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Should You Deadhead Tulips?
Tulips come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. Triumph, parrot and double are a few of the common types tulips come in. They are also generally divided into early bloomer, mid-season and late-season varieties. So, with all those variables, should you deadhead your tulips?
Yes, you should deadhead your tulips. Regardless of the type and what hardiness zone you are in you should deadhead your tulips after they flower.
Deadheading your tulips will:
Prevent the development of seedpods
Encourage tulips to grow back next year
So, you should deadhead tulips but why, how and when? Let’s unpack it some more.
Prevent the Development of Seed Pods
At first, the development of seedpods may sound like a good thing and, with some plants, it is. With tulips, it is a different story. Tulips can produce seeds and grow from them. But, they may take many years to grow. Tulip seeds rarely look like their parent plants and thus can be unpredictable.
Tulip bulbs, on the other hand, are planted in the fall and dependably produce flowers the following spring.
Depending on the variety, tulips bloom at different points in the season. Read up on your specific variety to find out what point in the year or season your tulips will bloom.
Since deadheading prevents the development of seed pods it seems odd that it would also promote reproduction. But, deadheading tulips promotes asexual reproduction. Deadheading allows the plant to focus on storing energy and growing “baby bulbs” instead of producing seeds.
Doing this also allows the tulips to spread. After one year one tulip bulb may produce an additional two to five bulbs. If your flowerbed gets too crowded around August, when the bulbs are dormant, dig them up and separate the bulbs. Once separated, plant the bulbs as soon as possible.
Some tulips cannot reproduce so do research on your specific variety.
Encourage Tulips to Grow Back Next Year
Although tulips are traditionally perennials, over the years most varieties have become annuals. Many varieties do not come back the following year. Deadheading your tulips encourages them to return next year. When you remove the spent flowers you allow the plant to focus all its energy and resources on the bulb rather than creating seeds.
In addition to deadheading your plants, be sure to pick perennial varieties if you want them to grow back the following year.
When Should You Deadhead Tulips?
You should deadhead your tulips when the petals have fallen off the flower but the leaves are still green. This allows the plant to focus its energy on the bulb rather than seed production. Leaving the leaves allows the plant to continue photosynthesizing and storing nutrients to prepare for the following year.
How to Deadhead Tulips
Deadheading tulips is simple and does not require any equipment. If you have them though, a pair of garden shears allow you to get a clean cut. Follow three simple steps to deadhead your tulips.
- Wait until the petals have fallen. Tulips bloom from March until May but different varieties bloom at various times. Keep an eye on your flowers. When the petals fully fall off, it is time to deadhead them.
- Cut or snap off the top few inches of the plant. You can do this with just your hands or with garden shears, it does not make a difference. If you want your tulips to come back next year, do not damage the leaves! The leaves play a vital role in providing nutrients to the bulb.
- Once the leaves have yellowed, cut them off. In a few weeks, the leaves will yellow. They have finished providing nutrients to the bulb and are ready to be cut off. This is best done with garden shears but can be done by hand.
Do Tulips Grow Back After They Are Cut?
After blooming the tulips will wilt and prepare for the next year. Deadheading helps this process by controlling where the plant focuses its nutrients. During the fall and winter months, they go into a dormant state. They do not bloom twice in one year. Depending on the variety, plant health, and the conditions they may grow back the following year.
What Should You Do After Deadheading Tulips?
If you do not want your tulips to come back next year or would rather just buy new bulbs, immediately after deadheading is a good opportunity to dig them up. It is best to buy new bulbs in the fall just before you are ready to plant them. If you want your tulips to come back the following year, deadheading them is the last thing you need to do for a few months.
Do not water your tulips over the summer months or the bulbs will rot.
In the fall, cover the tulip bed with mulch or fertilizer to insulate the plants during the cold winter months. If you live in hotter zones such as zones eight and nine, consider digging the bulbs up and storing them in the fridge for a few months. The cold winter season is important to the tulip lifecycle and helps it prepare for the upcoming spring months.
If you are not sure which USDA plant hardiness zone you are in, refer to this map for more information.
All in all, you should deadhead your tulips. Deadheading your tulips prevents the development of seedpods, promotes reproduction and encourages tulips to grow back next year.
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