Tulips in containers....lift and reuse? How?

joannembMay 1, 2011

I planted 60 tulips in 3 long rectangular planters on my front porch. Because I am in zone 5 I had to overwinter them in my garage. I did, and watered them about once a month. In late March, when they started budding up I brought them outside and they are blooming beautifully right now. What a show!

When they are finished blooming I plan on lifting them out of the planters and planting my summer annuals. My question is, can I save these bulbs for next year? If so, how do I store them until I'm ready to replant them in the planters (and overwinter in the garage) in the Fall?

What are my chances that I'll get as nice of a show next year? Is it better to just treat them as annuals? They were about $50--- worth the 2 weeks of beauty in my mind, but I did feel awfully wasteful throwing them away last year. What are your thoughts?

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If you are willing to let them die back normally before digging and storing you should get a decent return for next year, not as nice as this year and probably only about 50% will be big enough to bloom. If you want to do this, because they are in a container with limited nutrients, I would fertilize now. Tulips produce a lot of splits which will not usually be big enough to bloom next year. I would sort them out and only keep and replant in the fall those at least 4 1/2 inches(12cm)circumference. Store in a cool dry dark place with good air circulation, and be sure they are dry before storing. Al

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 8:56AM
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Despite whatever care you can give them, some tulips just do not return well in following seasons :-) But you can ensure the best possible results by proper handling now. Since you want the containers for other plantings, removing the tulips once their bloom period is over and storing for the season is necessary. And I'd recommend storing them intact in the ground rather than attempting to store just the bulbs indoors. Bulbs store much better under real life growing conditions than they do in a cool basement, etc. or under refrigeration.

Leaving any foliage intact, lift the bulbs carefully and heel into the garden in an out-of-the-way, unused but relatively sunny area. The soil needs to be well-drained, the same as permanent inground plantings areas need to be, and should receive minimal summer irrigation. Let the foliage ripen and die off naturally. In early fall, lift the bulbs and replant as desired. I'd use only the largest bulbs for the best container display but you can save smaller offsets and replant wherever you like....eventually they may grow well enough to produce flowers but no guarantees :-) Fertilize then and winterize as you normally would.

As Al indicates, you may not/probably won't get the same prolific display in subsequent years. Maybe adding freshly purchased bulbs will help. Personally, I'd plant out ALL of this season's bulbs in the garden with my fingers crossed and purchase new for the containers.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:56AM
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Thank you! That was extremely helpful. Based on all of the info you both provided I think I will plant them in the backyard garden and buy new bulbs for the container.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:00PM
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