Tulips are very hardy bulb plants that grow in the early springs. They are found in colors like red, yellow, purple, orange, and many more. But sometimes, tulips can turn white.
But why are your tulips turning white? How can you fix the same?
In general, tulips start to lose their color or turn white as they age, and it’s completely normal for them. However, sometimes tulips start wilting due to improper care routine or environmental problems. Some probable reasons for losing color are stress, too much sun, and other diseases.
If you are unaware of the reason behind your tulips turning white, read this article to find out why they change their color to white. So, let’s start.
Why do tulips turn white?
There are many reasons why tulips turn white. In most cases, the tulips changing into white is very common and natural.
In some cases, the problem is an environmental problem or disease. Let’s learn in what conditions tulips turn white.
One usual cause behind tulips turning white is aging. As the blooms gradually move towards their ending cycle, they slowly fade to a lighter hue and turn white.
White is said to be the most common color change when it comes to aging.
Most blooms fade over time. Sometimes, when the tulip flower fades, it is said to be the tulips’ way to show their health conditions to the potential pollinators.
This is entirely a natural way where tulips change their color to white, and you can do nothing about it. Once the flowers turn white, they fall off, or you can pinch them off before they fall.
Stressing the tulips can cause them to turn white. The color change is either mild or severe, depending on the stress level. For example, if you have recently transplanted to tulips, they might stress out, leading to color changes.
These turned white tulips may or may not come back to their original color even if you try to reduce their stress level or bring them back to their average balance.
The color of tulips can be reversed and will not depend on the variety you own and the amount of stress level they receive.
Some species can return quickly, provided the stress level or the damage is less and can be controlled with little effort. If the stress is too severe, you might need to remove those affected parts.
The plant can be back in normal health within 1 or 2 years.
Avoid stressing the plant. If transplantation is the reason, you should wait until the tulips get used to their current growing conditions.
In the meantime, you should care for your tulips and avoid any further stress.
Sun and temperature
Tulips are best grown when they are exposed to sunlight and warm weather conditions. Tulips require 6 hours of sunlight per day for healthy and prominent colored blooms.
When the tulips receive too little sun, the plants will not be healthy. The blooms will not be big. Moreover, without a good amount of sunlight, the flowers will not get their prominent colors. Instead, the blooms will be fade and turn whitish.
Some species are different as they are said to be bearing more colorful blooms in cold weather than in warm temperatures.
Ensure that the tulips receive daily 6 hours of sunlight. A good amount of sunlight will help the plants receive more energy, which is further used by the bulbs for next year’s blooming.
Besides, good sunlight will encourage colorful blooms.
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You should water the tulips to keep the soil bed moist. Three watering systems used in most greenhouses are sprinkler installation, drip irrigation, and sprinkling booms.
Out of these, mainly the first method is used. Even you can use it if your garden has such a set-up. Most sprinkler installations contain hard water.
When you water your tulips with this system, along with the soil bed, the leaves will also get wet.
As the installation has hard water in-store, they create a white patch on their surface when this water gets upon your tulip leaves and flowers.
This white color on the leaves and petals is the accumulation of minerals from the hard water, making the leaves and petals white. Avoid using hard water. You can use distilled water or rainwater to water the tulips.
Natural color change
Some varieties have different colors in the beginning. But as they start blooming more and become mature, they turn white. I want to share an example.
The tulip species, Artist Triumph, turn white when fully grown. Artist Triumph is said to be an heirloom. They have a dramatic color transformation.
When the flower buds open in their beginning stage, they bear a bright orange color with broad, green-colored brushstrokes.
In the next 1 or 2 weeks, this tulip will suddenly start turning to light pink and creamy white combination color. It means that the plant has become mature.
The green brushstrokes will also change from green to olive color.
These tulips turning white is entirely natural.
This is less of breaking and more of a virus that is found in the tulips.
Breaking virus in a tulip plant is a non-genetic color pattern seen in the tulip flower petals. Mostly it is white. These patterns are different in different colored flowers.
In the dark-colored tulips, you will find white-colored streaks or dots on their petals. Their pattern doesn’t remain the same and varies. This pattern change is an indication that your tulips have a virus infection.
Tulip crown rot
This is a tulip disease that infects the bulbs. When this fungus attacks the tulips, the bulbs will have a chalky-colored rotting. The bulbs will have a white-colored strand, which releases a mushroom odor.
When the disease is already present in the bulbs, the tulip stems will have a whitish look. This white color is a mass that will, later on, turn red, and the plant will ultimately wilt and die.
This disease will not affect your plant unless they are exposed to high humidity and hot temperatures. They will spread very quickly if you pack away your bulbs to store in moist and hot weather.
This disease is caused by the famous fungus found in almost all plants, namely, Botrytis.
The bulbs look brown and sometimes remain rolled very firmly. The infestation begins when the bulbs have an accumulation of white spores.
When the disease infects the bulbs, the plant won’t flower. By any chance, if the flower emerges, the petals and the leaves will have white patches on their surface, which will increase gradually and turn your tulips white and moldy color.
