2009-04-10 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

How To Care For Your Potted Tulips
Commentary By Danielle, Danielle's Rockaway Florist

If you decided to treat yourself to a little bit of spring with a potted tulip plant — or are lucky enough to receive one for the holiday — you may want to read on. It is not only important to keep your plant in a cool location, but the soil should be kept consistently moist as well. Allowing the soil to dry out between watering can damage the flower and shorten the life of the bloom.

Continue this care throughout this life cycle of the plant, cutting back the flowers and leaves as they turn yellow and die off. When you are finally left with only the bulb, hidden in a pot of soil, remove the plastic speed cover and allow the soil to dry out completely. Keep the bulbs stored in a cool, dry and dark place such as a garage or basement until it is time to replant them in the garden so you can enjoy their beautiful blooms year after year!

About This Plant: The jewels of the spring bulb garden, tulips, are available in a huge range of flower shapes, sizes and colors. Tulips grow best in areas with cold winters and cool springs. The smaller species tulips are reliably perennial, while larger types may need to be replanted every few years.

Flower colors include apricot, pink, salmon, red, deep maroon, purple, yellow and white, and flowers may be double, ruffled, fringed or lily-shaped, depending on the variety. Height ranges from 6 inches to 2 feet. By planting varieties with different bloom times, you can have tulips blooming from early to late spring. Special Features: Good for cut flowers.

Site Selection: Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Tall varieties should be sheltered from strong winds.

Planting Instructions: Plant tulip bulbs in fall, one month before a hard frost is expected, usually during mid- October. Prepare the flower bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches, then mix in a 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole about three times as deep as the height of the bulb. Set the bulb in the hole, pointy end up, then cover with soil and press gently. Space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting to establish root growth.

Care: Keep tulips watered during dry spells in the fall. After plants are finished flowering in spring, cut back flower stalks but allow the leaves to die back naturally, hiding the unsightly foliage with annual or perennial plantings.

An annual application of compost should provide adequate nutrients. Large varieties may need replanting every few years; small types usually multiply and spread on their own.

Hope we have helped you learn to care for your bulb plants so that you may enjoy the beautiful show of flowers they have to offer year after year. Feel free to write to us at 436 Beach 129 Street with your gardening questions or tips for our readers, or visit us on the web at www.DaniellesRockawayFlor ist.com.

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