Best hope for tulip perennialization

redsox_gwApril 28, 2009

Not sure if that is a word. Tulips get a lot of bad press, I'm sure deservedly so for not perennializing. We have several tulips that came with the house that return every year but they are in a slightly wooded area where we do not irrigate.

Is that the best hope for return? An area that does not get extra watering? Also, we have had 2 summers of drought, maybe that has helped?

I really have my heart set on having some more tulips but I don't want annuals. Are species tulips the only hope?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladychroe(z6 NJ)

Here are the tulips that are relatively perennial in my garden, including years that they have been returning. A "+" sign means they are still going. All of my tulips are planted in my perennial beds and are subject to watering.

Pink Impression 4+
Negrita 2+ (late)
Pink Diamond 2+ (late)
China Pink 3+ (late)
Darwin Mix 2+
Golden Oxford 3+
Apple Blossom tulip mix from HD 2+
Daydream 2+ (My favorite- opens yellow and slowly changes to orange)
Banja Luka 3+ (but took last year off)

My species tulips double every year. They do not have the same punch as the hybrids, but they bloom earlier and are just adorable... def worth planting.

After hearing that the Emperor tulips perennialize, I planted a bunch last fall. If they come back next year, I'll be sure to post. They really were beautiful, and were the first big tulips to bloom on the whole block.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 5:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't forget the kaufmania and greigii types. They are excellent perennializers--great word, redsox.

The catalogs like McClure and Zimmerman are good about labeling the best perennializers. The flashier catalogs have less of this useful, honest information. I'm sure there are other great mail order companies. I've see discussions on this board.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 5:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
linnea56(z5 IL)

the kaufmania and greigii types are great for me: still going strong now for 5 years.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 12:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had tulips bloom this spring that disappeared years ago(5yrs?). They were the fancy types like peony and parrots. They have always pushed up greenery in the spring but never flowers until this year. Im not complaining but i am amazed.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 3:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That is SO cool. They must have needed a looooong rest. I will hope for the same from my own bunches of big green leaves.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 4:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladychroe(z6 NJ)

I wanted to mention that I use a bulb auger to plant my tulips really deep (at least 8 inches) and I cut the flower head off, leaving the foliage, to discourage seed production. I also have hard clay soil that may discourage the bulbs from dividing. Be sure to fertilize when the bulbs are emerging and again after flowering.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 3:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

pamven-did you have a lot of snow this year? One year when we had 60 inches of snow, I had tulips bloom that I hadn't seen for years and had forgotten I ever planted. I don't know if it was all the moisture from the snow or the fertilizer in the snow. Wish it would happen again. We had 3 puny little snows this winter that didn't amount to anything.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 9:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Nancy zone 6

I had some parrot tulips bloom this year that haven't bloomed in a long time too. No extra snow, really can't think of anything different.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 7:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cnid(z5b Ont Canada)

I've fallen in love with the Greigii (Griegii?) and Kaufmania tulips. They come back reliably and multiply. Not as tall as hybrids but many are 10-12 inches and BIG flowers. They are early to mid season bloomers - really appreciate their vibrance in April. They open up quite wide - look like stars, or water lilies.

Species (or botanical) tulips - you know there are a lot of options out there. The little ones are wonderful, altho again quite unlike the hybrids. Perennial and multiply. Sylvestris and whittali are fairly tall. I splurged on acuminata - bizarre! Wonderful. I placed some of mine poorly - they get shaded out by perennials.

Fosteriana are the group that is closest to regular hybrids in shape and height, and they are perennial for me, plus they multiply. If you like orange, yellow, and red, these are perfect for you. A bit limited in colour range. These are the Emperor tulips. I planted Pink Emperor this year - not so happy with the colour. More a light red than the bubble gum pink I was hoping for. Sweetheart is amazing - yellow with a white edge. White Emperor is stunning.

The Lily-flowered tulips come back perennial for me. I have had a few multiply but the flowers are smaller. Great colour range.

