My tulips are dying

What to Do After Tulips and Daffodils Are Finished Flowering in the Spring

What you do with your spring flowering daffodils and tulips once they have stopped flowering depends on whether you want to try planting the same bulbs for next spring. If you don’t plan to do this, you can dig them up and throw them away, but if you do, you might find yourself wondering about the hows, whens and whys of bulb after-care.

Daffodils often naturalize very well in the garden. That means you can leave them in the ground while they are dormant, and they will come up on their own next year. But if you water your garden regularly, or get a lot of summer rainfall, your bulbs may rot. Some people want to plant something different in the same space for the summer, replanting their daffodils in fall, or they are just worried that they’ll forget where the bulbs are when they are digging over their beds.
Whether you plan to leave your bulbs where they are or lift them and store them, you should not cut off the old foliage until it has dried up naturally. You can cut off dead flowers, but the leaves need to move their nutrients back into the bulb so that it has enough stored nourishment to give you good flowers next year.
Now that your flowers are spent, you can reduce watering, allowing your bulbs to get the message that the growing season is over. When the leaves have dried up, you can lift and store your bulbs if desired, or cut off the leaves and let the bulbs stay in the ground until it’s time for them to start growing again.

You were thrilled with your display of tulips and would like to preserve the bulbs. Tulips differ from daffodils in that they do not naturalize as easily. The bulbs are susceptible to rot, but if you have sandy soil, you may be able to get your tulips settled – depending on the cultivar you choose. Species types and certain hybrids, particularly the Darwin Hybrids, are the best-known for naturalizing successfully.
There’s one thing that you should know: Your second-year tulips will never be as showy as the ones you planted from DutchGrown bulbs last fall. Why?
Dutch growers spend years growing tulip bulbs to reach the optimum size that produces glorious flowers. You get them at their peak. After this, the bulbs split up into smaller bulbs, and these may not flower at all.
The bulbs you got last fall were also specially conditioned by exposing them to specific temperature ranges for set periods of time. It’s not something you can easily do at home. The science of growing tulips for the most stunning flowers has been developed over hundreds of years and is very precise.
However, if you’d like to give lifting and storing your bulbs a try, or are hoping they’ll naturalize, follow the same process as we described for caring for Daffodils after flowering.
Storing bulbs
Once you have lifted your bulbs, shake off most of the soil and leave them to dry in a shady spot for a while. If your bulbs are too moist when they go into storage, they may rot. Never store bulbs in plastic bags, and don’t pack too many layers of bulbs on top of one another. Good air circulation is important for keeping them healthy. Paper bags or crates with good ventilation are good storage containers. Check your bulbs every now and then, and if you see signs of rot, discard the diseased bulbs.
Don’t miss your planting season! Set a reminder on your phone, mark it in your diary, or circle the date on your calendar.


Jane Edmanson

JANE EDMANSON: Tulips are one of the most recognisable plants in the garden – not to mention one of the most loved.

Tulips have been cultivated for centuries and historically, they’re a very significant plant. In the 1630’s, one bulb – well, it was really worth a small fortune. In fact, in the Netherlands, or Holland as it was then, there was a real fad. It was called ‘Tulip Mania.’ People went mad on them and indeed, one bulb might have been worth more than the cost of a house, a hotel or a horse and carriage.

These inflated values led to frantic trading and, inevitably, the crash of the Tulip market. It was the ruination of many people and it was one of the first examples of the speculative economic boom and bust.

The wild species, from which modern tulips were bred, came originally from the mountainous regions of central Asia, but it’s their popularity in Turkey and then the Netherlands, that made them famous.

There’s over 6000 cultivars of Tulips and they range in all kinds of colours and also different shapes. From the traditional goblet shape – magnificent wine glass ones on straight stems – you’ve got the Parrot ones, with very feathery edges to the petals. You’ve got the fringed ones and the wonderful double-petalled Tulips. But I like these ones – the lily-shaped ones – very pointy petals. There’s certainly a lot to choose from.

