What happened to my tulips?

tisireeMarch 27, 2009

Hello! I am new here, and have been gardening for just a few years. Can someone please give me an idea what may have happened to my tulips?

I bought a bag of Tulip bulbs from Costco last fall, and planted them all in containers. I put two of the containers in the fridge to try to force them, and the rest outside. The problem is that EVERY SINGLE ONE is blind. The containers I pulled out of the fridge mid-winter to force came up with beautiful leaves, but then just died without ever producing a flower. I thought maybe it had something to do with the forcing, because I have never done that before, but now the same thing is happening to all of the containers outside.

I do this with Tulips every year, and have never had this problem before. Could it have just been a 'bad batch'? I read that slugs or snails could cause blind tulips, but as there are no slugs in my fridge/house for the ones I forced, I'm not thinking that was the problem. Should I just avoid the bulbs at Costco from now on?

I appreciate any thoughts you might have!

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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I had that experience once with great looking 'Apricot Beauty' tulip bulbs from Orchard Hardware. I had always had excellent performance with their tulips. And I had grown this tulip before.

This year (last fall) I bought a bag of Queen of the Night + a pink at CostCo. Alack, didn't get them chilled but planted anyhow ~ late Dec. I think. They all have nice buds today. Hopefully the darn heatwave will subside so they will last!

Now that I'm thinking, once with CostCo a bag of the gorgeous pastel pink double tulip (name Angelique ??) was a non-bloomer.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 11:09PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

When we have a garden failure it is human nature to blame the source of the failed product. Tulips regardless of their source can be judged by looking at them. A tulip purchased at the peak of their quality is smooth and firm and at least 12cm circumference, even better if 14cm. So often bulbs after leaving the growers are poorly stored and handled. At least buying bulbs from the Costco's or Home Depots you have the chance to look before you buy. Those of us in warm winter areas need to be especially careful how we manage tulips after bringing them home. Minimum chilling is six weeks at 35 to 45 degrees. I chill mine three months. You can not keep fresh fruit in the same refrigerator without risking the lost of the flower. After planting the soil must be kept moist if it does not rain in January, like this year. Al

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 8:39AM
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Thanks for the thoughts. I have never chilled tulips here before. I think winter is a little colder in zone 14 than 15? Maybe next year I will chill them. If they are not chilled properly, will they not grow at all, or just not flower?

Although, the ones I was trying to force were chilled for a 2-4 months, and they didn't work either.

I think I will always buy a few different kinds in the future, just for insurance!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 5:37PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)


I took a picture today of the ones I didn't get chilled or planted til Xmas time. NOT recommended! They have shorter stems and smaller blooms. I am thrilled to have any bloom on these poor mis-treated bulbs.

The ornamental horticulture gals at Cal Poly pot up their tulips before refrigerating. I don't have the room so just refrigerate the bulbs themselves as soon as bought and plant the last week in Nov.

Don't really think you can "force" tulips. In a cold winter zone a temperature controlled greenhouse ought to get'em to bloom earlier.

Queen of the Night & Pink Diamond

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 10:44PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I always dig my tulips after the foliage has yellowed and hopefully before the foliage is gone and their location lost. Inevitably some are not found and come up the following spring. Most do not bloom and those that do are very short, the whole plant stunted. As a testament to the fact that this winter was colder than normal, several of these performed as though they had been normally chilled. When I buy tulip bulbs, they are immediately put in my garden refrigerator in the bags they came in. They are to planted in the garden and I see no benefit to potting them before chilling. Each year I measure the height of the flower and they average between 24 and 30 inches. I have never fertilized my planting beds bud do add 2 to 3 inches of compost at fall clean up, and again when the tulips are dug. Al

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 8:18AM
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Thanks, those are good things to know in the future. I will throw the bulbs in the fridge for a few months from now on, then plant them later. That would actually be easier than rushing to get them planted right away. My forcing experiment did seem to work as well as the other ones did - beautiful foliage in early January, then... nothing. Bummer.

Wow, Al, you have a garden refrigerator? I'm curious, what else do you store in it? I have a second refrigerator that I never keep fruit in, so it works for the bulbs, but it would be really empty if I only kept garden stuff in there. Plus, my husband would be really short on cold beer :).

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 8:05PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Several years ago I bought a four cubic foot refrigerator,which I keep in the garage. When I don't need it I unplug it. Besides bulbs I use it for storing scion wood in January and for stratifying seeds when required. The operating cost per the tag is reported as $37 per year. Unlike the household self defrosting models it must be manually defrosted. The result is a lot less evaporation of what ever I keep in it, important for bulb storage. Al

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 9:16AM
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Sounds like you really have it down. Your garden must be beautiful!

Thanks again for the advice!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:43PM
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What are the little flowers behind your tulips? These showed up in my bulbs this year and I am not sure how they got there. I am famous for buying up end of year clearance perennials and popping them in the ground to see if they will make it:) I am just not too good at writing them down somewhere.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2009 at 2:00AM
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you had probely fruits in your fridge and that will give ethlyn and this will destroy your flowerbud inside the bulb
you will get leafs but no flower or you see a smal dryed out flower

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 11:24AM
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I bought a group of bulbs from Brecks, called something like 'Party Bulbs' They were really pretty, yellow with dark maroon fringe. But this year they produced huge leaves and no flowers. Dug them out, found lots of small bulbs. What's up ? Should I plant the little bulbs?

Here is a link that might be useful: GardenWeb

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:22AM
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I have a similar (but not identical) problem. This past fall I planted 80 out of a 100-tulip box in my garden and gave 20 to a neighbor. Mine all have leaves - I got only 2 flowers. The neighbor's all flowered beautifully. It's not bad bulbs -- hers flowered. It's not climate - she is 3 doors down. It's not the soil - I have hundreds of Daffodils, Crocuses, Alliums - all are in flower or beautiful bud. Any other thoughts?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 3:43PM
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