What I love about the more perennial tulips is that I have to work a little harder to appreciate them. I make sure to get out everyday, and up close - often the centers are just stunning. In fall, I will buy a pack of hybrid mix if it is on sale and throw them in but don't rely on them.

I plant deep (6-9 inches for the big bulbs), with bone meal. I do not water my beds (I am on a well). I am on clay although my beds are heavily amended.

In the link they comment on perennializing.

Sorry for babbling but I just LOVE tulips and am so happy that I expanded beyond the obvious hybrids. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: primer with pictures

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 10:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the info about Emperor tulips, cnid. That Sweetheart really sounds pretty.

My species tulips are finally taking off this year, and are worth the time to get up close, as you say. We had a few days in the nineties, so their display got cut short. That was sad, but they were great for a few days, and I know they will be there to look forward to for years.

Good to know of your luck with the lily flowered tulips. They do have some great colors.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 3:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lauriedutch(5 / CO)


-- I cut the flower head off, leaving the foliage, to discourage seed production. --

What is the reason for discouraging seed production?

Also, when you say you cut the flower head off, do you leave the stems or prune them? My tulips look silly now that they have lost their flowers and have the tall stems. I'm trying to find out if it's okay to prune the stems now. Thanks.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 9:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ladychroe(z6 NJ)

Hi Laurie,

I think I responded in the other post, but for ref purposes I'll respond here too.

I trim off the seed pod and stem to the first leaf. This prevents the tulip plant from putting energy into making seeds and (hopefully) allows it to save that energy in the bulb for next year's flowers.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lauriedutch(5 / CO)

Ah, I see. Thanks :-)


    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 8:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Does anyone know whether you can extend the life and quality of flowering of a tulip by letting them flower only every other year? I'm considering planting two sets of tulip bulbs: a first set fall 2010 and a second set fall 2011. In spring 2011, the first set would bloom normally. In spring 2012, the second set (planted in fall 2011) would bloom normally; however, although I would let the first set send up leaves in spring 2012, I would cut off flower stalks as soon as they start to show and allow only the green foliage to grow and die back. In 2013, I would let the first set bloom again, and prevent the second set from flowering. Do you think that that "every other year" treatment would allow the bulbs to rebuild their energy so that, every other year, each of them would have a "first year" quality blooming and, overall, a longer lifespan?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2010 at 7:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Holland bulb growers/vendors that sold to the nursery where I used to work always said below zone 4 to plant lardge flowered tulips deeply-- least 12 inches--as the warmer temps caused them to divide quickly and they wouldn't last. More soil cover over them helps moderate the soil temperature for them. Also with no snow cover, as most of zone 6 is, they tended not to come back at all. So either plant species types or treat them as annuals. I do have some red emporers that have lasted for at least 15 years but they are really deep.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2010 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

deep planting (30cm) is helpful as instead of splitting in half, the tulips split off very much smaller daughter bulbs. Also, apart from the species, the Darwin group of tulips are fairly reliable (Golden Apeldoorn, Impressions, Ollioules etc, mainly reds, yellows, oranges, some pinks). Lily flowered ones, as long as they are deep will also come long as they have enough sun. Finally, some of the older single earlies such as Apricot Beauty have been perennial for me but again, they need sun and good drainage. The tulips which do naturalise tend to get much smaller and daintier, more able to support themselves and more natural looking in an informal situation.
Some of the loveliest are the lady tulips, T.clusiana - they grow 14 inches and open completely flat in sun. If I could only afford them, I would love to naturalise a clump of T.sprengeri - the last tulip to flower in the UK.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 5:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If your tulips spontaneously came back it probably has more to do with last year's season than the season they came back in.

Bulbs cannot disappear and re-emerge after several years, they must produce leaves every year. But what they can do is shrink down to the extent that they stop blooming, and grow as foliage-only, in which case you are less likely to notice them. Then if conditions change, the bulbs can re-grow large enough to bloom over a couple seasons.