Tulip bulbs should be planted at the start of the cool season – in autumn or early winter. In warmer parts of the country, to fake a cool climate, you can pop them into the crisper part of the fridge for about 4 to 6 weeks before planting. This will give you taller, stronger plants and better flowers.

This bulb is a power-packed organ of energy and it’s given a lot of reward. As the Tulip has flowered, you need to be fertilising because the fertiliser goes into that bulb to give it energy for next year’s flowering. Leave the leaves on. The foliage must be left to wither, yellow and die down before you lift the bulb. And also, you can cut off these spent flowers because they are putting energy into the seed formation rather than putting energy into the bulb for next year’s flowering. And once they’ve all died down, take them out of the pot and store the bulbs in a cool, dry spot, until planting next year in around about April. Give them some fertiliser. Put them in a good, rich, ‘composty’ soil and you’ll have a wonderful show of Tulips.

STEPHEN RYAN: Well, that’s it for this week, but if you’d like to know more about what summer crops Tino and Josh are planting, pick up a copy of the November issue of the Gardening Australia Magazine.

Now make sure you join us again next week for our final show of the year. It’s a cracker.

Jane meets a man with a huge heart – growing vegies to feed those in need at Melbourne’s Sacred Heart Mission.

Tino’s out of The Vegie Patch to visit a couple who’ve relocated to Tassie from Queensland.

And Josh brings us the final transformation of Ben and Anna’s family backyard.

I’ll look forward to your company then. In the meantime, very happy gardening.

Can my tulip plant be saved? How?
March 12, 2008 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Yes, you may have stressed them out at a crucial time when replanting. Tips can turn brown from a number of things- with potted plants, I usually think fertilizer burn. You may also be overwatering- bulbs as a rule need good drainange and the top couple inches of soil should be allowed to dry out before watering again. Were these bulbs already planted in a pot when you got them? What’s also strange to me is that most tulips send up pretty wide leaves, not stringy or reedy (unless they’re species tulips). It also sounds like you’re growing them indors, which is not gong to be enough light for tulips, unless they’re in a greenhouse. You can’t put them outside now though, because they’ll just freeze.
Water infrequently, let them go yellow so that they aborb whatever remaining nutrients are still in their leaves. I doubt they’ll bloom, but you can store them in a cool dry place until it’s planting time in fall of next year, then plant them outside in a good sized pot or the ground. If they haven’t lost all their energy this year, they’ll come up again.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:34 PM on March 12, 2008

Tulips are synonymous with spring. The famed Dutch flower, and one of the easiest to care for, tulips come in pretty much every colour imaginable and they look fabulous in every space whether it’s in the garden or in a vase.

Cut flower tulips

Have you currently got some tulips in a vase? When it comes to cut flower tulips, it’s easier than you think to keep yours looking lovely and perked up. Bloom & Wild’s lead florist, Caroline, outlines exactly how you can make your tulips last longer in some simple steps below, plus provides more flower care solutions for common dilemmas.

How to avoid drooping tulips

1. Trim your tulips: Trimming tulips by 3-5cm allows water inside to hydrate them. Always cut at an angle to give as much surface area to drink from.
2. Pop them in water ASAP: Tulips, like all flowers, use water to prop-up their stems. Pop them in water as soon as you can to help them rehydrate and bloom.
3. Find their dream home: Keep your tulips away from direct sunlight and radiators (they’ll dehydrate your stems) and fruit (it releases gases that’ll make them fade).
4. Change their water: Tulips don’t like drinking dirty water, so refresh your vase every few days and re-trim your stems 1cm each time.

Isabel PaviaGetty Images

Why are my tulips are floppy?

Don’t worry, they aren’t dead. Tulips use water to prop up their stems so they’re just thirsty after their journey to you. Help yours perk up by trimming them, popping them in water and then leaving them overnight. By morning they won’t look droopy.

Why are my tulips so much shorter than my other stems?

