Special thanks to Eve Blanchard for providing her time and expertise in responding to your questions below.
Van Meter Community School
Van Meter, IA
Q. Students are wondering why our tulips in earlier gardens from
3-4 years ago are smaller with smaller and fewer blossoms each year.
Do tulips wear out? Thanks for answering our question. Van Meter
Comm. School 5th graders
Q. We had a single bulb grow two stems and both bloomed we were wondering why?
A: Interesting! Most tulips have only one bloom.
Have you dug up your bulbs? If you found two, you could conclude
that the bulbs were
planted on top of each other. Another possibility is that a parent
bulb formed small offsets (“daughter” bulbs). It takes
a few years for these to bloom, but when they do, they can come up
so close together that they look like they came from one bulb. Here’s
one last possibility: Some types of tulips – called “bunch-flowering” tulips – do
produce many blooms from each bulb. (Journey North’s Red Emperor
tulips are not in this category.)
Q. we planted our bulbs the same way but some were only 8cm. tall and others were as much as 27 cm. tall? We think it's because of the sun not reaching all the sprouts equally but what else could it be?
A: Good thinking! Assuming that all the bulbs were the same variety, the differences in height were probably related to sunlight, but indirectly. Temperature was probably the real culprit. A sunny area can be several degrees warmer than a shadier area, so the soil will thaw faster and shoots will grow more quickly. The tall shoots then shade the others even more, further stunting the growth of the late tulips.
Q. Why the second year after planting new bulbs, all I get is large leaves and no flower?
are not reliable perennials. They put on a great show the first year,
but many types peter out after that. But some types
of tulips will return. The Red Emperor tulip we use in the Journey
North experiment can bloom for two or more years. But it needs some
help from you!
Q: In the winter when the ground is frozen how does the tulip bulb get its water?
A: During the winter, your buried bulb is in a
dormant state. Its leaves and roots died back and dried up during
the summer. In the
fall, cool moist soils trigger root development; this stops during
the winter. As rain and warmth return in the spring, the roots again
take in water and the bulb sends up leaf shoots and a flower bud.
Q: How can you tell whether your tulips were destroyed by the wind or children? Mine have horizontal rips about 2/3 of the way down the petal, which I've never seen on wind-damaged tulips before. The rips go about 2/3 of the way across the petal, too. Thanks!
A:You’ve stumped me! Wind, dogs, cats, children, bunnies, moose? If you don’t see tracks of any kind, I’d vote for wind gusts.
Stiles Point Elementary School
Q: Our tulips are in terrible condition for the second year in a row! Last year only about 1/2 of them bloomed. This year NONE of them have bloomed and the leaves are brown and dead. We're wondering if it has to do with a very warm January both years followed by a very cold February. Or should we check the soil conditions and add fertilizer? Any suggestions? We are so disappointed!
A: Good thinking. Yes, a cold snap
that follows a warm spell can damage tulip leaves and in some cases,
from blooming. Tulips are fairly cold tolerant and if they
have snow cover, they are well-insulated and usually do fine.
Even cold- or frost-damaged leaves shouldn’t prevent
a tulip from blooming. But if the temperatures drop to around
20 degrees F, the bud could be damaged and no blooms would
appear that year. Did your February temperatures drop this
far? If your leaves had survived, they would have photosynthesized
(made food) for the bulbs, and the tulip could have bloomed
again next year. But it sounds like you’ll have to re-plant
Expert, Eve Blanchard