By: Heather Rhoades
Tulips are a finicky flower. This can leave a gardener wondering, “Why do my tulips bloom for several years and then go away?” or “Will tulips come back the next year if I plant them?” Keep reading to learn about what causes non flowering tulips and steps you can take to get tulips to bloom every year.
The overwhelmingly most common reason why tulips leaf out but don’t bloom is simply that the environment needed for tulips to bloom every year is very specific. Tulips evolved in the mountains where it is often dry and there are hot summers and cold winters. Tulips planted in our gardens may not get this exact environment and they have a hard time forming a flower bud without it.
Another less likely possibility for non flowering tulips is a lack of nutrients. All flower bulbs, not just tulips, need phosphorus in order to form flower buds. If your soil is lacking phosphorus, your tulips will not bloom every year.
First thing to consider when planting tulips is to realize that no matter how hard you try, you may simply not live in an area where tulips will last long. You may not want to go through all of the work that it will take to possibly get your tulips to rebloom. In many areas, gardeners simply treat tulips as annuals and it is okay if you decide to do this too.
If you decide to try to get your tulips to rebloom year after year, the most important things you can do is choose the right location to plant your tulips. The location MUST be well drained and in full sun. The more intense the sun the better.
Do not plant tulips near house foundations, driveways or other concrete forms if you live in slightly warmer climates. All spring blooming bulbs need a certain amount of cold to form flower buds, but this is especially important to tulips. If you live in USDA zone 5 or higher, concrete forms can actually keep the tulip bulbs warmer in the winter which will keep them from forming flower buds.
Consider planting your tulips in mounds. Tulip bulbs planted in mounds will be in soil that is better drained than the surrounding soil. This dry soil will help tulips bloom.
Plant only old fashioned tulips. While the newer hybrids are very spectacular, they are far less likely to rebloom from year to year. The old fashions tulips (heirlooms) are more forgiving when it comes to getting the right environment and are more likely to bloom year after year.
Planting the tulips bulbs to the right depth will also help keep your tulips blooming annually. You should plant the tulip three times deeper than it is tall.
Let the tulip leaves die back naturally. The leaves are how the plant stores enough energy to form the flower bulb. Since tulips have a hard enough time forming flower bulbs, they need all the energy they can get. It also helps to snip off faded tulip blossoms as soon as you can. Tulips that try to produce seeds will have less energy for forming next years flower.
Last but not least, fertilize your tulip bulbs annually with a phosphorus rich fertilizer. This will help combat the less likely reason for non flowering tulips and will help give a little extra boost to tulips that may be on the edge in terms of being able to produce flowers from year to year.
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Forced tulip (Tulipa spp.) bulbs growing in pots add bright color to the home in late winter and early spring. Forcing uses up a lot of the plant's energy, but it's still possible to transplant the used bulbs outdoors for future blooming. It may take two years before transplanted tulips bloom again after growing in pots. Tulips do require cold winters with at least two months of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to flower. In climates with mild winters, you should choose low-chill varieties like Tulipa bakeri. These varieties naturalize well, which increases the chance of transplant success. Tulips also do best in U.S.D.A. Hardiness zones 3 through 8.
Move the pot to an area that receives bright, direct sunlight after the tulip completes its flowering cycle. Cut off the spent flowers so the tulip doesn't try to form seeds, but leave the stems and leaves intact.
Water the soil once or twice weekly, or when the surface begins to dry. Water once every two weeks with a soluble, balanced houseplant fertilizer, applying it at the rate recommended on the package label.
Reduce watering and stop fertilizing once the foliage begins to yellow on its own. Stop all watering when one-half of the leaves are dead. Allow the remaining foliage to die back naturally.
Work a 2-inch compost layer into the top 8 inches of a garden bed that drains well and receives full sun. The compost increases the soil nutrition and improves soil quality.
Cut the dead foliage off the tulip bulbs. Remove the bulbs from the pot.
Plant the tulip bulbs in the bed with the pointy side facing up. Set the bulbs so the top of each bulb is 2 inches beneath the soil surface. Space small varieties three inches apart in clusters of five or more bulbs. Plant larger bulbs four to five inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting.
Transplant tulip bulbs as soon as frost danger has passed in spring. You can also transplant six weeks before the first fall frost, but you have to store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for the summer. To store them, set the tulip bulbs in an airy space and let dry for a few days. Once dry, store in a paper bag in a cool, dark place until ready to plant. Once transplanted, tulips require minimal care because the bulbs are dormant. Applying a bulb fertilizer in fall and spring, and keeping the soil moist during the growth period, keeps the plants healthy.
Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.
First of all, it is important to remember that perennial flowering plants can take a range of different forms. They can be:
One of the first things to do is determine how much space you have available. You should determine which of the above types of flowering perennial you are looking for.
Of course, which ones will be right for where you live will depend on your climate, microclimate and soil. And also the particular conditions of the location in which you wish to grow them. One of the most crucial things to think about is whether you will be growing in full sun, or in shade.
Below, you will find a range of suggestions for both scenarios. You are sure to find suggestions on these lists that are suitable for your own particular location.
But before we look at the lists, here are some more tips to help you choose the best perennial flowers for your garden:
When designing any perennial flower garden, one of the key things to consider is how beneficial it will be for bees and other pollinators visiting your site.
To provide a source of food for these important creatures throughout the whole of the year, you should have flowers blooming in your garden during each of the seasons.
The more blooms you include, and the more you plan for year-round flowering, the more wildlife friendly your garden will be.
Designing a perennial garden, wildlife should be a top priority. By attracting wildlife, we increase the levels of biodiversity in our gardens. And the more biodiverse your garden, the more stable and resilient it will be. That’s not only good for the planet and people in a wider sense, it is also helpful to you, as a gardener.
Of course, you can also boost biodiversity by including as many plant species in your garden as you can. Just plant, plant, and plant some more!
Not everything in your garden will go according to plan, but if you keep adding new plants and trying new things, you are sure to develop a beautiful and productive garden over time.
When choosing perennial flowers, or any other plants, it is important to think wholistically – considering the combinations of plants, as well as just the plants themselves.
To create a good perennial garden design, we should layer plants in space – for example, by placing herbaceous perennials below shrubs, and above ground cover plants.
We should also layer plants in time – thinking about how we can create a series of blooms – allowing one flowering plant to grow up amongst others, so they will bloom as soon as the previous blooms have faded.
While perennial flowers can look great in combination with one another, it is also worthwhile considering how you can integrate ornamental flowering plants with other types of plants – such as perennial vegetables or fruit trees, fruit bushes and fruiting canes.
With some careful design and planning, it is possible to create a beautiful garden that also provides many of your basic needs.
You should also consider integrating perennial plants with annual and biennial ones. Plants that are not perennial, but which self-seed readily can also be great choices for a perennial border.
Some examples that I like to include with perennial flowers include foxgloves (biennial) and borage (annual). But there are also plenty of other self-seeders to consider.
Borage is an annual that self seeds.
Breaking in a tulip is a term that references a non-genetic color pattern that develops on the petals of the flower. These patterns are the result of viral infections, which may become fatal if left untreated. Most often, light colored blooms will develop a dark mosaic pattern, while dark flowers will develop lighter stripes or flecks. These color changes and patterns will vary greatly and are not usually uniform, an easy indicator that a health issue is to blame. More than a dozen potential viruses may be responsible, either one at a time or in combination, including potato virus Y, cucumber mosaic virus and tulip virus X.