Tulips are the most popular flowering plants planted in fall that come in a wide range of colors and varieties. These are easy to grow flowers, but one question can strike one’s mind, do tulips come back year after year? Let’s find the answer in this article.
In general, Tulips are perennial by nature, so if they are grown in their native environment with the right growing conditions, then you can expect them to grow back next year. However, if they are grown outside their natural environment, they will grow back but won’t bloom in their second year.
In this article, we will clear all your doubts regarding whether your tulips will return for years and what you can do to make them grow back year after year.
Are tulips annuals or perennials?
Whether tulips are annuals or perennials depends on the environment where they grow.
Tulips are native to mountainous regions like the foothills of the Himalayas, Turkey, and Russia. In such regions, tulips grow in harsh conditions where they survive in freezing winters, snowfalls, and hot, dry summers.
In their native places, tulips are perennials and come back year after year. But when they are grown in the garden, they may not behave like perennials.
However, specific varieties of tulips like Darwin Hybrid Tulips are known to return for many years. It happens because of the different climates in gardens that they do not naturally prefer as perennials.
And even if they do return, they will be smaller in size or have no flowers.
If your garden has a challenging environment, it’s preferable to grow them as annuals. For instance, if you do not have cold winters or dry summers in your regions to grow tulips as perennials, you can grow them annually.
For this, you can replant your tulips annually every autumn so that they can brighten up your spring garden.
How long do tulip blooms last?
Tulip in their native regions grows in cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers, and in such conditions, they will last for many years. They grow in large groups, and the length of time each bloom lasts depends on how warm it receives.
When the temperatures are between 45-55°F in cool springs, they will bloom for 1-2 weeks, but their blooms will only last for a few days if the temperature is warm.
In gardens, you can enjoy them for several weeks since there are different tulips such as early, mid-season, or late-blooming tulips that bloom from early spring to mid-spring.
However, potted tulip blooms can last for approximately 15-30 days.
Do tulips come back year after year in containers?
Growing tulips in containers put more stress on the flowers buds than growing them in the garden. Tulips in pots give a spectacular display, but they are less likely to bloom again.
In containers, tulips can suffer from root constraints, which puts stress on flower buds. So they won’t survive year after year in containers.
It’s better to grow them annually in pots, discard them after they bloom, and plant fresh tulip bulbs every fall.
What is the best time to plant tulips?
Tulips will grow well when planted in the fall and 6-8 weeks before the temperature drops.
In colder regions, you can plant them in September or October, and in warmer regions, they can be planted in December or later.
Tulips require temperatures below 55°F to bloom, and in places without cold winter temperatures, they are generally grown as annuals. It is essential to plant them at an optimal time. Otherwise, they won’t bloom.
For perennials, you need to plant them deep in the soil so their stem won’t break on windy days.
Also read: When’s The Best Time To Plant Tulips? (+After Plant Care)
Which varieties of tulips will come back year after year?
Practically all tulip varieties should be perennial, but most of them are not because their growing conditions do not match the place they originate.
Also, years of hybridizing will diminish tulips bloom reliability. But if you want tulips to come back for years, you can choose perennial tulips varieties.
These variants can adapt themselves to different weather conditions, and not only will they come back year after year and multiply each year in the garden.
Look for words such as neutralizing or perennializing as you search through the tulip selection in stores. Perennial tulips are tiny in size, and they are also known as dwarf tulips.
Some perennial tulips are:
Botanical tulips: They are small in size and one of the first bloomers of the spring. They are deer resistant and naturalize themselves well in gardens.
Darwin Hybrid tulips: They are big-sized tulips and can grow up to 24 inches tall. They are the result of a crossbreed between early emperor tulips and single late tulips. They bloom in mid to late spring.
Vivid flora tulips: They are the most unique and beautiful tulip varieties. The flowers are green combined with complementary colors. They are late bloomers and offer long blooming periods.
Greigii tulips: They are small-sized tulips, mottled purple leaves, and chalice-shaped flowers. They are mid-season bloomers and are good companions of daffodils.
Triumph tulips: They are among the largest groups of tulips and offer the broadest range of colors. They grow between 10-24 inches tall and blooms in mid to early spring.
Why will your tulips not bloom in the next year if they are perennials?
Sometimes you may find that your tulips returned next year, it has left, but it does not have blooms. Let’s look into reasons for tulips not blooming:
Unfavorable environment: The most common reason it doesn’t bloom is simply because of the environment it’s didn’t get, which was needed for blooming.
Tulips blooms don’t like the moist environment since they come from mountains where they receive a dry climate with hot summer and cold winters.
Your garden conditions may not have the exact environment needed for growth, it can be humid for them, which doesn’t let their bulbs bloom, and they had a hard time forming a flower bud.
Lack of nutrients: Another reason can be the lack of any specific nutrients needed for blooming.