That growth probably happened due to a summer, just after blooming season, that was just right for their foliage to produce a larger bulb before going dormant. It could mean lots of water, it could mean lots of sun, it could mean fewer hot days to singe the foliage, or it could mean a tree that grew enough shade that the bulbs kept their leaves out longer into the summer without being cooked into dormancy.

Then, after the great year was over, the tulips waited 9 months and returned in the spring and this time they were large enough to bloom.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 1:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

I know this is an old post but I found this information very helpful.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 4:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In case anyone is still reading, I have yet to have a single tulip that wasn't perennial. Lily, parrot, triumph, praestans.. they all return faithfully.

I belive the trick (other than deadheading) is that they don't stay wet in summer, when they are dormant. So they may have problems in clay.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 1:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I posted this a long time ago! Three years ago, we planted 50 tulips, the Darwins, which are praised for perennialization. First year: 49 blooms. Second year: 20 blooms. Third year: 8 blooms.

Meanwhile, under our deciduous trees (less light) we get rebloom every single year on tulips that were here when we bought the house, at least 6 years old. We have clay in both spots.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 2:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My understanding is that most tulips are not good in warmer zones, they really like a winter chill. Maybe the shaded area gets cool enough?

clusiana & praestans tulips are rated for warmer zones, they may do better than the usual suspects. I know that here, with an exceptionally warm winter (for us), they are doing very well.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The winter of 2010 was frigid

Still no return

I wonder why they suggested the Darwins then

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you are looking for a bedding tulip, try out a few of the praestans tulips to see how they do. Supposedly they are more tolerant of warm winters than regular tulips. As a species tulip they naturalize well when they are happy.

If you are having problems, try a few bulbs of several varieties. The function of the garden suppliers is to sell stuff, not neccesarily what you need.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 1:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
roseberri, z6(6)

Hi redsox,
I too want to find tulips that will naturalize, also I have one red tulip that was here when we bought the house(29 years ago!) and it keeps coming up and sometimes blooms and sometimes doesnt. I suspect that its being right next to the foundation gives it the lime it needs, and it is drier there as it is under the eaves. Read somewhere that they want dry hot summers.This year, it is blooming and there are two!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

tulips are from dry and sunny regions with very little summer rainfall - weirdly, many people, I guess because they are spring bulbs, seem to plant them in a woodland situation - which is generally tulip death. They need to be baked over the summer, much like bearded iris, in an open situation with extremely good drainage. In fact, nearly all my tulips which I grow on my allotment, are fully perennial as they are in poor sandy soil in arid east anglia. Nope, it is not Turkey, Iran or the Caucasus, but it comes pretty close. So, to sum up....sun sun sun, dry all summer and cold winters - also dry(ish).

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 6:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The best result for me was with Apeldoorn Elite. All ten bulbs returned 3 years in a row , all blooming. All the others which 'should' perenielize , return in smaller and smaller numbers as years go by.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:36PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Hipeastrum papilio x H.Donau
After repeated and many unsuccessfull crossbreeding...
Poll: share what is blooming for you!
My brother in Zone 8 has daffodils blooming! What...
Any idea what these are going to be?
I was cleaning up a small garden left over from our...
How to plant Crinums with leaves
Hey all, Just received some mail order crinums which...
Transplanting old bulbs
transplanting daffodil and other bulbs When is a good...
Sponsored Products
Serena & Lily Pencil Stripe Rug
Serena & Lily
Clifton Satin Nickel 86-inch to 120-inch Curtain Rod
$71.95 | Bellacor
Perennial Tub Mat - IVORY (BATH MAT)
$39.90 | Horchow
Contemporary Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Kaleen Rugs Revolution Orange 3 ft. x 5
Home Depot
Bel Air Ellston Outdoor Hanging Light - 21.25H in. - 5421 BK
$188.10 | Hayneedle
Thermostatic Shower System, 12 Round Head & Arm, Handset & Body Sprays
Hudson Reed
Candela Satin Nickel One-Light Cut Tulip Pendant with White Etched Cased Shade
$150.00 | Bellacor
Asiatic Lily Bulb - Set of Six
$10.99 | zulily
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™