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 ? Bulbs Forum FAQ: Tulips


Frequently Asked Questions


 ? Will Pre-Emerge Hurt My Tulips?

Robert (Alabama) - 7a - Problem: Have applied Pendulum, preemergent already to beds and am planning now to put in 3000 tulips.

Bed is to be essentially turned over for planting. Will the pendulum still effect root formation and development on the bulbs even though it is underground now and doesn't have the opportunity to form a typical vapor barrier or will the characteristics of the preemerge alone prevent root development?

We have contacted American Cyanamid to talk to a tech. person. They said Tulips will not survive it, even after disturbing the soil. Fortunately we had only done one small out of the way bed before we stopped our applicator. All is not lost, but I learned a good lesson in communication without having to pay the price.

We had concentrated all of our attention to getting pre-emerge down to prevent weeds, forgetting that we still have to get Tulips in. Whew, that was a close one.

Skip MNZ4 - The question of what effect pre-emergent herbicides would have on bulbs is an interesting one. My understanding is that the chemical lays down a barrier to prevent germination. However, in the case of certain turf grasses, Tupersan (a pre-emergent herbicide) can be used and it will not interfere with germination. In the case of a bulb, it seems unlikely that the chemical would prevent the meristen of a tulip or daffodil from breaching the surface of the soil. It would appear that we are dealing with two different stages of plant growth; one is an established plant while another is a seed which is just germinating. I have sent out some queries to people who are subject matter experts with respect to herbicides. If you know anyone who is knowledgeable about pre-emergent herbicides and their effect on germination or plant growth, contact them and let us know what they say.

Robert (Alabama/7a) - Skip, My problem was that the Tulips were not in the ground yet and we started putting preemergent down. My question was if you disturb the soil, plant the bulb, then put that soil back in on top of it, there would be some preemerge which can come into direct contact with the bulb. Can or will this prevent the bulb from developing? American Cyanamid said yes it will. They said the only way to get around it would be to use a different untreated soil to cover them.

Fran (Idaho, zone 5) - But doesn't the pre-emergent remain active for only a fairly short period of time? I would think that with the winter precipitation the pre-emergent would be gone before the bulbs started doing their thing.....but I wouldn't want to try it and see! I propose that you conduct a small experiment (with your own bulbs haha!) and let us know the results! Cheers...Fran

Robert (Alabama/7a) - The pre emerge will have a activity period of about 90 days generally. Tulips will start putting down root growth in the Fall when ground temps. are still relatively warm, even though air temps. are cool. The pre emerge probably wouldn't approach its half life until early to mid January. Then, it is still marginal and too late to put out bulbs.

Skip MNZ4 - I am told that Pendulum is Pendamethalin which is normally used by professional lawn care firms and it is not a homeowner chemical. I was also told that it does not persist for very long and unless there is something on the label regarding what other plants will be affected there is simply no way to know, short of trial and error, what effect the product will have on the bulbs. The product has an interesting and somewhat ominous trade name


 ? Do Blooms From Tulip Bulbs Change Color?

Kevin Stoker - I have planted over 500 bulbs this year as well as some the previous year. My mother told me that some of her bulbs changed colors after a few years (blue blooms became yellow). Does this really happen. If so, can I prevent it from happening? Thank you!

Neil Allen ILZ5 - There is a possible explanation (of sorts), although I've never witnessed it. Tulip suppliers warn against replanting tulips in the same spot in the garden every year. (This assumes that you lift the tulips after the foliage matures, store them over the summer and then replant in the autumn.)

Tulips can be subject to virus disease which can cause streaking on the bloom; so a virused red tulip might get yellow streaks. I suppose the idea is that virus can build up in the soil -- but I've never seen this given as a reason not to leave the "perennial" types in the same spot year after year.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, and the "not again in the same place" advice is just normal crop rotation (exhaustion of nutrients), but again, why not amend the soil, and why wouldn't the perennial types be affected? At any rate, there is a condition that does cause some change in color, though not from one solid color to another -- and the relation between the virus and "not planting in one spot" is conjectural.

Skip MNZ4 - I have raised various types of bulbs and corms, etc., for years and have not experienced any color change such as you describe. Many years ago the so-called Rembrandt tulips (also referred to as "broken") had flowers that were streaked and were much sought after. It was then discovered that this streaking of the flower was caused by a virus. They are no longer propagated. For information on why most tulip cultivars do not "perennialize" even though they are perennials, click on the link name below.

Skip MNZ4 - Well...most of the color aberrations such as just described are probably a mis-labeling of the bulbs somewhere along the line prior to point of sale. In stores with bulk tubs or open boxes of bulbs, someone will come along and "mix them up" either on purpose or else the person had a bag of bulbs and then decided to buy some other color and just dumped the bulbs in the handiest nearby bin. Rare indeed is the bulb that goes into the ground red and comes up a bright yellow all on it's own


 ? When Should I Plant Tulip Bulbs in Zone 9/10?

Jen - I live in an inland zone (9 or 10) in So. California, where we can have some frosts in the winter. I want to try planting some tulip and other bulbs for the first time this year. When is the latest that I should purchase the tulip bulbs to allow time to chill them in the fridge and then plant? Also, would it be a good idea to water them with ice cubes occasionally to trick them into thinking it's a cold winter?