They’re naturally much shorter than other stems but they’ll keep growing in your vase. Data Scientist Dave carried out a tulip experiment to prove it. He measured some tulips on the day they arrived and they were 31cm on average. Then he popped them in fresh water with flower food and waited a few days. On day five, he took them out of the water and measured them all, one by one. On average they’d grown by a huge 17cm!

Why do tulips keep growing in water?

Tulips are really responsive to sunlight and that’s why they move. They’re turning themselves towards the light sources around them, hoping to be seen by pollinators. You might also spot them opening up on sunny days and closing up at night time.

ArtfoliophotoGetty Images

Why don’t my tulips stay straight?

Because they keep growing in their vase, you’ll find they playfully move around in the water. It’s part of their charm and nothing to worry about!

But I want my tulip to be straight – what can I do?

If you want your tulips to stand-up straight for a dinner party or special occasion, we recommend taking them out their vase, tightly wrapping them with newspaper into a cone shape, popping back in water, and keeping them in a dark room overnight. When you unwrap them in the morning, they’ll be perfect! Then remember to rotate your vase throughout to prevent them growing one way towards the light.

Looking for tulip bulbs? These are some of the most gorgeous varieties to plant in your garden

Tulipa ‘Rococo’ parrot tulip bulbs

BUY NOW £4.99, Crocus

Tulip Bulbs – Honeymoon

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Tulipa ‘Cafe Noir’

BUY NOW £4.99, Waitrose & Partners

Tulip ‘Blueberry Ripple’

BUY NOW £11.99, Thompson & Morgan

Olivia Heath Digital Editor, House Beautiful UK Olivia Heath is the Digital Editor at House Beautiful UK, uncovering tomorrow’s biggest home trends, delivering stylish room decor inspiration and rounding up the hottest properties on the market.

Tulip Care & FAQ

After flowering, clip the dead flower off the stem, and let the foliage die off while maintaining water level. When the foliage has completely dried out, you may see new little bulbs beginning to form; leave these. Cut the foliage, and store the bulbs dry and as cool as possible. Place them in a paper bag away from ripening fruits (the fruits produce ethylene gas, which destroys the flower bud within the bulb). Then plant them in your garden at the appropriate time of year (see 2 below), using a good mix of soil and compost. Thoroughly water them when planting.

2. When and where should I plant after flowering in the USA?

This depends on your climate zone. Here is a Zone Map for reference.

  • Zones 4 & 5 – September or early October
  • Zones 6 & 7 – October to early November
  • Zones 8 & 9 – November to early December
  • Zone 10 – Late December to early January

Refrigerate tulip bulbs for six to eight weeks before planting in zones 8 through 10. Place them in a paper bag away from ripening fruits (the fruits produce ethylene gas, which destroys the flower bud within the bulb).

Tulips grow best in full sun in well-prepared soil with fast drainage. Avoid planting where water collects, or in locations that are prone to late frosts.

3. When and where should I plant after flowering in Australia?

This depends on your climate zone. Here is a Zone Map for reference.

  • Zone 1 – first week of autumn
  • Zones 2 & 3 – mid to late autumn
  • Zone 4 – end of autumn/beginning of winter season

Refrigerate tulips bulbs for six to eight weeks before planting in zones 2 and up. Place them in a paper bag away from ripening fruits (the fruits produce ethylene gas, which destroys the flower bud within the bulb).

Tulips grow best in full sun in well-prepared soil with fast drainage. Avoid planting where water collects, or in locations that are prone to late frosts.

Yellow Tulip Leaves: What To Do For Yellowing Leaves On Tulips

Don’t panic if you notice that your tulip leaves are going yellow. Yellowing leaves on tulips are a perfectly healthy part of the tulip’s natural lifecycle. Keep reading to learn more about yellowing leaves on tulips.

What Not to Do When Tulip Leaves are Yellow

So your tulip leaves are turning yellow. If your tulips bulbs are healthy, the foliage will die down and turn yellow after blooming ends. This is 100 percent A-Okay. The important thing, however, is that you must live with the yellow tulip leaves, even if you think they’re ugly. This is because the leaves absorb sunlight, which in turn provides energy to feed the bulbs throughout the winter.

