Knowing the origin of the tulip assists in understanding its life cycle. Sandra Mason, horticulture educator, recommends planting tulips in well-drained soil that stays dry in the summer. This mimics their natural environment and helps them live longer.
Tulips in Nature
The tulip adapted to dry summers by developing an underground storage unit (the bulb), which permits it to stay alive through a long dormancy.
Inside the bulb lies everything the plant needs to grow. The dry reddish-brown coat (called a tunic) protects the plant, allowing it to stay dormant until conditions are right for growth.
Awaking From Dormancy
The bulb begins growing immediately after fall planting when it is exposed to moisture in the soil. It goes into winter having already developed a strong root system.
As the weather warms in the spring, the shoot emerges. Depending on the variety, tulips bloom any time from early April to late May.
Returning to Dormancy
The tulip’s leaves convert energy from the sun into food through photosynthesis. The leaves must be allowed to stay on the plant until they wither for the bulb to bloom the next season. The bulb remains dormant through the summer.