When to Trim Tulips

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Tulips have long been a favorite of gardeners all over the world. They are a welcome sight each spring, often becoming an early herald of the season. Their delicate blooms and sensational colors bring beauty and joy to any garden or floral arrangement. Therefore, gardeners want to protect and encourage tulip bulbs to grow bigger, stronger and lovelier year after year. To accomplish that, they carefully trim the flowers at just the right time.

  • Wait for the bulbs to finish blooming for the season before doing anything to prepare them for the following year. You will know when the blooms are complete since they will begin to fall off of the stem. Pinch them back before they go completely to seed.

  • Tie the leaves and stems together loosely, being careful not to damage the plant. This allows the nutrients of the plant to feed the bulb until it is close to time for it to bloom again.

  • Trim the stems down to about one-half to one inch near the bulb only after they have begun to turn brown, wither and die. This generally takes place around the last part of May to mid-June. Be certain not trim the stems all the way down to the ground.

  • Thin the plants out if the last grouping was too thickly clumped together. Be careful when digging up the bulbs and dividing them. Do not damage any part of the plant.

  • Transplant the bulbs to another area, if necessary. However, this should only be done after the stems and leaves are finished for the season. This will usually be around a mid-summer time frame. Transplanting the plants too early or late could kill them.

  • Remove excess soil from the bulbs and store them in a cool, damp place until you are ready to replant them. When ready, replant the bulbs carefully.

  • Fertilize the tulips. As a rule, tulips only need to be fertilized about twice a year. Be sure to water them thoroughly unless the ground is still drenched from a recent rain.

  • Stake tulips as they begin to grow if the stems are not strong enough to stand on their own. Use floral string or coated twist ties so as not to damage the flowers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Transplanted tulip bulbs may take two or three years to bloom again.
  • Do not fertilize tulips right after they begin to flower. Wait until they are about finished for the season.
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