Tulips need phosphorus to form flower buds, and if your soil lacks phosphorus, then your plant will return next year but won’t have blooms.
What are the steps you can take to encourage your tulip to come back year after year?
It’s somehow tricky for tulips to return year after year in a different climate from their native region, but it can be possible if you provide them with the proper care and attention.
Let’s consider some steps that will encourage them to come back year after year:
Selection of planting location
If you have decided that you want your tulips to rebloom every year, then the most important thing you need to decide is the proper planting location for them.
The planting site should be well-drained, and it must receive full sun. If you are from zones 7 and 8, choose a shaded spot with morning sun only. Space the bulbs 4-6 inches apart in the planting area.
Do not keep the soil wet as it will promote diseases that can cause root rot issues to tulips. You can add organic matter such as cow manure, peat moss, or compost to encourage drainage.
But if you live in an area where tulips will not last long, then treat them as annuals and do not waste time by treating them as perennials.
Also read: Where Is The Best Place To Plant Tulips? (+Factors To Consider)
Choose the correct type of bulb
There are some varieties of tulips that have perennializing qualities. They are hardier than others tulip varieties, and therefore choosing the correct tulip bulb is essential to make them bloom in the following year.
Tulips varieties like Emperor and Triumph are two such breeds that are growing as perennials.
Plant tulips in the proper depth
You must plant your tulips deep in the soil. It should be about 8-15 inches deep if measured from the base of the plant. Mulching should be included as a part of its overall depth.
A deeper hole will help keep the bulb cool in warm conditions, essential for personalizing tulips.
Also, make sure that the soil should be fertile, neutral, or slightly acidic and dry while planting them.
Prune tulip after blooming season ends
When tulips blooms come to an, and their petals start to fall, then without further delay start deadheading them but allow the green foliage to die back naturally.
This technique will help them to utilize their energy to build strong bulbs for the next season.
Keep tulips dry
Tulip just needs sufficient watering for growing, and overwatering will weaken the bulbs since they don’t like soggy soil.
Water is essential right after planting to develop a strong root system before moving into winter dormancy.
If you find them standing in water, then take immediate steps to save them. You can add absorbent materials like bark chips or shift them to a dry location.
Fertilize your tulip
Make sure that you provide your tulips with proper nutrition. If you are planting tulips as annuals, fertilizing them once a year is enough for them.
But if you want tulips year after year, you need to fertilize them twice a year. You can use low nitrogen fertilizer or special bulb fertilizer, or well-rotted cow manure at fall planting.
In springs, give them high nitrogen fertilizers when they are blooming.
You can also use phosphorus-rich fertilizers once a year, which will overcome the problem of non-blooming and make them capable of producing flowers year after year.
Also read: What Is The Best Fertilizer For Tulips? (Organic+Inorganic)
Pre chilling tulips before plantation
If you are thinking of planting brand new tulip bulbs, you might need to chill them by storing them in the refrigerator for 45-60 days.
It will provide them with a cool environment similar to their home, which also has cold weather. Pre-chilling before plantation will allow them to have bigger and taller flowers.
You need to be careful while keeping them in the refrigerator by ensuring that you do not store apples or any other ripped fruit. Ripped fruits produce ethylene gas which will restrict proper flower formation in tulips.
Also read: What Temperature Do Tulips Need? (+Growing Them At Different Temperature)
Protect tulips against intruders and diseases
Intruders like mice, moles, rodents, and squirrels may visit your garden, and tulips can turn out to be their favorite snacks.
You should take steps to prevent them if you want to grow tulips year after year.
You can put kitty litter or crushed gravel over the planting area. You can grow thorny plants near tulips, or you can plant them in a burial wire cage.
Tulips are susceptible to basal rot and fire fungi problems. It will make the tulips stunted or deformed.
You must discard the affected plants and treat them with fungicides.
Tulips are perennials by nature, and they are highly affected by their natural environment. They will come back year after year in a region where they will get freezing winters and hot, dry summers.
They are grown as annuals in places that don’t match the exact environment they need to grow as perennials. Specific variants of tulips have perennializing qualities, such as Botanical tulips or Darwin hybrid tulips.
Things you should keep in mind for growing tulips year after year:
- Plant tulips in a well-drained area.
- Plant them deep in the soil, and they should be 8-15 inches deep.
- Make sure that they receive full sun.
- Prune tulips by deadheading them but allow the foliage to die back naturally.
- Avoid overwatering tulip bulbs and keep the planting area dry.
- Fertilize them once or twice a year in autumn and spring. Use low nitrogen fertilizer in fall and high nitrogen fertilizers in spring.
- While pre-chilling them in the refrigerator, make sure you do not store apples or any ripped fruits.
- Protect your tulip from intruders or diseases.
Source: Wikipedia, North Dakota Stae University, The Royal Horticultural Society.