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Marie Iannotti

Do Tulips Come Back Year After Year?

By January 17, 2014

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I was talking with a friend about looking forward to signs of spring. She said she hopes her tulips come back again this year, after putting on such a dazzling display in 2013. She reminded me of this post from a few years ago. Since it was on her mind, I thought some of you might be wondering the same thing, so here's my advice, along with several comments from readers. Please feel free to add your own.

Digging holes for bulbs in the fall is not a fun task, so we'd like to think the plants will stick around for a few years, at least. Tulips can be cruel that way. Many of them either thin out year after year, or disappear in a season. All tulips aren't created equal and you need to experiment to see which tulips are well suited to your area. The popular Dutch hybrids prefer cooler climates while tulips native to the Mediterranean and Asia are better suited to warmer climates. Southern gardeners swear by T. clusiana 'Lady Jane' . In the north, Darwin tulips are some of the most reliable returnees.

Also, most tulips don't like wet soil during their summer dormancy. Planting them in an area of your garden that you don't water frequently will help their survival. And finally, they will need some protection from marauding animals. Deer, squirrels, mice, chipmunks and voles all love tulips.

Bonus Question: Why do cut tulip stems twist around in the vase?


March 25, 2011 at 11:25 am
(1) tr0dy says:

My experience from over blowzy hybrids to compact species tulips. I never allow any to go to seed, snapping the seed pod off high on the stem and have some over 20 years old that have spread modestly.

March 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm
(2) Marie Iannotti says:

That makes good sense. Once the petals fall off, it’s so easy to forget to cut them back. I know I get lazy, knowing I’m going to have to come around later and get rid of the yellow leaves. But it sounds like it’s worth the effort. 20 years is impressive.

April 13, 2011 at 1:23 am
(3) Tim Smith says:

When do you cut tulips plants after the flowers are gone

April 13, 2011 at 6:55 am
(4) Marie Iannotti says:

You should cut the flower stalk to the ground, once the petals have fallen. That turns the plant’s energy into feeding the bulb, rather than producing seed. Leave the leaves until they turn yellow, also to feed the bulb.

If you have a lot of tulips, it’s unlikely you are going to cut all the flower stalks, but definitely leave the leaves. They get ugly, but if they’re planted mixed in with other plants, you are probably the only one who really notices them.

February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm
(5) Kathleen Norris says:

One of the old fashioned tips I heard was to fold the leaves down with rubberbands once petals fall in order to feed the bulb, never cut them. But I admit I do cut them too. Another thing is to split up the bulbs after a couple years or more to ensure healthy tulips or else you only get fat green leaves instead of healthy looking tulip flowering or no flowering at all. Let me know your thoughts everyone.

February 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm
(6) gardening says:

Dividing is a good idea, if the bulbs last that long, lol.

They’ve stopped recommending typing up bulb leaves. They need sunlight to photosynthesize and tying them into bundles might look neat, but it defeats the purpose of leaving the leaves. So now you don’t have to feel so guilty about cutting them.

February 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm
(7) Leslie Halleck says:

Realize that in the South, where soil temps never stay cool for long, all but a handful of the species tulips do not perennialize. The bulbs require a vernalization (chilling around 5C, 45F, followed by a return of warm temps) in order to initiate a flower bud. Down south, you’ll have to buy vernalized bulbs each year and plant anew. Rechilling in the fridge can work if your fridge is not set too cold, but fruits and veg in the crisper can interfere with vernalization and after a year or two your bulbs may usually split anyway. Best to plant new chilled bulbs every late-fall. It’s a pain, but they are beautiful!

February 26, 2013 at 6:46 am
(8) gardening says:

Good point, Leslie. Not just for the southern U.S., but for any frost free zone. I wrote more about bulbs for warm climates and pre-chilling bulbs, for those areas.

February 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm
(9) allan becker says:

My Kaufmanii tulips have been reblooming for almost twenty years here in USDA Zone 4.

February 27, 2013 at 2:26 am
(10) tree trimming company in los angeles says:

Tulip is best option in Asia for planting. You are right that tulip don’t like wet soil. I also read Tulip growing tips; itís really nice and helpful. Can you share information about any other plant like Tulip? Thanks for this nice information.

February 27, 2013 at 6:28 am
(11) gardening says:

Allan, that’s quite a testimonial for Kaufmanii tulips. Now if only they could make them deer and squirrel proof.

February 27, 2013 at 6:30 am
(12) gardening says:

Tree Trimmer, my whole site is about growing plants. Take a look at Plants A-Z.

April 14, 2014 at 6:56 am
(13) Teresa Young says:

In 1963 my Grandmother planted tulips at her 8 year old daughters grave. Brenda died when hit by a car. Those tulips have come back every year for 50 years now! No one has every fertilized them or given them any attention. I have photos if interested.

April 14, 2014 at 10:40 am
(14) gardening says:

Wow, Teresa, that’s great for tulips. They must be in ideal conditions or maybe they just know how important they are. Do you happen to know what kind they are?

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