Darrell Blackwelder column: Questions about a second season for tulips

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2022

Every spring, I always get a question about bulbs. This year, I’ve gotten a lot of comment on the tulips in full bloom at Hurley Park. The biggest question is, “Why can’t I get my tulips to bloom like that its second season?” Many are disappointed and want to know what they are doing wrong. It’s actually best to think of tulips as annuals that must be planted each fall. Unfortunately, our climate does not replicate Holland and they will never come back the same the following years as daffodils and other bulbs. Our soil temperatures in the South are too warm for tulips to produce beautiful blooms year after year.

Rodents are another problem with newly planted bulbs. Rabbits love the foliage as well as the flowers. Voles, mice and squirrels often dig up newly planted bulbs. Ironically, spring flowering daffodils are immune to such destruction. All parts of the daffodil (narcissus family), including the bulb itself, are poisonous.

There are some species of tulips more adapted to warmer climate. The Lady Jane (Tulip clusiana) bulb, originating in Asia, adapts much better to our climate. The type of bulb does so well it has become naturalized in many areas of France, Italy and other European countries. This type of tulip is much shorter than regular tulips and has smaller star-shaped flowers. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/tulipa/ for detailed information on tulips in North Carolina.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.