Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Deep Planting Prolongs Tulips

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Plant tulips deep to help perennialize them.

Tulips have the reputation of being short-lived. Typically they flower well the first year, a little less the second, only very weakly the third and, from then on, produce only foliage. It can be a bit discouraging.

However, you can help to extend their useful life by planting them more deeply. Rather than the 6-inch (15-cm) depth generally recommended on bulb packaging, plant them in holes 1 foot (30 cm) deep. This can make a huge difference.

Why? Part of the problem is that tulips tend to produce bulbils (baby bulbs) at the base of the mother bulb. These babies then compete with the mother bulb for light, water, and minerals, weakening it and reducing its future bloom. When you set the bulb deep in the soil, the bulbils either fail to develop or, if they do start to grow, their leaves aren’t able to grow up through the extra-deep soil and reach the sun, so they fade away. With no competition to disturb the performance of the mother bulb, it can bloom again and again, sometimes for decades.

Also, extra deep planting puts the bulbs out of reach of squirrels, because they never dig that far into the ground.

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Darwin hybrid tulips, sometimes sold as landscape tulips, are among the longest-lived tulips.

This technique works best in well-drained soil (a heavy clay soil that is sopping wet in spring is already not a good choice for tulips planted at even the regular depth and even less for those planted deeply). Also, put the odds in your favor and plant Darwin hybrid tulips or viridiflora tulips, two categories that are reputed for being particularly long-lasting in the garden.

Deep planting can perennialize your tulips. It’s certainly worth a try!20161016a

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Deep Planting Prolongs Tulips

  1. Pingback: How Bulbs Plant Themselves – Laidback Gardener

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