Tulips in the Bay Area - Questions

dgbeig(SanFran -z10)April 25, 2011

I'm new to tulip growing and I have a few questions. I hope someone could help.

First, I planted tulips in December this year and they are in bloom now. I planted two varieties and only one was successful, most of the others rotted before they could bloom.

I don't remember the exact names. The ones that rotted were the parrot kind with the ruffled edges, and they are yellow and red.

The ones that were so successful (came up later) were a pointy tulip, with red on the outside and yellow inside.

They look similar to this


So, I'm wondering a few things.

First, the ruffled tulips that were unsuccessful, look like they still have some bulb trying to come up. Is it possible they would send up a second stalk and bloom?

I've read that I can't dig these out and keep them for next year. That our climate is not good for that.

is that true?

Should they be pulled and tossed?

And lastly,

I have a coupon for bulbs that I can use now.

I don't need summer bulbs but I would like to try some more tulips and peonies for next fall/winter.

Can I buy they now and keep them stored til next year?

Can I store them in a box in my garage?

And in general, some questions for anyone else in San Francisco (or west coastal region with fog):

- When do you plant out your bulbs?

- Have you found that certain varieties of tulips (or peonies, which i haven't grown yet) do best??

- Any other tips or tricks you learned along the way?

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have been growing tulips and peonies both for the last 20 years in Watsonville and now in Calistoga. You can be successful if you recognize these are both grown best in a colder winter climate. Tulips will not naturalize as the winter climate is not cold enough to vernalize the bulb for a flower the next year. You can chill the bulb at refrigerator temperatures 35 to 40 degrees for a minimum of 6 weeks. To plant a second year the bulbs will have to be dug after the plant has died down, bulbs dried and stored in a cool dark place until time to chill again for next year. If you do that only about one third will be large enough to bloom next year. Tulip bulbs are so cheap it is not really worth the effort, and most of us buy new bulbs every year. I have never had a tulip bulb rot in the ground, check for a location with better drained soil. Tulip bulbs are usually available about Sept 1st. The longer a bulb is stored the weaker it gets, even if stored properly. Al

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:38PM
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I'd agree with much of the above. Tulips in particular are not reliably perennial in many climates because of hybridization and lack of proper growing conditions during their dormant period. Lack of winter cold may also be a factor although in the Bay area, I'm not sure that plays a huge role. I am further north than you and do experience a slightly colder winter (zone 8b) but I also live in an area that has the largest commercial tulip fields outside of Holland (local cut tulips found now in the grocery stores very likely came from our Skagit Valley fields) and there are minimal issues with adequate vernalization.

Species tulips offer the greatest ability to return year after year as they have not been hybridized to the point that their perennialization has been bred out of them. Rotting of bulbs generally indicates poor soil drainage - virtually ALL bulbs require excellent drainage. And to maximize any tulip's ability to return in following seasons, they must be kept quite dry during their dormancy in summer - planting them in areas where they receive regular irrigation in summer, as with other perennials, will definitely shorten their lifespan.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 10:02AM
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dgbeig(SanFran -z10)

Thanks for the answers, that definitely helps, and confirms what I thought about not being able to store these same bulbs.

The tulip bulbs did not rot, actually they came up and looked very strong, but the flower never made it to bloom (only one or two).
I could see the flower stem starting to come through the leaves, but it never opened up, it simply died. I pulled one last weekend that was bigger and taller and the flower was still simply closed. I looked inside and there were quite a lot of bugs, (aphids) so maybe they got infested?

So, if I were to buy some fall bulbs now, could I store them in the garage until september, then put in fridge until October/November and then plant out?

Al, do you have favorite varieties that have been most productive for you?

thanks again

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Even if you could find them, I wouldn't recommend storing bulbs until fall planting. Commercial suppliers have special cold storage facilities that address the needs of bulbs in storage much more successfully than we could do under home conditions.

And generally, spring flowering bulbs are not available for purchase until much closer to their proper fall planting time. You might be able to order and purchase them now from the larger bulb vendors, but it is unlikely they will be shipped until late summer.

Flowers that fail to develop or open properly or that are deformed once they do open are suffering from a condition known as 'bulb blast'. There are various reasons attributed to this, one being exposure to ethylene gases during storage, also excessive heat during storage, excessive heat as the flower buds are forming, lack of proper ventilation during storage or failure of the roots to develop correctly (sometimes caused by late planting). It should not affect the bulb's performance in subsequent years, provided all other conditions are met.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 10:39AM
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dgbeig(SanFran -z10)

Thanks Gardengal!
You got it....
first, the vendor that I have the coupon for, will not ship bulbs until later, so I am good to order now and receive then.

I am glad to learn about "bulb blast" - a new term for me.
(i've been growing veggies for 10 years, but this is my first year with tulips - amazing how garden knowledge does not necessarily transfer from veg to flower)

Anyhoo, i think you hit the nail on the head...as it is quite possible that my bulbs were stored under one of the conditions above and I definitely planted late.

good to know for next year.

do you have a favorite tulip variety?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 11:56AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Tulips are not a specialty for me only one of those flowers grown for their beauty and dependable blooming at a time of year when they can steal the show. I have very good results with Costco bulbs purchased and stored in my garden refrigerator as soon as available. My garden budget allows me to buy 200 tulips a year as long as a can get a good price. I do not like to see a display without enough plants. Al

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 3:00PM
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