Tulips appear each spring as one of the first plants to arrive with the warming weather. These beautiful bulb plants feature trademark cup-shaped flowers in a host of colors. Tulips may be one of the toughest plants in the early spring landscape but these treasures do require good care after planting. Some gardeners prefer to leave the bulbs in the ground for more than one season to see how the bulb produces the following year. In general, the best practice requires removal of the bulb to optimize the flower for the following spring.
Tulips burst forth in early spring with a profusion of blooms. It's perfectly fine to rush out with the pruning shears to clip these blooms for indoor arrangements. Flower stems, blooms and foliage connect directly to the bulb and should be preserved to increase bulb health. Remove spent tulip blooms directly behind the flower head. Leave the remainder of the stem and foliage in place even after the tulips have finished blooming for the season.
Tulip foliage serves as an important reservoir for nutrients. After blooms, these nutrients slowly transfer to the bulb as the foliage dies and encouraging the bulb to mature for a future growing season. Do not cut back tulip foliage after the blooming period ends. Allow foliage to die naturally and only remove with clippers after it turns completely brown.
Digging Up Bulbs
Some gardeners swear that tulips need to be dug up every spring after the foliage dies. Other gardeners believe that leaving tulip bulbs in the ground for a year or more acclimates the plant to the growing environment. In reality, tulips bloom beautifully the first year and seem to slack off in future years. Some individuals see two to three years of great blooms and then a slacking off. If you notice reduced blooms, plan to dig the bulbs up for summer storage. Let the dying foliage of the tulip dictate when you dig up the bulb and carefully use a trowel around each bulb after foliage is completely yellow.
Bulb storage requires a cool location and even temperature to allow the bulb to go dormant. Prepare tulip bulbs for storage by removing as much direct as possible from the bulb. Discard any bulbs with a spongy feel or those exhibiting rotted areas. Place the tulip bulbs flat in a cardboard tray or lined on the bottom of a box. Place the tray in a cool location to allow the bulbs to dry. Avoid moisture, heat and direct sunlight to limit damage to the bulbs during summer storage.
Safely return tulips to the gardens in the fall to a garden prepared to receive the bulbs. Plant bulbs between the beginning of October and Thanksgiving. Soils should have good drainage and contain plenty of organic material to promote healthy bulb growth. Choose a location in partial shade to full sun for best results.