I planted tulip bulbs last fall, although a little later than I
probably should have, and they look healthy but the stem to the flower
is 1/2 an inch long. What gives? This is not the first time I have had
this happen either. Why can't I grow tulips?
Sorry, I should have said. I am in Eastern North Carolina. I have done
a little looking and it seems I should have refrigerated them for 8
weeks before I planted? Seems crazy, I don't think the little local
stores have them in 8 weeks prior.
If you are in an area where the weather is strongly influenced by the
ocean (e.g., as far east as possible), you might not get enough winter
chill for tulips. They actually do best if there is snow but without
the soil freezing at the depth where they are planted.
Where I live, the annual average of winter chill -- cumulative hours
below 45°F from November through March -- is about 350 hours. We get no
snow. Even with refrigerating the bulbs for 6-8 weeks before planting,
we have to treat most tulips as annuals, discarding them after one
season of bloom.
Some tulip species, however, can naturalize in my climate. I have
"lady" tulips (Tulipa clausiana), which repeat reliably every spring.
But these are not the classic "Dutch" tulips.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
The bulbs 'know' that they are in pots when their fine roots come to the
pot wall and can't go any further. Seriously, there are plants which, for
various reasons such as rampant spreading (bamboo) and seasonal removal to
a greenhouse (Brugmansia) , are planted in oversized pots which are placed
in the ground but tulips aren't in that select group. Tulips will benefit
from free access to soil moisture and nutrients and spread their roots to
the full extent possible before winter cold comes along and puts them into
dormancy. The very best grade of 'perennial' tulip bulb can be placed in
the ground and put on a good show for a number of years with no attention
at all beyond 'popping' the flower stalks after they go brown.
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