Friday, March 13, 2009

Tulips - the second year



The gardening books and internet sites were adamant : tulip bulbs won't do well a second year if they're grown in containers. They'll be too small, they'll be too weak. Throw them away and buy new ones.

It wasn't that I didn't believe them. Quite the opposite. The bulbs did look smaller than when I'd got them, and yes, some of them had split into bulblets. But you see, I have this mean streak, and the idea of throwing them away ...

So I compromised. I did buy new bulbs, but I went for daffodils. And I just stuck all the tulip bulbs higgledy piggledy into one container. And waited to see what happened.


I didn't get excited when the leaves came through. Well, that was what I was expecting, leaves. But then a few days ago I noticed a couple of buds. Oh, that's nice - one or two are going to bloom. Or three, or four, or twenty ...

For the last few days they've been stupendous, closing up tight at night then opening as the spring sunshine hits. Yes, they are a bit smaller than last year. Have a look here and compare for yourself. But so what? This is a balcony, and they're supposed to be a dwarf variety. I like them small.

And the colour and the display are just as good - perhaps better. It goes to show what I've said before. Containers look better if you halve normal planting distances and pile the plants on top of each other.



Will they go on a third year? I don't know. But I know I shall try. And if you want to with yours, here's what to do. As soon as the flowers die down, dead-head them so that the plant doesn't put its energy into creating seeds. You want that energy used to fatten up the bulbs. And carry on watering and fertilising. Bulbs, like people, get fat if they're fed well and lose weight if they're not.

Leave them until the foliage dies down naturally. This can be a drag on a balcony where space is limited, and is a definite discouragement when success is not 100% certain. But it takes those two or three months after flowering for the bulbs to regain the strength they'll need to come back the next year.


And then, once the leaves have yellowed, cut them off and lift the bulbs. Store them in a cool, dry place and wait for autumn to come again.

Who knows? You may be lucky.









30 comments:

Cathy said...

Beautiful tulips! nice colors on
them and they all look quite healthy.

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hello Sue

They're basking in the micro climate of your terrace. I mean they're early rather than they've returned. I liked your 'click through' post from last year. Practically the common currency then.

AnneTanne said...

I only have the wild tulip (Tulipa sylvestris) in my 'wildflower'-garden, and this tulip is said to naturalize well. But it's their second year now, and I have the impression that only a few of them are coming back. So I must congratulate you with your beautiful flowers (it's still to cold for tulips in Belgium).
Thanks for visiting my 'plot' on botanical!

The Fern and Mossery said...

Very beautiful. The blooms are so brightly colored.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Sue .. I haven't met a tulip I didn't like yet, and those are very pretty indeed ! : ) Joy

buedamau said...

they look just great! i have a lot of problems with the warm weather at my balcony, wich isn't good for tulips, but even so i'm having sume flowers this year. but yours look so healthy that make me jealous, in a positive way of course!

Janet said...

Good for you Sue. Feed them, make them fat and happy and they should come back yet again.

Anna said...

A lovely cheerful display. I'm another meanie too and have left my tulips in containers in for a second year. Too early yet to see the results but I am optimistic :)

Melinda said...

Hi Sue,

Thank you for your welcome to blotanical, sorry it took so long, I didn't realize you could receive msgs there!
Your tulips are beautiful. I hope your ficus is doing better. Will keep popping by to see how your balcony garden is doing.

Barbee' said...

Beautiful! I think you know the secret to make it work... good for you. I'd hate to think of all that beauty gone to waste.

Chandramouli S said...

That's a wonderful display of tulips, Sue. I too try to do the same with my bulbs. In fact I didn't repot my Amaryllis and it's given out buds now!

Jan and Steve said...

They are absolutely gorgeous! Go on... try for a third year!

Buddy Garden said...

They look beautiful! I planted some hyacinth in a container this year but I want to wait until the weather gets warmer before I put them outside. The pot is in the garage now. I didn't think tulips would do good in containers but you prove me wrong!

texasdaisey said...

Wow, your tulips are beautiful. Very nice blog. I really enjoyed visiting your balcony.
Debbie

Ginger said...

Beautiful tulips! You have a green thumb. I'd love to see what you would do with more space to garden!

Rowena said...

Oh how I am envious that your tulips have already bloomed! Mine are just peaking (well the leaves) out of the ground but it looks like it'll be tulip (and whatever else) floral heaven this spring.

About Esselunga points...I just love the chance to get something back from all that food shopping. The Zen Feet machine has already given us more relief and relaxation that we could have ever hoped for!

themanicgardener said...

Good for you! I wish I understood Rob's distinction between being early and returning.
--Kate

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Wow!I wish we could grow tulips in Florida.I grew up in New York State,and I miss them down here in Florida.Love their fragrance.

Pomona Belvedere said...

I'm so glad to see someone else writing about tulips that repeat. I notice that the kind of tulips you have are clusianas (probably clusiana chrysantha, by the look of it), a species-type tulip. These species types usually do repeat; I have mine in containers and they've kept going for years. Obviously dividing and feeding them as you've done is an excellent idea, too.

The bigger fluffier tulips tend to be harder to persuade to come back; some of the purissima (Emperor) tulips are pretty good at it, though.

Bren said...

I love this entry... your tulips are breath taking! I can't wait to show mine off in a few weeks. ((HUGS)) Dear friend in the garden.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful!
Erna

Kerri said...

I'm glad your mean streak paid off :) It's not really mean you know. It's just giving the tulips a second chance and how can that be considered mean? :) I would've done the same thing. They look very perky and colorful.

Stephanie said...

Wa! The tulips are beautiful. Wish I could plant tulips in Malaysia. Stephanie from stephgreenspace.blogspot.com

Sylvana said...

There are a few people around here that throw out their tulips when they are done blooming. I pick them out of the city compost pile and plant them in my own garden. They have all bloomed again, and again, and again. Their loss, my gain!

phempton said...

Hi Sue. What simple and great advice, plant containers at half the distance. So true.

Lovely tulips and thanks for the tip.

melissa said...

i have so enjoyed a wander around your garden .Glad you left a comment on mine .
sweetpea

CherylR said...

Your containers of tulips are absolutely fabulous. Never mind what the books say. Just beautiful.

Carrie said...

Ha! I laugh in the face of 'experts', sometimes you have to go with your gut - or at the very least, bung them in and see what happens. I too am tight fisted and hate dumping stuff, so kudos to you. The blooms look fab x

Teresa (Seasonal Wisdom) said...

Great advice. Thanks for sharing!

sarada said...

I am doing this this year...hope I will see some blooms as you did :)

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