A question about tulips, and other bulb flowers.

This year I have become very fold of lilies, both daylilies and the Asiatic lilies. I also love iris. I bought several new varieties to put in the garden, along with thsoe I had already. This past week, after taking them all up I had the ground tilled and have replanted and rearranged everything.

But now I’ve done it! I went to the garden store to buy a bag of cypress mulch, and had to go past all the lovely fall bulbs on display, in particular tulips. I WANT SOME! But after the pre-arranging I wouldn’t know for sure where I’d add tulips.

But I have a lot of pots. Will tulips thrive potted? I could place the pots in the garden next spring, to see how the colors really look. Would I have to eventually plant them in the ground, or could they stay in the pots? I have the same questions about gladioli bulbs, but I think they are supposed to go out in the spring anyway.

Do any gardeners on the SDMB have answers? A website to recommend, perhaps?

Hi sis!

Tulips often only last a few seasons (though I have one clump that has come back for more than ten years) – so they’re not like irises, lilies, and daylilies (or daffodils, for that matter), which tend to not only come back but increase in number/size of clump.

If it were me, I’d put them by the Asiatic/Oriental lilies, which come in a month or two later (depending on the tulip, and depending on the lily). Unless you’ve overplanted, you should have room for them, and the lilies, as they come in, will hide the dying foliage of the tulips.

When it comes to gardening info, I’m an old-fashioned girl: I prefer books. My number one favorite is Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer.

Thanks twin, I’ll try that. I did leave some space in between the Asiatics, to allow for some spreading, but by the time it would get crowded it the lilies would need to be divided, or the tulips would have gone off.

I have six varieties of Asiatics. Do you know Stargazer? It has the strongest aroma, and to my eyes, is more beautiful than any other. I have eight iris, and about fourteen daylilies. I kind of went overboard on the latter, but they weren’t very expensive, except for two.

Baker, the problem with growing certain bulbs like tulips in pots is that pots aren’t as well insulated against temperature extremes. They need a lengthy dormant period in cold temps. So if the weather warms up briefly in January the tulips may sprout & start growing. Then you get a hard freeze that damages them. In the ground they’re better protected from brief temperature swings.

You could store the bulbs someplace cold over the winter and replant them into pots each spring though, and then I see no reason they wouldn’t do well for you.

Lots of people like to “force” their tulips by storing the bulbs in say, the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for a few months, then planting them in a pot placed indoors in a sunny spot. They really prefer to grow outdoors though, so that’s a one-time trick usually.

Thank you too levdrakon. I wouldn’t have thought of the insulating effect of dirt planting. My dad has had problems with his peach tree blossoming, if there is an early warm spell(or a late frost).

I just love the color and variety of bulb flowers. Maybe when I’m really salted in this, I can have several rows of different bulbs, so that something is always blooming.

Another question.

How much of the above ground leaves and stalks am I supposed to leave, now that the bulbs have been settled in? Do I cut part of the greenery off, or leave it all on?

You can cut off the flowers, but leave all of the foliage until it dies back. This may or may not happen; for instance, irises – at least the kind grown from rhizomes – usually maintains the foliage all summer (a pretty spray of leaves). If the look of it bothers you – daffs can start looking really messy – you can bunch them and tie them – but don’t cut off the foliage till it’s totally brown! That’s how the bulb gets fed and grows the next season’s flower. (If you cut open a bulb in fall, you’d find the fully formed flowerbud inside.)

Someone is going to say it sooner or later, so it might as well be me; stricctly speaking, Tulips don’t have bulbs, they have corms - a bulb is a condensed formation of leaves - a big (usually)underground sort of bud - an onion is a very typical bulb - each of the layers is actually a leaf.

Corms are thickened stems and do not normally have any internal layering.

Having said that, it seems to be quite acceptable for the gardener to use ‘bulb’ as a catch-all term to cover bulbs, corms, rhizones, tubers and a few other things too.

Most garden varieties of tulips originate from mediterranean climates - typically enjoying a moist spring followed by a hot, dry summer. In the garden, most of them tend to do best if they are given sharp drainage (a generous amount of sharp sand mixed into the bottom of the soil in the planting hole) and planted in a location that gets baked by the sun in late summer.

I can do that, sand is cheap. Thanks mangetout, for the lesson. And you fought ignorance, I learned something new, about “bulbs” Heck, even the labels say bulbs.

My pleasure; you want to use something quite coarse and gritty, mixed about 50/50 with loamy soil - a two or three inch layer in the bottom of the planting hole should be adequate - the idea is to make sure they the bulbs are not sitting in water if you should have a wet winter. A scattering of slow-release natural fertiliser such as coarse bonemeal or ‘hoof and horn’ into the planting hole will also help to keep the plants perky.