The favorable conditions for this disease is high humidity accompanied by heavy fog and little rain.
This is a disease caused by the fungus Trichoderma viride. They tend to release a toxin that gets transferred through plants. The symptoms are seen at the leaf tips and edges.
The leaf tips of tulips first start turning bright grey. Over time, this grey color will progress to white. The whole leaf will start becoming white.
When the leaf no longer has the energy to stand firm, it will dry out and die. This kind of fungus is present in all types of soil, especially in a peat-based substrate.
You should avoid using the only pure peat-based substrate or excessive peat in the soil bed while planting tulips. Use peat in equal amounts along with garden soil and sand to reduce the chances of fungus.
Wheat curl mites (Tulip gall mite)
When you store the bulbs in warm locations, the scale of the outer bulbs turns very dull and creamy. The bad bulbs will become limp and fail to grow any good healthy roots. The tiny affected bulbs will have a slow root growth.
If you grow dark-colored tulips, the flower petals will form white striped patches that gradually increase.
A slender mite is responsible for this problem. The infestation can increase in no time. This happens if the bulbs are being stored in warm conditions for long.
These kinds of problems rarely have any fixations. The affected bulbs need to be discarded so that the other bulbs don’t get infected. Prevention is the only way out.
To avoid such conditions, store the bulbs in icy conditions and plant them early in the fall, before frost arrival. This can prevent damaging the bulbs.
Always keep the storage area of your tulip bulbs neat and clean. Mites love untidy places for thriving.
Flower blasting is a phenomenon in the tulips where the minor or whole parts of the tulip flower buds get desiccated. You can see their signs at the stamen and sepal tips.
Slowly the base of the flower will form these signs and then gradually the whole flower.
The common signs of this problem are white leaf tips, flower buds blasting, the sepal and stamen getting desiccated. White leaf tips can be a symptom of Trichoderma too.
To identify flower blasting, along with white leaf tips, check for bud blasting or desiccation too.
Flower blasting can happen due to exposing the bulbs to high temperatures or storing them for a long time in the autumn.
Other reasons include storing the bulbs in the cold for a short time, storing bulbs with fruits that can release ethylene and damage the bulbs, high humidity, etc.
The best solution is prevention. Avoid the above situations. Keep the bulbs stored in a dark, cold area for 12-16 weeks.
Don’t expose them to high temperatures and humidity. If you store bulbs in the fridge, don’t keep them with fruits.
Lack of calcium in tulips tends to produce glassy, transparent colored stems in their phase of growth. These stems will later on fall from the plant.
In the beginning, the top portion of the tulip stem will turn dark green and have a watery, glassy look. The tissues will get shrunken, and the stem will fall off the plant.
The tulips leaves will also grow greyish white in the middle. Topple sometimes will also occur in the flowers after being harvested. The petals will have glassy spots, and over time they will turn white.
To avoid this, you should avoid overfertilizing the tulips. They don’t require much fertilizer compared to other plants, especially during summers, when they are dormant.
If you ever need to use fungicides to get rid of fungal diseases, use them in limited amounts.
Go through the instructions in the product label. Either apply the recommended amount of fungicide or use less than the recommended amount.
How to treat tulip diseases?
First of all, as various types of funguses and viruses cause diseases, prevention is the best method to keep the tulips from turning white.
Sometimes, prevention might not work, as we humans keep making mistakes at some point. But you can treat the diseases if you get to see the symptoms early.
You should keep observing your plants daily and watch out for their reactions. If caught early, treating the problem can save the plant.
The root problem starts at the bulbs. When you see the tulips turning white, and you are unable to find out any environmental or natural problems in them, try digging up the bulbs to check whether they are in good shape or not.
If the bulb color looks grey and moldy or feels too soft and mushy, discard these bulbs. Removing these bulbs can stop spreading.
Fungicides will help to fix the problem, provided the damage level is minor. When you discard the affected bulbs, spread the other good and healthy bulbs with some fungicide to prevent the diseases further.
If any planted bulbs get affected by viral and fungal diseases, dig them up, remove and burn them immediately. Along with that, avoid planting any tulips in that particular area or near it for a few years.
Planting bulbs in the same spot can infect future plants as the fungal spores will remain in that area. Disinfect your garden tools daily to avoid the spreading of any existing fungal diseases.
Tulips turning white can be resolved quickly if the problem is environmental. With few alterations, tulips will come back healthy with green leaves and colorful flowers.
However, if the tulips turn white due to fungal and viral diseases, the problem should the fixed soon. It will stop the disease from further spreading, and you can revive the plant.
After reading this guide, you are now more or less familiar with the signs. So, you must give your tulips good attention and look out for any signs of diseases. The moment any sign catches your sight, fix it quickly.
Before planting, chill the bulbs in a cold dark place for 12-15 weeks; avoid storing with fruits or in warm locations, provide your plant with all their care and needs and avoid stressing the plant.
By following these steps, you can witness healthy tulips bearing vibrant and bright blooms.