Tulips are perennials and thus can grow more than one year, but these flowers often behave like annuals. A tulip is a hardy bulb that typically grows to about 10 to 14 inches long. After it germinates and blooms during the spring season, you should cut off any dead parts of the tulip plant and throw them away. Dig the plant up and keep it in a cool location until you can replant it in the fall.
A germinating tulip should start off by issuing a green shoot from its bulb. This happens after the bulb is in cold soil for about 16 weeks, during which time the bulb's root system is developing. This 16-week period usually takes place during the winter season.
To tell if the tulip is germinating in the spring, look for the green shoot to rise about 3 inches above the soil. At this time, make sure the air temperature around the plant is at least 10 degrees Celsius, and check to make sure the bulb does not dry out. In the next one to two weeks, the shoot will get longer and the bulb will grow fatter. The tulip flower then will come from this shoot and open up when the temperature reaches about 18.3 degrees Celsius. The blooms last about one to three weeks in mid- to late spring.
Tulips appear as single delicate cups and are available in a broad range of colours. While many tulip stems grow to about 14 inches long, still others can get as high as 30 inches tall. The long single late tulips germinate well in warm climates. They can be dark maroon, as in the case of the "Queen of Night," or get as light as the "Maureen," which is snow white.
You also can grow lily-flowered tulips, which feature solid stems, petals that are shaped like arches and bulbs that have points on the end. Meanwhile, the "Darwin" hybrid tulip has blooms that supersede the size of those of all other tulips.
If you spot a germinating tulip that looks like a peppermint, this is called the "Lady Tulip." Meanwhile, tulips that are light in colour, shaped like stars and have a yellow centre are considered the "Lilac Wonder." Other features that stand out on tulips are huge red and yellow lines on petals that have sharp-looking ends, which are characteristic of the Tulipa eichleri species.
To get tulips that germinate strongly and produce the greatest amount of colour, plant no less than a dozen tulip bulbs together, placing them about 4 inches to 6 inches deep in your tulip planting soil. Also, note that germinating tulips typically resist disease, but they will begin to feature brown patches and produce stunted and disfigured leaves and stems when attacked by a fungal disease called tulip fire.
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- Clemson Cooperative Extension; Spring-Flowering Bulbs; Karen Russ, et al.; June 2009
- Colorado State University; Tulips -- Fall Planted for Spring Delight; Judy Donaldson; June 5, 2010
- Michigan State University; Tulip; November 12, 1999
- GardeningTips: Tulips
- SavvyGardener; Forcing Bulbs Indoors; Nancy Anderson; November 1998