How Do I Protect My Bulb Pots From Rot?

“I tried planting bulbs (crocus, daffodils, tulips, and iris) in pots this year. They were well mulched and gathered in a warmer area of the garden near the house. Nothing came up! After investigating, it appears they became too wet and froze. The pots have great drainage. Any suggestions for next year will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!” Question from Jane of Bloomington, Illinois

Answer: Bulbs are adapted somewhat to freezing and thawing, but if they get too wet, they are prone to rotting, especially when temperatures are mild in fall and spring. There are several things that you can do to protect them from excess winter water. The easiest way is to simply store the pots under a patio or protective eave. You can also add more amendments, like Black Gold Perlite, to encourage faster drainage, but overhead cover gives one a bit more control. On the flip side, there is always a chance that they may become too dry under cover, so intermittent watering from fall to spring is recommended.

It is also advisable to protect your tulip and crocus bulbs/corms from rodents that enjoy munching on them in the winter months when food is scarce. Applying some repellent granules around the bulbs at planting time will help. From there, I recommend that you read Mike Darcy’s excellent article about creating layered bulb pots in the fall (click here to read).

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Can You Plant Daffodils and Tulips in Spring?

“Can spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips be planted in early spring in NJ?” Question from Glenn of Parsippany, New Jersey

Answer: You can only plant potted bulbs that have emerged and are flowering in spring. No bulbs should be dormant by spring. If you happen to have some live tulip or daffodil bulbs that have yet to fully grow and flower, you can try planting them in spring, but do not expect them to flower properly for at least a year. Be sure to plant them 6 inches down and feed them with a bulb fertilizer at planting time. The addition of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend also helps.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Do I Stop Squirrels from Eating My Flower Bulbs?

“I have a problem with squirrels digging up my flower bulbs. What can I do?” Question from Susan of Lexington, Kentucky

Answer: Squirrels, voles, mice, and other related creatures dig up tulip certain crocus bulbs but dislike most others. Tulip bulbs are especially tasty treats that hungry critters will dig up in fall and winter when food is scarce or the bulbs look best on the garden menu. Here are several potential solutions that will stop them in their tracks.

Protect Your Tulip Bulbs

Gardeners use various methods to protect their tulips.

  1. Apply vole or squirrel repellents after planting bulbs. These will detur digging and consumption.  Shake-Away Coyote Urine is one option.
  2. Another method is to plant tulips 1 to 2 inches deeper–8 inches rather than 6. This can only be done with large-bulbed tulips, like Triumphs and Giant Darwins. Most animals are less likely to dig as deep or detect the bulbs below.
  3. Place chicken wire over tulip bulb plantings, which can be easily lifted after the blooms fade in spring. The wire will protect the bulbs before blooming. It is always nice to cover wire sheeting with mulch so it cannot be seen.
  4. Plant tulips that naturalize, like chrysantha tulips, which spread and resist predation in numbers.

Plant Other Bulbs

Daffodils, chionodoxa, fritillaria, scilla, muscari, and other bulbs are not as palatable to rodents, so plant lots of these instead. Many of these bulbs naturally spread to make your spring garden more and more beautiful each year. Amending bulb plantings with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend and a fertilizer formulated for bulbs will help them perform their best.

I hope that these tips help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

What Tulips Rebloom Year After Year?

“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.

  1. 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.
  2. Bloemenlust Tulip – The bright red, mid-spring bloomer returns yearly.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Flamboyant Parrot Tulips for a Fabulous Spring

Spring bulbs are for fall planting, and when you plan next spring’s garden palette, plant boldly with Parrot tulips. These bulbs were bred to impress. Each bloom has feathery, undulating petals in brilliant colors that look more tropical than temperate. Many a still life has detailed the artful beauty of these tulips.

Parrot Tulip Origins

Tulips made their way from the Middle East to Europe and quickly became flowers for rich nobles. Most breeding and selection happened in Holland, which is still the case today. When unusual tulips with broken colors began to appear in Dutch gardens in the 1630s, their popularity soared.  These rare bulbs fueled Tulip Mania, a phenomenon where bulbs were purchased for sums equivalent of hundreds of thousands today. The mania crashed after a short couple of years–much to the financial woe of collectors. Since then, many modern-day hybrid divisions have been developed, such as Darwin, Triumph, Fringed, and Parrot tulips.


Parrot-like viral-infected tulips, such as these in a 17th century still life by Hans Bollongier, fueled Tulip Mania.

Today’s Parrot tulips have many of the same floral features of the Tulip-Mania types but are a result of selection and breeding rather than disease. They and can be traced to the 18th and 19th centuries, so they’re at home in both modern and heirloom gardens. Early Parrot varieties appeared as genetic sports (mutants) of standard tulips. For example, the award-winning Parrot ‘Rococo’(1942) appeared as a chance sport of the single early tulip ‘Couleur Cardinal’ (1845). In the mid-1970s, they discovered a genetic Parrot tulip, and through breeding, many new varieties appeared.