Mike Haile - CA/Z9 - I'm a CA/Z9er too. I put my hybrid tulips in the fridge about Sept. 15 and plant them out the day after Thanksgiving with excellent albeit annual results. It's not too late to buy some bulbs locally and toss them in the fridge for eight weeks.

Andie Rathbone (MO/Zone 6) - You do not get cold enough weather in zone 9 to plant tulips directly in the ground. You need to pre-cool your bulbs in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks before planting to fool them into thinking that you really live in the north. (Word of caution: When you do this DO NOT put apples anywhere near the bulbs, or nasty things will happen). Then plant the bulbs out doors.

Bob Spotts - Daffodils don't need a pre-planting chill. Just plant them in mid-November. You'll do best with varieties that bloom in early season or md-season, that will be finished blooming and making their new bulbs for the next year before the warm weather sets in. Tazettas (commonly called "narcissus") will naturalize easily in these zones. Some will bloom in mid Fall, others in late Winter - depending on the variety and where you plant them (that is, when they get watered in the Fall).

julia - I also live in zone 9 (Bay Area-San Jose) and I had great success with tulips I planted in December and early January last year (I did them in pots). If you do them in the ground be warned- they like well drained soil, so if you have clay soil, and some sand and or amendments in. I think pots are the best way to go as our winters aren't cold enough for a successful return. They do need at least a 6 week chill period before planting. If you haven't chilled them yet, do so now. I'm not sure end of January is too late, but I'd give it a try. I just planted mine in potting soil, with a little bulb fertilizer (I like the Scotts brand).


 ? I Need Information About Species Tulips.

Helen Kreigh - What are species tulips? I received them as a bonus with an order of peonies and planted them last fall in WI, Zone 4. No sign of peonies yet, but the species tulips have all sprung up with leafage close to the ground and two or three buds per plant no more than an inch or two above the surface. Will they winter well here? Will they multiply?

Linda D. - It sounds as if you received botanical (wild) tulips, from your description of their low growth. Yes, they are hardy from zones 3 through 8, and will perennialize freely. They are a very charming tulip originally found in different parts of Europe and Asia. One of the most long lived is called Tarda, a white and yellow blossom.

ruth anne (IL. zone 5a) - These are the about the only kind of tulips I've had any luck getting to perennialize. I see more and more neat varieties coming available all the time. This year, I put in three different ones. They appear to be undemanding, free blooming types of tulips and they do cut well for use in a vase. McClure & Zimmerman catalog offers a wonderful array of species tulips and daffodils

Barbara - Botanical tulips come in a range of varieties - T.tarda, T.kaufmanniana, T.greigii, T.fosteriana, T.praestens, T.turkestanica and probably many others, but these I have had some experience with. Quite easy to grow, very beautiful, especially good for Alpine gardens or low borders, excellent companion for T.praestens is white Primula denticulata - try! Some (T.greigii) have interestingly striped foliage. They don't have to be dug up every year either, just once in a couple of years. The only setback is, they are not much use for cutting. Or does anyone here think differently?


 ? Are Tulips Really Perennial?

mary - 7 - I have trouble with my tulips. They bloom in spring and then never bloom again and I have to go out and buy new bulbs again for the next spring. No rodents or animals getting the bulbs. I don't have that problem. What could I be doing wrong. I love tulips but it sure gets expense to replace them every year. My daffodils come back year after year, just fine.

Linda D(MI/Z4) - It isn't you - its the bulbs. Most tulips generally decline after the first year or two, and then are fini. They will never have the permanence of daffodils. Tulips do not perennialize - but, there is a new species available, Darwin Hybrid Tulips, which is changing that. Labeled as a perennial strain, the group is supposed to last at least five years and actually increase the first three years. The only source I've seen is White Flower Farm, 1-800-503-9624. All those displays you see in the spring of fabulous tulips are actually planted the previous fall.

Andie Rathbone Mo/Zone 6A - The only places where tulips are truly perennial are in the foothills of the Himalayas and the steppes of Turkey, where they are indigenous. However, here are some tips that will get them back for 2 or 3 years at least:

  1. Tulips need well drained soil. If you've got clay soil, mix in some sand, or plant in 10" raised beds.

  2. Plant deep; about 8". This will keep the bulbs cool in the summer and prevent heaving during winter thaws.

  3. Deadhead spent flowers after they bloom, but do not pull up foliage. Tulips need energy from the foliage to go into the bulb. Do not pull up or cut back until completely brown.

  4. Fertilize with well-rotted manure or "bulb booster" fertilizer. In the spring when the first shoots appear ad high-nitrogen, fast release fertilizer to promote flower growth.

The following varieties are most likely to return for a second or third year: Aladdin, Apeldoorn, Apeldoorn's Elite, Ballade Beauty of Apeldoorn, Burgundy Lace, Christmas Marvel, Couleur Cardinal, Don Quichotte, Golden Apeldoorn, Golden Melody, Holland's Glorie, Kees Nelis, Keizerkoon, Maytime, Merry Widow, Orange Emperor, oxford, Red Riding Hood, Red Shine, Striped Apeldoorn, White Triumphator, & All Darwin Hybrids in red, rose, orange, yellow & 2-toned colors.


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