Tulips are bulbous plants of the lily family that produce some of the most beautiful and eye-catching flowers in the gardening world. With more than 5,000 varieties, hybrids, and cultivars in existence today, this flower became a symbol of the Netherlands, where its cultivation became especially popular. Learn all about how to store tulip bulbs in this article.
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How to Store Tulip Bulbs Step by Step
With tulips, the general recommendation is always to keep the bulb planted throughout the year so that its flowering is then as spectacular as possible. However, it may happen that we have acquired the bulbs too early or that the weather is too cold, making it necessary to keep them out of the ground outdoors.
The ideal time to plant tulip bulbs is in autumn. Also, bulbs do not tolerate temperatures below 14°F (-10°C) in the ground, so if we purchased them in the spring or live in an area with very cold winters, we will need to store the bulbs until a more optimal time for them.
It is also possible that we will have to remove our planted bulbs to put them under cover from the coldest weeks of winter. In any case, if you are wondering how to store tulip bulbs, follow these steps:
1- Cut the stems: use properly sterilized pruning shears to cut the bulbs of planted tulips when their flowers have already died. Doing so prevents the plant from wasting energy on maintaining parts that would soon die anyway. Cut as close to the ground as you can, but cut only the stem, not the leaves.
2- Wait for the leaves to dry out and yellow: this takes about six weeks or so to occur, during which time the bulb will have stored energy from the sun thanks to its leaves. During this time, reduce watering the tulips to avoid rotting problems. Use a shovel to loosen the soil around the bulb and finally remove it carefully.
3- Remove the roots and leaves: by now, they should come off easily with the same hand, without you needing to resort to scissors. Even so, if they do not come off, use a sterilized pruning tool, the same one with which you should cut what is left of the stem as close as you can to the base of the bulb, but without damaging it.
4- Clean the bulbs: carefully remove any dirt, dust, dirt, or anything else with kitchen paper.
5- Look for bulbs in poor condition: a tulip bulb should be hard and smooth. If you see soft or dark brown areas, this indicates rotting problems. You can either discard the bulb directly or try to clean the affected area with your paper towel. You can even prune the affected part if it is not too large.
6- Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for about 48 hours: they should not be exposed to sunlight or humidity, either of which can cause rotting.
7- Wrap each bulb in a newspaper: do this separately and choose where to store them. You can hang them in a typical onion or potato net in a cool, dark room such as a garage, in a closet, or, if your climate is very hot, in the refrigerator. However, be aware of the recommendations below if you choose the latter option.
Check the condition of your bulbs regularly and if they are too shriveled or dry, then spray some water on them so that they maintain minimum moisture levels and do not die. In autumn, but before the first frost arrives, you can plant them again.
Preserving Tulip Bulbs: Common Mistakes and Errors
Beware of these common mistakes when preserving bulbs and the dangers they can pose:
Not Storing Them in the Refrigerator is a Mistake.
One of the most common mistakes is believing that bulbs cannot be kept in the refrigerator. We can do it, and in some climates, it is the most advisable thing to do, but some guidelines must be followed.
The first and most important is not to store them with other fruits or vegetables, which emit ethylene, a gas that kills tulip bulbs. The other important requirement is to keep them away from the light of the refrigerator, so they must be protected in an opaque drawer.
Not Providing them with Humidity is a Very Serious Mistake
The other common mistake is not to provide them with any humidity at all, because the bulb is alive and needs a certain amount of humidity. If a lot of time passes and your bulbs seem to be getting worse, use a water sprayer to give them some moisture, but change the newspaper after that.
How Long do Tulip Bulbs Last?
It depends on each plant and the specific conditions of storage, but usually the bulbs can resist between 6 and 12 weeks if we take good care of the whole process. Extending the time of the bulb out of the ground is very likely to end badly, since it will have deteriorated a lot and, surely, it will no longer be able to grow and develop the plant.