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SIZE MATTERS: Healthy tulip bulbs produce healthy flowers

SIZE MATTERS: Healthy tulip bulbs produce healthy flowers

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Last Christmas, I received a bag of tulip bulbs – tulips bulbs from Amsterdam, no less.

They might have been a bit late being planted in a variety of containers, but the majority performed well enough to save them from an early compost-bin grave. So well, in fact, that they are getting ready to be planted for a second season.

The last of the tulips has finally shed its petals and is preparing to replace all the energy it has used after putting on a stunning floral show. It, and its many mates, deserve their rest before they have to prepare for spring 2017.

And when they are spent and flowerless, it was decision time – leave them in situ or dig them up, discard the damaged and diseased and store the healthy until November when they can be replanted?

Whatever your choice, dead-head them to stop them setting seed. Many tulips are happy to live in the ground all year round, just as long as summer is dry and warm; many more, however, will do much better if they are lifted and stored for a few months.

Dig them up when the flowers have faded and lay them in a trench somewhere warm and sunny. When the foliage has died completely, lift the bulbs, clean them and let them dry before storing them somewhere dry before the autumn planting season.

Just remember to always plant bulbs in well-drained soil – in the wild they are bulbs of cold, windswept, dry areas. Wet soil promotes fungus and disease and can rot bulbs. Help the drainage by sitting each bulb on river sand and add organic matter.

Plant tulip bulbs deep – eight inches is about right. And water after planting. They may like a well-drained soil, but they need a good drink to get them going.

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