Tulips are bulbous plants in the lily family that produce some of the most beautiful and striking flowers in the world of gardening. With more than 5,000 varieties, hybrids and cultivars currently in existence, this flower became a symbol of the Netherlands, where its cultivation was especially popular.
Its variety of colors and patterns is so extraordinary that tulips of almost any combination of colors and a wide variety of sizes can be found today. However, storing tulip bulbs may not be as straightforward as it sounds, but a good understanding of the process is necessary to avoid disasters between seasons. If you want to learn how to conserve tulip bulbs correctly, join us in this article.
How to preserve tulip bulbs step by step
With tulips, the general recommendation is always to keep the bulb planted throughout the year so that its flowering is as spectacular as possible afterwards. However, it may happen that we have acquired the bulbs too early or that the climate is too cold, so it is necessary to store them out of the ground outside.
The ideal time to plant tulip bulbs is in the fall. Likewise, the bulbs do not tolerate temperatures below -10 ºC in the soil, so if we have acquired them in spring or live in an area with very cold winters, we will have to save the bulbs until a more optimal time for them.
We may also need to remove our planted bulbs for cover from the colder weeks of winter. In any case, if you are wondering how to preserve tulip bulbs properly, follow these steps:
- Cut the stems: use properly sterilized pruning shears to cut the bulbs of the planted tulips when their flowers have already died. By doing so we prevent the plant from wasting energy maintaining parts that would soon die anyway. Make the cut as close to the ground as you can, but cut only the stem, not the leaves.
- Wait for the leaves to dry and yellow: this takes about six weeks to happen, during which time the bulb will have stored energy from the sun thanks to its leaves. During this time, reduce the watering of the tulips to avoid rotting problems. Use a shovel to loosen the soil around the bulb and finally carefully remove it.
- Extract the roots and leaves: by now, they should come out easily with the same hand, without the need for scissors. Even so, if they do not come off, use a sterilized pruning tool, the same one with which you should cut what is left of the stem as close as you can to the base of the bulb, but without damaging it.
- Clean the bulbs: very carefully remove any dirt, dust, dirt or anything else with kitchen paper.
- Look for bad bulbs – a tulip bulb should be hard and smooth. If you see soft or dark brown areas, this indicates rotting problems. Given this, you can directly discard the bulb or try to clean the affected area with the absorbent paper itself. You can even prune the affected part if it is not very large.
- Store the bulbs in a cool and dry place for about 48 hours: they should not be exposed to the sun and there should be no humidity in the environment, either of which can cause rot.
- Wrap each bulb in newspaper: do it separately and choose where to keep it. You can hang them on a typical onion or potato net in a cool, dark room like a garage, in a closet or, if your climate is very hot, in the fridge. However, you have to pay attention to the recommendations below if you choose this last option.
Check the condition of your bulbs regularly and if they are very wrinkled or dry, then spray some water on them so that they maintain minimum humidity levels and do not die. In autumn, but before the first frost arrives, you can plant them again.
Conserving tulip bulbs: dangers and common mistakes
Beware of these common bulbs conservation mistakes and the dangers they can pose:
Not keeping them in the fridge is a mistake
One of the most common mistakes is believing that bulbs cannot be kept in the fridge. We can do it, and in some climates it is the most recommended, but you have to follow some guidelines for it.
The first and most important thing is not to store them with other fruits or vegetables, which emit ethylene, a gas that kills tulip bulbs. The other important requirement is to keep them covered from the light in the fridge, so they have to be protected in an opaque drawer.
Not adding moisture is a very serious mistake
The other common mistake is not to add moisture at all, as the bulb is alive and needs a certain amount of moisture. If a lot of time passes and your bulbs seem to be getting worse, use a water spray to add some moisture to them, but change the newspaper afterwards.
How long do tulip bulbs last?
It depends on each plant and the specific storage conditions, but the usual thing is that the bulbs can withstand between 6 and 12 weeks if we take good care of the entire process. Extending the time of the bulb outside the ground has a good chance of ending badly, since it will have deteriorated a lot and, surely, it will no longer be able to grow and develop the plant.