If you are impatient and remove the yellow tulip leaves, next year’s blooms will be less impressive, and every year you deprive the bulbs of sun, the blooms will become even smaller. You can safely remove the stems after the flower wilts, but leave the foliage until they die down completely and come loose easily when you tug them.

Similarly, don’t attempt to camouflage the foliage by bending, braiding, or gathering the leaves together with rubber bands because you will inhibit their ability to absorb sunlight. You can, however, plant some attractive perennials around the tulip bed to hide the leaves, but only if you promise not to overwater.

Tulip Leaves are Turning Yellow Early

If you notice your tulip leaves going yellow before the plants have even bloomed, it may be a sign that you are overwatering. Tulips perform best where winters are cold and summers are relatively dry. Water tulip bulbs deeply after planting, then don’t water them again until you notice shoots popping up in spring. At that point, about an inch of water per week in the absence of rainfall is enough.

Similarly, your bulbs may be too wet if you planted them in poorly drained soil. Tulips require excellent drainage to avoid rot. Poor soil can be improved by adding generous amounts of compost or mulch.

Frost can also cause blotchy, ragged leaves.

Questions & Answers

What should be done with yellowing tulip leaves?

These should be left in place until they’re almost completely yellow, about late June. Then use scissors and cut them to the ground. The leaves should be left on as long as they are green because they are making food for next year’s flowers. If the leaves are unsightly, you could tie them together loosely and plant annuals in between.

How should late-arriving bulbs be handled?

Plant them immediately. Do not attempt to carry them over until spring. Plant in an area where the soil is not frozen, such as near the foundation of your home. Be sure to mulch. Transplant to a permanent site, if needed, next summer. If you are anticipating a late shipment, you can mulch the prospective planting site to keep the soil from freezing until after the bulbs are planted. You can also force them indoors.

How often do you have to dig up hardy bulbs?

Dig up hardy bulbs only as often as you desire to move them to a new location, or when they are becoming crowded and/or flower production decreases.

How should I fertilize hardy bulbs?

The most important time to fertilize is right after the bulbs bloom. Use 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a commercial fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 12-12-12. Work fertilizer lightly into the soil surface.

How should I protect young tulip leaves from a late, hard frost?

Don’t! The leaves are usually not damaged by temporary cold and freezing temperatures.

I received a pot of blooming tulips for Easter. How should I treat them when they’re done flowering?

You can either throw them out immediately or make an effort to rebloom them outdoors again in two to three years. It is very unlikely that they will bloom again the year after you received them. If you want to save the bulbs, cut off the flower stalks after flowering and continue to water as needed until the leaves turn yellow. Then withhold water, cut leaves back and put the entire pot in a cool (50°F), dark place until August.

In August, plant the bulbs separately outdoors. Be sure to fertilize.

How can I keep squirrels or moles from eating bulbs?

Bulbs are not usually a preferred food of squirrels, moles, mice or other rodents, but they can take a liking to them. Moles are often unfairly blamed when bulbs disappear. More often, the culprit is field mice that also use mole tunnels. They most often attack tulips, crocus and gladioli and rarely eat daffodils, alliums or colchicums.

The mouse problem is a difficult one. Sprinkling dried blood, tobacco or a similar repellent on the ground is effective only until the next rain washes it away. Owning a cat that enjoys walking through your flower beds is a very effective deterrent to rodents.

Where you are determined to try bulbs, make a small “cage” of 1/2-inch mesh screen. Place several bulbs inside, root plate down and bury the entire cage at the proper depth. Rodents won’t be able to chew through, but roots and stems can grow out.

Why didn’t my bulbs bloom this spring?

There are only a few reasons that bulbs do not flower. If the bulbs were planted last fall, dig down to see if they rotted in the soil. If they did, the planting site is poorly drained. If you don’t find the bulbs at all or see only withered green leaves on the ground, perhaps a rodent ate them.

