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Tulips that will not bloom

What to do for your tulips

By: Sandy Feather 2009
Penn State Extension


Q. Our tulips are all leaves with no buds - have we created a problem with them because we use mushroom manure which probably sours the soil?  My husband has put bone meal on them each fall, but for two spring seasons we have all leaves and no buds - we must have 70-80 tulips and I'm rather disappointed that they aren't blooming.
  
  A. Tulips fail to bloom for a number of reasons. Mushroom compost actually tends to sweeten the soil since it typically has a slightly alkaline pH of 8.0. The problem could be that the soil pH is too high, or perhaps you have created an imbalance of nutrients in the soil. You should start by testing the soil in the beds where your tulips are planted.
  

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 tulips.

Fertilizer to Use

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.
  

Colorful border of tulips in bloom
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.

Leave Tulip Foliage On Long Enough

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 disease problems.
  

Tulips and daffodils blooming with a laceleaf Japanese Maple as a backdrop
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.

Testing your Soil

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.


More

Photos of tulips

When to fertilize daffodils

 

  
   

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