“Why is it that some years tulips just grow leaves and no flowers? I’ve planted hundreds of bulbs much to my disappointment to have so many of them never grow flowers.” Question from Linda of Middlesex, New Jersey
Answer: There are several reasons why tulips stop flowering. Many varieties are bred to bloom only for a year or two before their bulbs need to be divided. Without division, they will not bloom by year three or four. For this reason, pick tulips that reliably return year to year and even naturalize, or spread, over time. Here are five good types sure to keep blooming.
- Clusiana Tulips – These pretty, slender tulips come in various varieties that bloom in mid-spring and spread over time. ‘Cynthia’ is one with pale yellow and red-striped flowers.
- Bloemenlust Tulip – The bright red, mid-spring bloomer returns yearly.
- Cretian Tulip (Tulip cretica) – Species tulips like this are often the best perennials. Cretian tulip is multi-flowering, clump-forming, and has pink-tipped flowers. They will even spread when they are happy.
- Darwin Hybrids – Late-flowering Darwins are tall and come in lots of colors. Of the standard hybrid tulips, these are the most perennial. The orange and yellow ‘Daydream‘ is extra pretty.
- Fosteriana Tulips – These large-flowered, early tulips return year after year.
Another common problem with tulips is that many pests eat the flowers and bulbs. You would certainly notice if you had deer in your garden chomping on your tulip flowers, but you may not notice a vole eating your underground bulbs in winter. Some repellents will detur them.
I hope this information helps guide your tulip selection this fall. At planting time, it helps to amend the soil with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum peat moss in addition to fertilizer for bulbs.
Black Gold Horticulturist