If leaves appeared with no flowers, question the source and the storage technique. Bulbs purchased at an end of year sale may not have been stored properly and the flower bud may have been dead at the time of purchase. Before buying many bulbs on sale, buy one or two and cut them in half longitudinally to make sure the flower bud is alive. If it is brown or dried up, the bulbs will not flower next spring. This is a fair test of the quality of the remaining bulbs. If you stored the bulbs near apples or in a garage, ethylene gas may have caused the flowers to abort.

If the bulbs were planted in a previous fall, they may have received insufficient light or the leaves may have been cut back prematurely last year, resulting in insufficient food reserves to support flowering this year.

With some bulbs, including tulips and hyacinths, decline is expected after two to three years or even sooner. These bulbs are best treated as annuals in a display garden.

Which side of the bulb goes up at planting time?

Be sure to identify either the root plate and face it downwards, or last year’s shriveled flower stalk, which goes upwards. Compare with pictures or diagrams or dig up a bulbs to see which end is which.

When can I plant summer-flowering bulbs?

Plant after the frost-free date in your area to avoid damage to emerging shoots and rotting of tubers in cold soil. Many tender bulbs may be started indoors in spring.

Can dahlias planted in spring as bedding plants be saved at the end of the season?

Yes, you can save dahlia tubers from year to year. By the end of the season, bedding plant dahlias will have produced tubers large enough to dig in fall and save over winter for the next season.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bulbs

  • Tulip FAQ
  • Why Daffodils Won’t Bloom
  • Daffodil Frequently Asked Questions

How To Grow Tulips Successfully

Are you relatively new to gardening and will be planting your first tulip bulbs this fall? Or have you grown tulips before only to be disappointed that after their first spring they never bloomed again? Here are some ideas to make tulip-growing a rewarding experience.


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Tulipa vvedenskyi ‘Tangerine Beauty’

ne of the most important things to know about modern tulips is that most hybrids will only bloom satisfactorily the first year or two after you plant them. You’ll need to replant regularly if you want the same show you got the first year. Those gorgeous beds of tulips that we see in public gardens or botanical centers are planted in the fall and then after blooming the following spring, the bulbs are dug out and discarded. Since they won’t bloom again the next spring, they are replaced, first with plants that will bloom the rest of the gardening season and then with new bulbs in the fall.

Let’s talk tulip varieties

Fortunately, there are a number of tulip varieties that are reliably perennial. They will return and bloom for many years and will save you quite a bit of money. These tulips are called “species” tulips, meaning that they are basically wild forms found in nature. Some have been hybridized to impart desired qualities such as different colors and additional vigor, but they retain their perennial nature.

Some Species Tulips to Try

T. fosteriana

T. fosteriana
T. greigii T. greigii

T. praestans
T. praestans

As you can see from the photos at left, there is some variation in color and habit within a given species. These are just a small sample of what is available to you. There are also whites, pinks, reds with a picotee edge and tulips with leaves that are mottled, striped or edged in white.

My favorite species tulips are T. sylvestris, a U.S. native whose common name is simply “Wild Tulip;” T. vvedenskyi ‘Tangerine Beauty’ (above), a drop-dead gorgeous Russian native that has vibrant orange-red petals with yellow-orange flames; and T. greiggii, ‘Rob Vanderlinden,’ known not only for its brilliant scarlet flowers but for its outstanding foliage, which is mottled and edged in white.

About that yellowing foliage and those seed pods

Another important fact about tulips concerns their foliage. After they are done blooming, their leaves continue to manufacture nutrients that the bulb will need to bloom the next spring. If the foliage is removed before it turns brown naturally, the bulb will generally not have enough stored energy to produce blossoms the next season. It is a good idea, though, to snap- or cut off the seed pods as they begin to form after the blossoms lose their petals. That allows the plant to put all its energy into the bulb instead of into producing seed pods and seeds.

