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Answers from the Tulip Expert

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Answers from the Tulip Expert
Special thanks to Mary Hockenberry Meyer for providing her time and expertise in responding to your questions below.

From: West Virginia
Pleasants County Middle School

Q: Why do some tulips have two or three stems and some only have one stem?

This is a genetic difference and we are not sure how to control this, but we do like the kinds with more than one stem.

Q: Why did the tulips in a raised flower bed have larger leaves than the ones in the ground? These also bloomed a few days later. Is there a reason why?

Raised beds provide better drainage and tulips love good drainage, so the plants grow larger. Also, the soil above ground can warm faster and the plants grow sooner.

Q: We grew some of the tulips inside. The ones we kept in the refrigerator for two weeks grew larger than the room temperature ones. Neither of them have bloomed. Can you help explain why?

Tulips like cool temperatures and grow best when it is cool. Bulbs at room temperature respire, or use their stored food, faster than ones held at cooler temperatures, so that is why the room temperature ones are smaller. Unless the bulbs were held in cold temperatures, 40 degrees, for 6-13 weeks, they will not bloom. They require this cold treatment to bloom which they get naturally when we plant then outside in the fall; the winter provides the cold treatment.

Q: I have a package of tulip bulbs. It is April 9. Can I plant these bulbs now or do I have to wait until Fall to plant them? If not, can I refrigerate these bulbs until Fall?

You can plant them, but they are probably more dead than alive. The bulbs respire, (use their stored food), and after a point, they begin to die, they cannot live indefinitely out of the soil. The best thing to do is plant them as soon as possible and you will probably get a small plant with no flowers.

From: New York
Brookside Elementary

Q: We planted single tulip bulbs in October. When we dug up a sample bulb in April, we noticed that the bulb had developed a second bulb attached to it. How does this happen?

A: YES, plants want to grow, so sometimes they will have offshoots or multiple bulbs, it is the sign of a robust healthy bulb to have offshoots, which under the best conditions will develop into multiple plants. It's the way of a tulip increasing itself, and over the centuries, the best plants survive and are here to stay.

Q: How did the first tulip develop?

Ahhhhh, no one knows this for sure.....flowers have been developing for centuries, the first tulips were probably small flowers with grass-like leaves. Tulips are native to Turkey and you can find them there growing in nature. Men probably collected them and selected the largest flowers and over time, we have studied them and now can manipulate them to have large flowers. If you want to study tulips or any flowers, you can go to college and take horticulture and learn how to grow plants. I did and its lots of fun !

Dr. Mary H. Meyer
Extension Horticulturist & Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chanhassen, MN 55317

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How to Use FAQ's About Journey North Species
Since 1995, experts have contributed answers to students' questions about each Journey North species. These questions and answers are archived in our FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) section. You can use today's Answers from the Expert above, along with those from previous years, in the activities suggested in the lesson, "FAQ's About Journey North Species"

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