Tulip – Reblooms Each Year

Q: I have an amazing tulip that not only grows back every year, it gets bigger each time it grows back.

Two years ago a tulip outside my front door in full sun on the west side of my home had a single yellow bloom. I thought to myself that was unusual, but that was all.

Last year, it not only grew back, but it also had two blooms. This year, it has grown 4 times larger than it was originally and it has 4 blooms on it I have done NOTHING to this bulb; no fertilizer, no water, no TLC. It has been completely and totally ignored through both drought and flood.

A: I think the reblooming can be explained by the life cycle of a tulip bulb. When the plant sends up leaves, they store energy in the original bulb. When conditions are right, the bulb sends up a flower stalk. The stalk declines gradually but the leaves remain, storing energy for next year. The leaves disappear when it gets hot in summer.

In Holland, the leaves remain on the plant for three months at temperatures above 60 but below 75 degrees and then the bulbs are dug to keep them dry. Here, leaves experience wild swings in spring temperature and the soil is usually moist. As a result, a tulip bulb splits into several smaller one, much like garlic .

Next winter, each small bulb sends up a leaf but it may or may not have the energy to send up a flower stalk. That’s why your clump has gotten bigger but you have only a few flowers. In time I expect your clump will gradually decline to just leaves.

In Asia, where tulips are native, summer heat and dry soil prevents much bulb splitting. Your lack of care accomplished the same thing.

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