My Favorite Species Tulips

T. sylvestris

is a native North American species in areas indicated on this USDA distribution map. The bulbs in our gardens were brought to my village from Canadian woodlands by my ancestors in the 1860’s.

T. vvedenskyi

This cultivar of T. vvedenskyi is missing the yellow flames seen in the photo at the beginning of this article. Very long-lived, this species tulip has grown and multiplied in our gardens for 12 years.

T. greiggii ‘Rob Vanderlinden’

This tulip is a favorite in our gardens, not only because of its bright scarlet blooms, but because it has decorative foliage that adds interest to the planting. Leaves emerge heavily mottled and edged in white. The mottling fades somewhat as the leaves age. Be sure to click on this photo (and on all the others, too) to enlarge it, so that you can more clearly see the white edging.

One of the reasons that tulip bulbs are so fat and bloom so spectacularly the first year after they’re planted is because bulb growers cut the blossoms off the plants just as they begin to bloom. Like removing the seed pods, this procedure produces a larger bulb. Tulips lose this advantage when we allow them to bloom fully in our gardens which, of course, we want them to do.

Hiding that dying foliage

Several weeks after tulips have stopped blooming, the stem and leaves will begin to yellow and eventually turn brown. Although dying foliage is not aesthetically pleasing, resist the urge to snip it off until it is completely brown.

You can hide the unsightly foliage with a number of different plants. The idea is to plant something that will have enough height and fullness, by the time the tulip leaves turn yellow, to hide them. Annuals work well, but if you like the permanence of perennials, coneflowers, day lilies, monarda and peony varieties work well.

My favorite perennial for this purpose is Painter’s Palette (Persicaria virginiana). It emerges just as the tulips finish blooming and is tall and dense enough in time to hide the ripening tulip leaves and stems. The roots are shallow, so they don’t compete with the bulbs beneath them.

Perhaps this persicaria’s strongest suit is its leaves. They are tricolored, with a V-shaped squiggle of burgundy across the middle.

Although this robust plant does flower in sprays of very tiny red blossoms, it is the leaves that steal the show. And they do so through the whole gardening season. This persicaria does tend to self-sow liberally, so I just pull the seedlings where I don’t want them. I consider it a small price to pay for the benefits this beautiful perennial offers.

How to plant and care for your tulips

  • Tulip bulbs are hardy in zones three through seven and should be planted in mid- to late fall. It is important for the bulb to begin forming roots before the ground freezes solid.
  • Choose a site that receives six to eight hours of sunlight during the spring blooming season.
  • Avoid clay soil. The soil should drain well, otherwise the bulbs will rot.
  • Dry soil during the heat of summer is ideal, as it mimics conditions in areas where tulips are native. Planting annuals or perennials on top of or around bulbs helps to take up soil moisture, keeping the bulbs relatively dry.
  • Plant the bulbs about eight inches deep, measuring from the base of the bulb to the surface of the soil.
  • Plant bulbs in clumps or fill an entire bed, rather than planting singly in rows. You’ll find that the planting looks more natural and fits much better into your whole garden scheme. I generally plant tulips in clumps of five or seven bulbs. Planting fewer bulbs per clump diminishes the floral impact considerably.

Discouraging Varmints

If you have problems with squirrels, chipmunks or voles eating your bulbs, enclose them in small wire- or plastic mesh and then plant the whole thing. Make sure that the soil completely surrounds the bulbs and the mesh so that there are no large air spaces. Tamp the soil a bit with your shoe and water well after planting. The bulb shoots will find their way through the mesh holes and up to the soil surface in the spring.

Lots of other Tulips to choose from

There certainly is nothing wrong with planting any of the many varieties of gorgeous modern tulips available today. I suggest planting species varieties instead as a good way to start your tulip growing experience and to save you quite a bit of effort and expense in the process. Check with your local garden center to see which species tulip bulbs they carry or google the tulip’s name to find online sources.


Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here’s a question from a reader:

Does anyone have suggestions for perennials to plant with spring bulbs this fall that will emerge and cover the leaves of the tulips and daffodils after they bloom and then slowly turn yellow? It’s a south-facing spot with much sun and good drainage, along my garage wall.

Thank you!

Val Betts

Lake View (Hamburg)

I talked to Claudia Kolbe-Hawthorne of the Cleve-Hill section of Cheektowaga last year about how she gets waves of color in her garden beds. She has hyacinths, followed by daffodils, then masses of colorful tulips.

She plants perennials, such as columbine, dianthus, coneflowers, coreopsis and sedum, around the bulbs so that those plants can cover the dying leaves. You can get a tour of her spring garden here.

Readers, do you have more suggestions for perennials to plant around your spring bulbs? If so, please leave a comment for Val below.

How to get your questions answered

Sometimes readers contact me with questions that I can’t answer. I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on

So when someone asks a question I can’t answer, I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise. If you have advice for Val, please leave a comment below. If you want to know the answer to this question, check back later to read the comments.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at [email protected] and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

A more efficient route for getting your questions answered is to turn to Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension or to turn to your local garden center.

For Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County, call (716) 652-5400 from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays or email them at [email protected] For Chautauqua County, email your question to [email protected]; call the Helpline at (716) 664-9502, ext 224, or stop in to the Frank Bragg Ag Center, 3542 Turner Rd., Jamestown, from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.

There are helpful Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in other counties, too. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

The businesses that support this magazine have very knowledgeable staff. Check out our Gardening Directory or click on the ads to the right.

Yard and Garden: When Tulips and Daffodils No Longer Bloom

AMES, Iowa – When their tulips and daffodils no longer bloom, many gardeners wonder why. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists offer guidance on what to do when these spring favorites fail to flower. To have additional questions answered, contact Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

Why are my tulips no longer blooming?

Most modern tulip cultivars bloom well for three to five years. Tulip bulbs decline in vigor rather quickly. Weak bulbs produce large, floppy leaves, but no flowers.

To maximize the number of years tulips are in bloom, choose planting sites that receive at least six hours of direct sun per day and have well-drained soils. Promptly remove spent flowers after the tulips are done blooming. Seedpod formation deprives the bulbs of much of the food manufactured by the plant’s foliage. Lastly, allow the tulip foliage to die back naturally before removing it. Tulips that don’t store adequate amounts of food in their bulbs are unable to flower.

Dig up tulips that are no longer blooming and discard the bulbs. (Small, weak tulip bulbs will likely never bloom again.) Plant new tulip bulbs in the fall.

While most modern tulip cultivars bloom well for three to five years, some tulip types (classes) bloom well over a longer period. Darwin hybrid tulips are generally the longest blooming hybrid tulip. Fosteriana tulips (also known as Emperor tulips) also bloom well for many years.

My daffodils produce foliage in spring, but no longer bloom. Why?

If the daffodils aren’t blooming, the plants weren’t able to store enough food in their bulbs in the previous year. Daffodil foliage typically persists for four to six weeks after blooming. During this time, the daffodil foliage is manufacturing food. Much of the food is transported down to the bulbs. In order to bloom, daffodils must store adequate levels of food in their bulbs.

Cutting off the foliage before it has died back naturally may prevent the plants from storing adequate food in the bulbs. Allow the daffodil foliage to die completely before removing it.

Plants in partial shade in May and June may not be able to store enough food in their bulbs because of insufficient sunlight. Dig up daffodils growing in partial shade when the foliage has died back and plant the bulbs in a location that receives at least six hours of direct sun per day.

Large clumps of daffodils may cease flowering because of overcrowding. Large daffodil clumps can be dug after the foliage has died. Separate the bulbs and replant immediately. Bulbs also can be dried for several days, placed in mesh bags, stored in a cool, dry location, and then planted in fall. It is possible to get weak (non-blooming) daffodils to flower again when given good care and favorable growing conditions.

Photo credit: Maresol/

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