Parrot Tulips and Companions

Consider height and color when planning your Parrot-tulip-filled spring garden. These factors guide pairings for the most beautiful garden ensembles. All are cold hardy and bloom from mid to late spring. Here are just a few selections cultivars and companions from which to choose.


‘Apricot Parrot’ has undulating petals of apricot, pink, and orange with green feathering.

‘Apricot Parrot’ (16-18 inches): A mix of apricots, pinks, and greens exist in each scalloped, flamboyant blossom. The bright-yellow tulip ‘Strong Gold’ will highlight its apricot hues while the pretty pink tulip ‘Salmon Pearl’ will bring out its pinks. The white, orange-red-cupped daffodil ‘Barret Browning’ will blend well with the mix.

‘Amazing’ (18-22 inches): This tulip looks like a birthday party — the deeply feathered flowers of apricot and raspberry-pink are radiant. Its raspberry color is intensified by the deep-rose-pink tulip ‘Don Quichotte’. Flank the pair with the white and apricot-cupped daffodil ‘Chromacolor’.

Black and Purples

Tulip ‘black parrot’ is fused with deep burgundy and purple.

‘Black Parrot’ (20 inches): Bold fringe and deepest burgundy, purple, and near-black color make ‘Black Parrot’ stand out in the garden like night. The plum-red Triumph tulip ‘Bastogne’ will bring out its deep color while the pure-white daffodil ‘Snowboard’ will add a shock of white.

‘Blue Parrot’ (22 inches): Rather than blue, the wild, irregular flowers of ‘Blue Parrot’ are violet-purple with white tips. Pair this with orange and yellow ‘Daydream’ tulips.

‘Rococo’ (14 inches): This remarkable tulip has undulating, feathered flowers of deepest red marked with purple and green.  The green, gold, and rose Viridiflora tulip ‘Golden Artist’ is a bold partner.


‘Green Wave’ (20 inches): Broad, green feathers mark the pink, deeply incised petals/tepals of this untamed tulip. As the flowers age, they open wide. The white Darwin hybrid ‘White Clouds’ is a safe pairing for such an exotic flower.

‘Pinkvision’ (18-20 inches): The pink, feathery flowers have small markings of green at the base. Plant them alongside the daffodil ‘Las Vegas’, which is ivory with large butter-yellow trumpets.

Reds and Oranges

‘Estella Rijnveld’ (20-22 inches): Bicolored flowers of white with broad feathers of red grace this 1954 variety. Plant the tall, lively tulip among the white Darwin hybrid ‘White Clouds’.

‘Bright Parrot’ (14 inches): Large, glowing red flowers of red with flaming yellow tips are borne on shorter plants. Plant it with the equally compact Narcissus ‘Actaea’, which is highly fragrant, pure white and has tiny orange-red-tipped yellow cups.


‘Flaming Parrot’ (22 inches): The award-winning tulip glows in the sunshine. It has bicolored yellow blooms with stripes of red down each petal/tepal. Pair it with another award-winner, the long-lasting, golden daffodil ‘Gigantic Star, which has huge, 5-inch flowers.

‘Carribean’ (16 inches): Here’s a beautifully bicolored Parrot of gold with fanned, red-feathered tips. The canary yellow daffodil ‘Unsurpassable’ is a perfect compliment.


White parrot tulips are bright white and green.

‘White Parrot’ (18 inches): No Parrot tulip is just one color. These white blooms are feathered with green. Plant any spring bulb of the same height and bloom time alongside it.

Planting Tulips

Healthy tulip bulbs should be large, firm, and ivory with a papery covering. Any brown spotting, dry patches, or blue mold on the bulbs indicate poor health. These may underperform or rot. In this case, either return the bulbs or buy new.

The bulb on the far right shows a touch of yellowing and blue mold at the base, which means it may rot or underperform.

Plant large tulips and daffodils 6 inches deep. A bulb planter or planting knife are handy tools for getting the job done quickly. Before planting, work the soil and add fertile amendments as needed. OMRI-listed Black Gold Garden Compost, with its rich blend of compost, bark, and Canadian Sphagnum peat moss, will help your bulbs root quickly and grow well in spring.

At planting time, lay the bulbs out in the pattern you wish. Intermingle the bulb pairings evenly or in sweeps of single colors. Always plant them diagonally rather than in rows. In general, space them 6 inches apart. Fertilize with bone meal or fertilizer formulated for bulbs.

You will not believe the flamboyant party in your garden once mid- to late-spring arrives. You can also cut and bring your Parrots indoors for still-life-worthy flower arrangements.