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What do you do with your tulips?

(22 Posts)
JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Wed 15-Mar-17 07:39:00

I have loads of tulips and several varieties, most noticeably the white ones, are increasing in quantity every year but the blooms are getting smaller.

I've tried removing some of them but looking at the number of leaves appearing now, it hasn't made a lot of difference. It's hard to tell which will be the weedy ones before they flower.

Also - is it possible to use these smaller bulbs to bring on and can I increase their size by potting them up? I have thrown a few into random pots but they are still quite small, should I feed them with caviar special compost?

shovetheholly Wed 15-Mar-17 08:00:50

Many of the bolder ornamental tulips are notorious for this. Most people buy new every year or two, or put in varieties that come back eg the smaller species tulips, tulips sylvatica. Some of the more standard red ones seem to be more resilient too.

shovetheholly Wed 15-Mar-17 08:01:56

*tulipa sylvestris

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Wed 15-Mar-17 08:07:30

Hmm. So I'm wondering, at what stage should I dig them all up?
It's a hard balance between waiting and hoping it will all turn out ok, and being annoyed by all the weedy ones and the space they take up.

shovetheholly Wed 15-Mar-17 08:21:16

My experience with leaving the large, show-stopper tulips has been that many varieties just fade into less and less spectacular displays year on year, and that the only way to get larger flowers is to put in new ones! However, if some are still of an acceptable size to you, that does give you a dilemma! I think I would perhaps be loath to mix new and older bulbs - the difference in size might look strange and I think I might worry a bit about diseases spreading toexpensive new stock.

I really love the species tulips, so I'm largely using those now - they're a lot less like high-maintenance divas!. smile

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Wed 15-Mar-17 08:38:51

The orange and purple varieties have been ok up until now (waiting for this season to see).

Sigh. I feel a total tulip cull coming on. Trouble is, it always needs doing just as I'm really busy with work and with other garden jobs, that's why they have been able to persist!

shovetheholly Wed 15-Mar-17 08:48:20

Yes, I have some red ones that I think must have been in my garden for umpteen years planted by a previous owner. They are ineradicable and come back each year. You see magnificent displays of red ones in front gardens where they are clearly never lifted! The lovely delicate pink ones that I actually like, however, faint on my faster than a Victorian lady without her smelling salts.

I would leave it for now - you might as well enjoy whatever blooms you do have! Even a weedy tulip is better than bare soil, right? smile Then maybe you can assess what you want to do on the basis of seeing this year's performance?

bookbook Wed 15-Mar-17 08:59:15

I leave my red ones in - I daren't lift them, as they are fabulous every year - and they have flowered so well for about 12 + ?years. Everything else , apart form one solitary yellow one gradually gets worse, ( and I have never planted yellow tulips!)
I now plant them in tubs every year, and when they have finished , I pop them in the garden, where I may get a few years out of them.

shovetheholly Wed 15-Mar-17 09:08:54

Ha! This thread is like the Henry Ford of tulips: "You can have any colour, so long as it's red!!" grin

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Wed 15-Mar-17 23:02:20

I wonder how far from pure red a tulip can be bred before it loses its longevity.
I will keep a close eye on my purple and orange tulips. ..

MrsBertBibby Fri 17-Mar-17 10:55:44

I have a clump which starts yellow, and goes red before fading. Lovely, but weird!

Qwebec Thu 23-Mar-17 01:05:43

this topic comes up regularly in gardening clubs. From what I have heard the people that keep their tulips looking fabulous longer do it by preventing the bulbs from multiplying. Dead head the flowers and plant the bulbs 30 cm deep. My garden is too youg to prove it, but those I talked to who have done it keep the bulbs flowering generously for up to 15 years. The exeption seems to be parrot tulips, nothing keeps them going for long.

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Sat 25-Mar-17 06:39:34

That's interesting to know. I'm going to be getting ruthless with them this year.

However I was thinking - all tulip bulbs must start out as small ones. What's the process for bringing them up to a hefty size?

shovetheholly Sat 25-Mar-17 07:40:02

I'm speculating wildly here, and others may have a more knowledgeable answer! But I think the gradual weakening is probably a combination of genetics (the fancy tulips are so highly bred) and lifecycle... Bear in mind that if you were growing tulips from seed they would take a few years to get to the size of premium bulbs. So they are being built up for that big year of display. I guess producing the colours/forms that are bred in just takes more energy out of them, to the point that they dwindle. As a commercial grower, you'd be constantly starting off new plants...

Trethew Sat 25-Mar-17 08:40:32

A subject close to my heart. I have now abandoned growing tulips in the ground entirely. I buy fresh every year and grow in pots and when they are finished I bin them. Yes, it's extravagant and wasteful but I have learned my lesson. The lovely fat bulbs are full of promise as you tip out the pots, and often have babies around the base. I have tried and tried - planting them nice and deep on little piles of grit, and feeding them but they still malinger and fade away in the ground. It may be made worse by my very acid soil.

Two articles I kept in my search for a solution - may be useful to others:

shovetheholly Sat 25-Mar-17 11:38:22

It's maybe worth mentioning the smaller species tulips (aka the dwarf botanicals) as well - these are perennial and beautiful. They lack the height and drama of the large ones, but they are stunning in their own way.

I have probably said this a million times, but I love the old sixteenth century woodland tulip. It has lovely bending stems. It's a very different beast, almost worth thinking of as a different kind of plant altogether, but stunning in the right place.

Liara Sat 25-Mar-17 20:04:56

How strange. It must be something to do with the wet summers, I think. I have very dry summers where I live, and no matter what I do with tulips they always come back bigger and better every year. I have loads of different colours (but no red, oddly, I should try those too!).

Daffodils, otoh, are good for one or two years at most.

7Days Sat 25-Mar-17 20:15:56

I always thought tulips and daffs went down when you got married and keep coming back up beautifully fir 50 years. That's what my nan claimed anyway.

She used to burn her borders every now and again too confused, seemed to do little else and it was always gorgeous

JeNeSuisPasVotreMiel Sun 26-Mar-17 00:06:53

liara where is this place you live whete tulips get bigger every year?

Not in the UK I guess?

Trethew Sun 26-Mar-17 00:31:34

Which would be better? Good tulips, and daffs that peter out, or the other way round

shovetheholly Sun 26-Mar-17 08:52:20

I have problems with daffs doing that... A result of overly heavy soil angry. I can't grow any of the Thalia ones, which I love. They just rot. Next autumn is all about finding varieties that are tolerant of my wet, cold conditions. (Any recommendations very welcome).

I think liara is in the med somewhere (I am not jealous envy )! Interesting that tulips do so much better- i know nothing about gardening outside the UK, and I would have guessed it was too hot to grow many kinds. Which shows how wrong i am!!

I suspect that we may be comparing apples and oranges a bit on this thread. As trethew said, some tulips are more perennial than others.

Liara Sun 26-Mar-17 20:05:04

I'm in Southern France.

It does get very hot in the summer, but the winters are quite cold, if short (colder than most of the UK). Generally not much rain in winter or summer, quite a lot in the autumn and spring.

I've been quite surprised by the tulips, tbh, I really did not expect it either.

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