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15 messages
12/05/2013 at 15:11

I've seen some conflicting advice on tulips, particularly the very fancy ones. The crocus website just has the same text on every single one, saying they have to be lifted out and dried over summer then replanted in autumn. Yeah. I can't see myself keeping that up year after year. I'd prefer to "shove 'em in an' leave 'em" if possible. 

Others say that they're okay left in as long as they're in well-drained soil.

This leaves me wondering whether it's possible to turn the edge of my garden here in the Vale of York into "well-drained soil" with some creative building work. It's at the top of an 8' riverbank, so the water's got somewhere to go, but the soil here is basically turf on top of rocky clay, so not all that well-drained. The hyacinths aren't doing too well but the lilies seem to like it, if that explains how wet it is.

I was thinking I could cut a trench into the top of the bank, put a wall along the river side of it and half-fill it with gravel or sand, then put compost on that, put the bulbs on the compost and fill it with compost and topsoil over them. Would this be enough to let them grow and flower year after year from then on?

12/05/2013 at 15:46

In a word No! Some tulips will naturalise but most weaken after a season or so and you do need free draining soil. Even if you dig them up dont expect them all to come back when replanted. Some people treat them as annuals.

12/05/2013 at 16:26

I plant a few pots each year with packs from Lidl.  After dead-heading  I feed with tomato fertiliser, or home-made comfrey fertiliser, until they die down.  Then I shove the pots behind the greenhouse and forget them.  If I remember I empty each pot in the late autumn (November) and if the bulbs look any good I repot them in new compost and leave in the unheated greenhouse over winter.  If they look manky I toss them nthe compost bin.  Perhaps that's why I have some interesting tulips flowering in odd places in the garden this year, adding welcome and unexpected splash of colour.

Hyacinths get planted anywhere not too wet (I'm on heavy clay too) - mine are under an apple tree and they continue to multiply every year - again I feed with tomato food after flowering and then forget about them.

I think it's getting an adequate depth of composty soil on top of your clay that could be the sticking point.

Good luck.

12/05/2013 at 16:35

It really is hardy worht growing hybrid tulips to come back year on year as most of them don't.  I do have a few that have retuned for several years, but mostly I regard them, especially ones grown in pots, as annuals.  They are relatively inexpensive nowadays.  The old Queen  of the Night has come back a pretty lightish purple for several years, many shades lighter than originally, but still good.  There are a few bright red ones here and there that come back, but most do not.  The little specie tulips do come back, at least for a few years. 

12/05/2013 at 17:28

Hi folks just a point my father in law had a great display of tulips last year (in pots) then ain't mid July he bucked all the bulbs out into his garden as he put new things in the pots this year he had the most wonderful tulip display in the garden.  I'm not saying do thsesame but it seems to work for some!  Charlie I don think I'd be bothered with tht drying out malarkey either.

12/05/2013 at 17:54

What is it that stops tulips coming back? Are they eaten or do they need different soil or more summer baking? Is there anything we can do to help them?

As Bookertoo says the species tulips come back, I've had some for years.And there are one or two persistant flowerers leftover from plantins of a dozen or more but, on the whole, nothing much

12/05/2013 at 18:44

I have just been reading Sarah Raven's guide to growing tulips.

Her recommendation is to plant deeply, and by deeply we are looking at a 12" hole with 2" of gravel for drainage and a bit of bonemeal. This is done October/November and then, after flowering, the old leaves are cleared away and the patch mulched.

She claims that there is no advantage to lifting tulips and that shallow planting encourages the bulbs to try to divide and thus weaken themselves.



12/05/2013 at 18:46

Thanks Tootsietim. mine are all in pots this year, (because I didn't get round to planting them) I shall be drying them off as advised here and in November I shall be digging a deep hole.

12/05/2013 at 19:14

I do what Sarah Raven says and plant deep, usually the Darwin ones come back and a selection of others too, but this winter it rained so much even some of the newly planted ones didn't appear and only about a third of the old ones.

12/05/2013 at 19:40

I do agree with that re the fact that tulip bulbs divide, but have never found that even planting them up to 15 inches deep has made any difference here.  I think that maybe the hybrids are just not strong enough to reflower, unlike the species.  After all, those wonderful colours and shapes were all bred by people from the 2 or 3 original species, so maybe not too surprising they are not so long lived?

12/05/2013 at 20:19

IME some varieties do return in the borders & I'm always pleased to see them. I now grow mine in pots & throw them away when over.

Word of warning- dont put tulip bulbs in your compost bin, or 'they will come back to haunt you' (Helen Yemm)! I suspect that's where some of my 'border' ones have come from. J.

12/05/2013 at 21:35

I too have mine planted deeply and don't lift them - life's too short to be lifting Tulips every year.

I have several varieties in my front garden and most of them come back year on year. I add chicken manure in early spring and potash after they've flowered. My favourite is Queen of the Night. While many plants collapse in wind and rain this one never does

12/05/2013 at 21:59

One of the main reasons tulips tend not to come again is that naturally they come from the mountains of Turkey and Iran where they grow on shale so they have perfect drainage. They also get truly baked in the summer. We can never really replicate those conditions.

12/05/2013 at 23:08

Perhaps that's why mine come back in normal years. I'm in Dordogne on rocky limestone and it bakes in the summer.

13/05/2013 at 08:09

That might explain mine Punkdoc. Though I'm in the UK, it's a south facing border with very good drainage

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