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tulips - when to stop watering? how to cut?

Posted by anna_beth zone 5-6 (My Page) on
Tue, May 1, 07 at 17:49

I have two questions regarding tulips:

1. when the bloom period is over, when should I stop watering them? I deadhead them but leave the foliage to die naturally - but what about water? I know they like it dry in the summer, but should I keep watering them when the bulbs are still feeding on the foliage, right until the foliage goes yellow and then dry, or should I stop watering immediately after deadheading them?

2. tulips for cut flower - is it better to leave as much foliage on the plant as possible to assure a bigger bulb for next year? I.e. if I cut a long-stemmed tulip and leave only one bottom leaf for the bulb to feed on, this means not enough food for the bulb and no chance of its returning?

My tulips are not species, and I know they probably will not return, but I want to conduct my own experiment. The ones I'd like to return are: fosteriana Flaming Purissima, lily-flowered Ballerina, Ballade, Claudia, Elegant Lady, Marilyn, and also Bleu Aimable, Ollioules, Dreaming Maid, Sorbet, Queen of Night, Angelique, Shirley, Arabian Mystery, Negrita, Apricot Beauty.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: tulips - when to stop watering? how to cut?

Apply some fertilizer now and keep watering until the foliage is yellow. Leaving one bottom leaf may be enough, depending on sunlight and fertilizer.

Good luck!

Tulip 'Angelique' Doesn't Return?

I'm an ignoramus -- I don't understand what you mean about bulbs which are "not species" failing to return.

I would like a permanent bed of 'Angelique,' so I'm interested in the answer! :)

RE: tulips - when to stop watering? how to cut?

Hello Lisa,

You will actually find an explanation in the FAQ section to the bulbs forum. By species I mean botanical or wild tulips, which are supposed to perennialize or naturalize in the garden, and multiply rather than go extinct in one or two years. They are very small as compared to other tulips, only really visible in small scale gardens. The hybridized garden tulips, in turn, had the perennial streak bred out of them (I am quoting someone here but I do not know who - sorry) in favor of breeding large size and showy flowers. For most gardeners, those are annuals because no matter how much effort they put into getting them to return, only small percent returns AND blooms, if any.

If you do a search, there are quite a few threads on this forum discussing these issues. One person - by the name Shrubs And Bulbs, located in the UK - says s/he has had large perennial tulips in the garden for years, owing to some unique conditions there. Perhaps a good person to ask for detailed advice.

As far as I am concerned, I have had viridiflora tulips (Spring Green) returning faithfully for perhaps 10 years now, if not more. But they are a bit smaller in size and not as many as I had originally bought. Any other tulips that returned for me were/are so small that they simply could not be left in spots which I wanted to look presentable. What I do with them is I give them to my 8 year old niece, who has her own "tulip bed" on the side of the garden. We practice planting, weeding, watering, cutting flowers, deadheading etc. there. Those half-sized, leftover tulips of many different varieties are enough for her to play with and study.

But, since I have never gone through the whole cycle of producing bulbs for the following year properly (e.g. I did not fertilize or watered after the blooming period, I did not lift the bulbs to replant them later in a freshly amended soil), I want to do so this year, just out of curiosity what my results will be. I will have to lift the bulbs anyway because I planted too many in a single bed I had ready last fall and they look a bit weird. My niece will get the small ones, and I will replant the big ones.

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