Soil test kits are available from your
local Penn State Cooperative Extension office (see information
on ordering soil test kits at end of article). Follow the
recommendations for amending the soil to favor growth of the
Fertilizer to use on tulips
In the absence of soil test results, fertilize tulips with a
complete fertilizer such as a granular 5-10-10 or an organic
fertilizer such as Bulb-Tone (4-10-6). Make the first
application when the foliage emerges from the soil. Make a
second application when they have finished blooming. Read and
follow label directions regarding how much fertilizer to apply,
but do not apply more than one pound per fifty square feet.
Apply fertilizer when the foliage is dry, and avoid getting the
fertilizer directly on the plants as much as possible. The
concentrated granules can burn the foliage, especially if they
get wet. Brush any fertilizer granules off the foliage when you
are finished applying it.
The way tulips should look in spring
You may be surprised to learn that botanic gardens that have
lavish tulip displays treat them as annuals – the tulip bulbs
are dug up when they finish blooming and new bulbs are planted
in fall. Hybrid tulips such as the Darwin Hybrids do not
perennialize in the garden as readily as species tulips and
other species of spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils.
Species tulips such as kaufmanniana, fosteriana, and greigii are
better choices for perennial tulips that bloom reliably for more
than one season.
Tulip Foliage On!
Another reason tulips may fail to bloom is removing the foliage
too soon. Be sure to let bulb foliage die back on its own. Never
cut or bend foliage into neat bundles. Although it is unsightly,
the foliage is responsible for producing carbohydrate reserves
that nourish the bulbs through photosynthesis. If you remove or
damage the foliage before it can produce adequate nutrient
reserves, the bulb may not flower the following season. It is a
good practice to carefully remove the flower stalks when they
are done blooming. This prevents the bulb from producing
unwanted seed, and redirects that energy to expanding its root
system and increasing the size of the bulb. Be sure to remove
foliage after it has died down to reduce the incidence of
Mixed grouping of tulips and daffodils
You might also try planting tulips deeper than normally
recommended. Tulips resent our hot summer weather, and planting
them deeper insulates them against it. Six inches is the
standard depth, but if your soil drains well, try planting them
eight to ten inches deep. If your soil does not drain well at
that depth, do not plant them deeper. They will rot.
Soil test kits are available from Penn State
Extension of Allegheny County. They come with
complete instructions for taking a representative sample and
understanding your soil test results. Separate tests should be
taken for different crops, for example flower beds, lawns and
vegetable gardens. If you order more than one kit at a time, the
additional kits are discounted.
Photos of tulips
to fertilize daffodils