can kept cool...a refrigerator crisper is one such place, can be stored for up to 3 months.
So if you couldn`t plant them in October when you buy them, the refrigerator can keep them ...for a time.
Past 3 months, they will begin to deteriorate but if you can open the ground, even in December, January even, get them into the ground...who knows..down 6`inches, 8 inches, the ground there might still be cool enough to form roots.
But you must water them in and if water sits around the roots in cold ground, the ice that forms will act on the tissue and probably begin to rot them when they begin to warm up.
Where`s there a will, there`s a way...unfortunately, for your builbs......NO WAY!
Your bulbs are still a valuable asset to a compost pile.
Tear them apart and throw in there, they`ll decompose and add nourishment to a garden later on.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 3:52PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

If they are still firm, as calistoga says, I would pot them, even if they have to be vy crowded, & keep in the out building if/or when any green appears - then into a sunny location.
The worst case scenario is they won't grow. So use the potting soil for something else.
The best case scenario is foliage growth & maybe some tiny bloom. Great! After the foliage yellows you can put them in the garden.

If you decide you'd like to have tulips naturalize, Darwins are great. I have "Pink Expression" coming up with fat buds showing -- 3rd year! Maybe someone will chime in with names that have populated nicely in their zone.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 9:26PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Apart from some time and a little effort I can't see what you have to lose by doing as iris_gal says, except I'd put the pots outside. We all know that quite often plants haven't read the theory. They have been in an unheated outbuilding so may still be viable if not squashy. Judge the condition of a bulb as if you were choosing onions to cook with.

I would love to see you post a picture of a flowering tulip later in the year and show the counsellors of despair.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:12AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

For other California tulip growers, you should know that the tulips you buy have NOT been pre-chilled unless they SAY they have. If you plant tulips not sufficiently chilled they will still grow, some will even bloom, usually on a stem so short you will not recognize it as a stem. Casi in zone 5 with tulips stored in an unheated building all winter certainly have been chilled enough. If you store your tulip bulbs in the bags received in, in a refrigerator as I do, they will not grow any roots until planted. Mine are typically stored from September first to December first when they are planted. Those of us in the west can grow tulips as beautiful as anywhere in the country. Al

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Casi's question about the condition of the bulbs seemed to indicate that they may no longer be in plantable condition. I believe that Al's and my response to that issue was that, based on our experience, soft bulbs generally do not produce well, if at all.

But if the bulbs are still reasonably firm, by all means go ahead and plant them - either in the ground if you can or in a container. They may or may not bloom this season and if they do bloom, they may be later than those that were more traditionally planted in fall.

Bottom line - if the bulbs are soft, toss. If the bulbs are firm, go ahead and plant.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:54AM
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It seems some wish to re-invent the tulip and go against all that Mother Nature has shown to be the way it is.

Why do we see the mass of bloom in the spring from planting bulbs when its their time.
Why do we see in forums every year......every yeat without fail...."I didn't plant my bulbs in the fall", "I forgot about them and now in March can I still plant them?"

Sure go ahead....if anything it gets you out of the house and do some exercise and, of course, there's that old tune....
You never know how it might just grow and never mind the naysayers who say it cant happen. Hybridized bulbs are being improved every year and maybe some day, the bulb that blooms in April, can be planted in March, having had their roots form in days, instead of weeks.
Never mind that a tulip bulb has to have a certain range of soil temperature....41º - 48º f. Maybe somebody can show how winter soil, frozen as it is, can somehow heat up to this requirement. And of course, they might say, 'well, give it some potting soil, raise the planting bed and mulch it heavily". And of course the winter around such a mound will fantastically produce a thaw and hold while the bulb produces roots before going back into the deep freeze.
Is that somebody in Chicago laughing.....or is the person in Boston wondering how he's going to dig through 6 feet of snow to get into the ground.

For those that are still of a mind to try to convince somebody that time is still on their side.....it does one thing....convinces others to waste time and money and energy to go against all what is learned about spring flowering bulbs.
What sometimes takes place is a reader in one part of the country, having much different weather pattern, tells another person in some far-off land that they should still plant, never mind that their weather is not the same, their soil is not the same, their sun is not the same.
So when a gardener from the sunny south tells a gardener from the frozen north to 'sure, go ahead, plant your bulb"....its with a notion that from their experience, it will still produce.
This approach doesn't do anything for the person holding onto bulbs way past their prime. It doesn't suggest they have lost the flowers and maybe next year to plant when they should've.
It does no good to convince somebody that there is still time to put something into the ground in February when it is 4 months past their ideal time. If one knows anything about how a true bulb forms its roots, then they wouldn't suggest to others that forgetfulness is not such a bad thing where bulb planting is concerned. Add to that how a bulb might be planted in such soil that doesn't drain properly. How ice drains away from the tissue of a bulb.
Where bulbs are concerned, drainage is just about the most important fact of their existence.

I invite any reader to read about how bulbs form roots and what happens when they do. Its straight out of science fiction...only its not fiction. There's a name applied to the process that escapes me but it makes for great reading.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 10:34AM
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Al, you're right, there are tulips bulbs that are available in southern regions of 8, 9 and 10 that need no cooling period.
They are planted in the fall....'in the fall'...for spring flowering. The types "T sylvestris, T saxitillus and T Florentine does not need cooling and are not pre-cooled beforehand.
What is more, they'll naturalize and return spring after spring without lifting and storing.

Other types do indeed need to be given a pre-cooling period which is usually already done when you purchase them.
I do hope the reader though appreciates that these bulbs need be planted in fall soil.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 10:44AM
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I don't mean to harp on a subject that I have put quite enough words to the subject....and probably people are tired of all of it....but may I just point out one thing.....we like to get out into the garden and work at it.....now imagine somebody has a mass of bulbs, (tulips in this case) she didn't get into the ground and now its too late....but is encouraged to plant them anyway.

What happens when....let's say a person for arguing sake, has 100 bulbs she has still on her hands....and is encrouaged to go ahead...plant them.
Now the average person....I'm taking liberties here, might have a garden of say....20.....by 30.....that's a fair garden, and lets assume she has other things in such space.
Now she plants 100 bulbs....let's envision what kind of space is taken up.
Now let's look at the possibility that she believes the bulbs she has will not do anything....and the space she's put all those bulbs in is wasted....she has no room to put anything else...such as a bulb that will flower in early summer.

Just a thought!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 7:26PM
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I'm not sure what all that verbalization of the previous 3 posts actually boils down to but let me just say this:

Tulip bulbs that have been maintained at sufficiently cold temperatures - provided they are not soft or mushy - can still be planted now, either in the ground if it is workable or in containers if it is not. They will still grow roots and produce foliage, enough to recharge the bulb (if left in place until it properly ripens and dies) for the potential for next season's blooms. They may or may not produce any flowers and those flowers may be quite late, if produced at all. The choice is either tossing the bulbs now or making the attempt to preserve them. They certainly won't survive in out of ground storage until a normal fall planting schedule.

No one is guaranteeing that tulip bulbs planted in March will produce flowers in May. Or even June. Or at all. But planting them is really the only option if one wants to save the bulbs.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 1:36PM
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i do not know. i have one sprouting up. indoors. looks like it'll do alright. it's kind of in low light now.. it's a wildflower tulip. under that stump there are some daffodils, kind of an experiment to see if they will find away around the stump. the tulip next to it damped off.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2015 at 3:21PM
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