Monday, May 8, 2006

Big Fat Tulip Leaves

Does this ever happen to your tulips?

Tulips can be very discouraging. First of all they must survive the deer, rabbits and underground critters that eat the bulbs.

If by some miracle they do survive, you still can't count on a good bloom.

Often you get a whole slew of these one-fat-leaf plants that will not produce anything but green leaves.

Why does this happen?
I've done a little research and this is what I found:

Something happened the prior year that did not give the bulb what it needed to make the flower...

Reason #1
The mother bulb may have rotted away after splitting into bulblets. These immature bulblets will take years to reach full size to produce a flower.

Reason #2
The bulbs may be planted in too much shade. The first year they will bloom wherever you plant them because the flower is already set within the bulb from the perfect conditions the grower's field provided.
But if you planted them where they lack solar energy, the next year's bloom won't be properly set. That's why, even in the sunnier locations, you must allow the foliage to brown completely before getting rid of the messy plants. I read someplace that it takes 30 days of good sun to supply the bulb with next year's food.

There are numerous other reasons. Incorrect feeding, lack of or too much fertilizer, soil too moist, soil too dry, and compacted soil may all contribute to flowerless plants.

Serious tulip gardeners just give up and plant new bulbs each year.

If you can afford to do that and have the energy to do all that digging and replanting then you will almost be guaranteed a beautiful showing the following spring.

If that is too much trouble/money/work, then you will just have to take your chances (like I do) and savor the fleeting beauty of a blooming tulip. The odds are great that you won't see the same one next year.


  1. Hi Zoey,
    I've enjoyed catching up on your blog. I'm having computer problems will quit on me at any time. I was here yesterday and didn't get a chance to leave a comment for this very reason! I can only compute when it feels like letting me. New computer time I think!
    Thanks for doing this research for us. You're so helpful! I'm glad you were able to foil the deer and get some blooms this spring. Your yard is beautiful. Love that ground cover area. What did you decide to plant where you removed that ground cover under the trees...impatiens, or....? Isn't it just so wonderful being able to get out into the garden???

  2. I heard also that tulips can go too deep. I've had tulips bloom next to my house-right next to the concrete for years. I didn't plant them there either. I do have some tulips in that woodland border each plant gave me one flower.

  3. Oh, I have really learned something here! Thank you!

    I am just starting to get a decent tulip garden and I want it to thrive and continue. I've never yet fertilized the bulbs, and was going to do that this year (if I can find the right fertilizer) -- but now I am afraid of overfertilizing. Hmm. I will have to read any instructions very carefully! Thanks for the warning.

  4. For some reason, I planted the tulips in my candy cane border over 12 inches deep last fall. I was puzzled when only one of the 24 bulbs emerged and flowered. I dug up the spot to plant peonies and realized that I had planted them all FAR too deeply. I don't know what I was thinking!


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